On a clear summer evening in the year 2025, look to the southwestern sky and find the planet Jupiter. If you look hard enough, you might see the Europa Clipper spacecraft flying by Jupiter’s moon Europa, carrying with it Julie Jester Newman’s ’10 instrument named REASON.
The Europa Clipper program is a mission in the works at NASA. Julie, a lead electronics engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, is designing and building part of the instrument REASON (Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface) that will be on board the spacecraft. REASON is a dual-frequency, ice-penetrating radar that will gather data about Europa’s crust and the oceans that may lie beneath.
“Europa Clipper is the ultimate mission,” Julie says. “There is a possibility we could find evidence of life at Europa. We know there is a liquid water ocean under the ice and, with REASON, we’ll learn much more about the moon.”
REASON is one of nine instruments that will be on board the spacecraft to study Europa. Julie and her team should complete their part of the project in 2020. With current technology, it would take seven years for the Europa Clipper spacecraft to reach Jupiter, but NASA is hoping to unveil a newly upgraded rocket that could reach Jupiter in only three years.
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“I always wanted to send my work to space,” Julie says. “It really is a dream to work on a project that will be going all the way to the outer solar system!”
Julie credits her time on Parker’s Upper School Science Olympiad team and her work with recently retired Upper School science teacher Rose Hanscom for sparking her love of science, saying they “definitely set me on my career path to engineering.” Julie attended the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and majored in electrical engineering.
As Julie’s maiden name, Jester, may suggest, she is a charismatic leader with a lively sense of humor. She masterminded two major Caltech pranks during her college senior year.
Caltech has a long history of pulling pranks dating back to the 60s. For Julie’s first prank, she gathered more than 200 fellow students to help erect a 2,000-square-foot Hollywood-esque sign that read “Pasadena” on the hillside overlooking the Rose Bowl. As the sun set during halftime, the sign suddenly lit up in orange and spelled “Caltech.”
Julie’s second prank involved distributing more than 800 coffee mugs at an event for prospective students on the campus of Caltech’s greatest rival, MIT. Julie and other Caltech students posed as MIT students and passed out seemingly innocuous mugs that said MIT on them. But when hot liquid was in the mugs, another statement appeared: “Caltech, the hotter institute in technology.” To this day, Julie says, the mugs are sold at Caltech’s gift shops.
Julie proves that in engineering, there is plenty of room for fun, and a little curiosity can lead you to the stars.