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NASA JSC Co-Op: Thad Roberts
Return to Four arrested in NASA moon rock heist

The following was reprinted from the JSC Cooperative Education Program website.

Hello! My name is Thad Roberts.

I guess that you are interested in what type of people get selected for the coop program here at NASA, so I will tell you a little about myself.

I was born in Utah in 1977. I am an undergraduate student from the University of Utah aspiring degrees in Geology, Geophysics and Physics. I am a junior in all three degrees.

As a member of the cooperative education program, here at the Johnson Space Center, I alternate between work and college.

I am married to a beautiful woman named Kaydee, who shares my interests in geology and astronomy and my passions for life.

At the University of Utah I am the founder and president of the U of U Astronomical Society. The UUAS has weekly public star parties at the Observatory located on top of the South Physics Building on campus. There we bring the wonders and beauty of the sky to many curious and exploring minds, through tales of mythological events, real time experience with the Moon, the Planets, M13, the Ring Nebula, the Dunbell Nebula, and more. We are also building our collection of digital images taken through our CCD camera.

The UUAS also hosts many distant star parties in search of darker skies many times a year. My thanks goes out to my beautiful wife and Matt Dalton for running the UUAS while I'm gone.

I am also the Chair of the student advisory committee (SAC) in the physics department. My thanks goes out to Oliver Anderson who is the acting chair while I am away at NASA. In the Geology and Geophysics departments I am also on the SAC.

As you can tell I love to be involved with many things. I volunteer at the Utah Museum of Natural History on campus where I have been trained to prepare fossil samples. My current project is a Sauropod vertebra that is about a half meter cubed in volume.

Kaydee and I go out on Dinosaur digs on some weekends with Mike, Mark and Monica who are with the museum. On one of our excavations, we were digging on the first and only T-rex to be found in Utah so far. During lunch we were prospecting within a quarter of a mile from the dig site and I found the 5th tyrannosaurid tooth to ever be found in the North Horn Formation. That was very fun.

I am also a private pilot, with my high performance rating. I love to fly around and explore new territories and of coarse doing zero-gravities.

Kaydee and I collect minerals in Utah and we often go out on weekends on what we call treasure hunts, where we find beautiful Topaz, Bixbyite, Red Beryl, and many other crystals. We also collect fossils from Utah, especially plant fossils and trilobites.

I also volunteer for the Curators office in the Geology department.

We recently earned our open water SCUBA diving certification and we dove off of Santa Catalina Island, Southern California.

At NASA I have been assigned to the coolest department of all. Formally known as the Earth Science and Solar System Exploration Division (ESSSE) it is now know as the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES). Most of the people in my building are Geologists, and that's how I got in here.

There are so many potential adventures to be had in my building. I've been able to break real Apollo moon rocks and catalog them. I have also been learning how to make thin sections of meteorites and moon rocks for scientific distribution. (Of course I make thin sections of terrestrial rocks since I am just learning.) And I am also being trained on the scanning electron microprobe (SEM).

My wife even got to fire a 20mm canon for a scientific project simulating impact creators in different materials on one of her visits here.

There with the impact lab I was first introduced with Aerogel and have been fascinated with it ever since. It is the lightest solid known to man. A piece the size of a human would weigh less than a pound and it could support the weight of a sub-compact car. It is also the best insulator to date and was used in previous mars missions. It is currently used to collect cosmic dust particles by gently slowing them down, leaving them embedded in the solid undamaged.

I am also learning more about the cosmic dust program here at JSC, where tiny cosmic dust particles are collected from the upper atmosphere by super-high flying aircraft and studied under a microscope.

I am also involved with the Mars Sample Return Mission project, where we are currently planning a receiving facility for the projected Martian samples.

To top it all off, I get to learn some Russian, while I'm here.

The coop program is a great place to meet some very interesting people and make some great friends. I applied here because I wanted to expose myself to the many opportunities that NASA has to offer, and I would urge anyone engineer or not to consider cooping at NASA as a great option. There are many activities to get involved in and many adventures to be had.

I think that the best way to get into this program is to be very persistent and well rounded. If you have any questions or comments and would like to get a hold of me please feel free to e-mail me.

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