Ben Solish


Flight Systems Verification and Validation Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab


1. Do you remember a specific moment when you realized this was what you wanted to pursue?

There wasn't just one moment, I had always been interested in exploration, from when I was a kid building model airplanes with my mother all the way to junior high when I was lucky enough to participate in the KidSat program, which gave us 13 year old kids the opportunity to choose targets for the space shuttle to photograph. In high school I became more interested in biology and computer science than aerospace. It wasn't until my freshman year at MIT when I took a class called Solving Complex Problems that I began to understand that aerospace engineering was what I wanted to study. The course was designed to give its participants the opportunity to cut their teeth on a truly complex problem that had yet to be solved, and the problem set before for my class was "The search for life on Mars". We worked as a team to try and solve the many difficulties involved in searching for life on Mars and how best to approach the problem. In the end we came up with a pretty rough point design, and a lot of students (including myself) wanted to become aerospace engineers so that we could work on these types of problems in "real life".

2. Tell me about the first time you felt like a badass in your field?

To be honest, this is not something that I've thought a lot about, and I'm not sure that I have ever felt like a true badass. At JPL everyone is a badass, it is pretty intimidating presenting project ideas to people who have sent rovers to Mars or are flying spacecraft around Saturn. Just having the opportunity to work at JPL makes you feel pretty awesome. It also makes you feel like you have a lot to live up to. At the end of the day, you do your job as best you can, and do your best to make sure the projects you get to work on are successful.

3. What advice would current Ben tell previous Ben?

Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and there are a myriad of things that I would tell myself if I could go back in time, but probably the most useful thing that I have learned is that it's okay to fail, everyone does, but when you do fail make sure you learn from it and keep going. There is no value in dwelling too long on something that can no longer be changed.

4. What excites you most about what you do?

Pretty much everything. The people I work with are amazing, incredibly smart and they love what they do. The challenges we get to tackle are incredible. There’s no other job in the world that gives you the opportunity to look out at the universe and realize that through what I am doing here, we are going to better comprehend humanity's place in the universe. From understanding how Earth works, to learning what other Earth-like planets may be out there, we have the opportunity to build spacecraft that will find out.


Aline Zimmer

Mission Designer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab


Farah Alibay

Systems Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab


Hui Ying Wen

Systems Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab


Ian Clark

Systems Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab