Home

Former Harvey resident Dr Justin Kruger gives space talk as part of National Science Week celebrations

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenSouth Western Times
Attendees at Harvey Library listen to Dr Justin Kruger's National Science Week presentation.
Camera IconAttendees at Harvey Library listen to Dr Justin Kruger's National Science Week presentation. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

The journey of a young scientist from Harvey to working with NASA in the United States has been highlighted as part of a celebration of National Science Week.

Dozens gathered at the Harvey Library on August 14 to hear from Dr Justin Kruger during a space talk that was out of this world.

Dr Kruger grew up in the town and attended Harvey Primary School, admitting his interest in space goes back to his childhood.

“Even then, I was spending too much time thinking about spaceships — probably because I watched too much Star Wars,” he said.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

READ NOW

After initially dismissing aerospace as a career option due to the lack of opportunities in Australia, he decided to study physics and robotics at the University of Western Australia.

An internship with a mining company failed to spark his interest, before he was stunned by NASA landing its Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012.

“I remember watching this stream in my room at UWA at 2am and thinking ‘OK, they are landing this robot lab on Mars with some kind of crane, this is maybe like the coolest thing I have ever seen’,” he said.

“Seeing this mission land successfully and seeing the hard work involved with the engineering, seeing the reactions of the people who developed it — that’s what really made my passion.”

More study followed at the Australia National University and Stanford University in California, where he is now completing a PhD through the Stanford Space Rendezvous Laboratory.

He is working on NASA’s Starling mission, which was recently launched into orbit and will test emerging technologies which could allow satellites to become more autonomous.

A young attendee speaks to Dr Justin Kruger in a live video call as part of a National Science Week event in Harvey.
Camera IconA young attendee speaks to Dr Justin Kruger in a live video call as part of a National Science Week event in Harvey. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

He noted some of the difficulties faced with sending research probes into space, including the requirement to run sophisticated programs on slow computers.

“To give an example, the New Horizons spacecraft that flew past Pluto a few years ago, we had a computer on board roughly equal to that of a PlayStation from 1995 because we need special computers that are resistant to space radiation,” he said.

He urged attendees to pursue whatever they were passionate about.

“For me, it took me a long time to figure out what really motivated me — it took even longer to put myself in a position to pursue that,” he said.

“However, the effort it took was ultimately worthwhile and every step along that journey was important. I found a lot of new skills and experiences that allowed me to achieve some pretty cool things.”

Attendees were able to quiz Dr Kruger in a live Q&A session held after the presentation.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails