From Comet to Mars: Grand Ledge graduate helps NASA get “Perseverance” to Mars


GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (WLNS) — Terry Himes wasn’t the first, and surely won’t be the last person from mid-Michigan, to dream of working for NASA one day.

“I started shooting mice up behind the high school and two of my friends sort of combined biology experiments with my shooting of the rockets and we combined those two and the Lansing State Journal got ahold of that and ran a story on that,” Himes said.

“So I had that framed and put in my office at JPL so it would always remind me of my beginnings there,” Himes said.

Himes grew up in Grand Ledge and attended Michigan State University. He also just played a huge role in getting the “Perseverance” rover to Mars.

“I’m a spacecraft and software engineer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JBL), which is a NASA center,” Himes said.

Like “Perserverance,” Himes has had a wild journey. He played the drums to pay for college and even played with some legends.

“We played with Bob Seger and the Seger System, The Amboy Dukes, Scot Richard Case and another wild band called Vanilla Fudge, believe it or not,” Himes said.

Years later, he started his own business, and now he works for NASA

“I did take kind of a winding path there, but it found me later on in life, it found me,” Himes said. “It’s a fun job, but it’s hectic.”

With the job he has, Himes constantly has to maintain the 30,000 foot view.

“Here’s the reality of the situation,” Himes said. “We have 24 flying missions at JPL. I’ve got 5 missions that I’m working on already. So there’s no end to the amount of work. This is one of them.

“On to the next one,” Himes said.

Himes may be managing five or more projects at once, but he said “Perseverance” is nothing to snuff at.

“They’re always huge accomplishments because it takes a good 10 years to put these together from proposal to the actual event,” Himes said. “I have to say it’s the most exciting, and definitely the most televised.”

Himes has a simple message to kids who are interested in space, just like he was.

“If your passion is space, don’t ever lose that passion,” Himes said. “They need lots of people and the key is they need all types of people. It doesn’t matter what you’re really interested in.”

“Work hard at it and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do anything.”

Himes said he considers himself a true Michigander and said he still stays in touch with a lot of his buddies from Grand Ledge High School.

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