New astronaut, a Cal Poly grad, has sights set on Mars

elopez@thetribunenews.comJune 28, 2013 

A former Cal Poly student could be traveling to Mars in the next decade.

Victor Glover, 37, waited for more than a year to hear that he was chosen as one of eight people to be in NASA’s 21st Century class, he said.

As a kid, he always wanted to fly space shuttles and loved watching them launch on television. “I wasn't able to watch one in person until I was an adult, and that really had an impact on me,” Glover said.

He first became motivated to apply to NASA in 2008 while working as a test pilot and began to meet and work with other employees, Glover said. This time around, he had to first apply internally with the Navy in 2012, unsure of what the outcome would be, he said.

The eight-member group is the first class chosen since 2009, and the only class in history with half of them female, Glover said. They will join the other 49 active astronauts whom NASA aims to send to Mars and an asteroid within the next few decades, he said.

“I can’t get over the fact that I’m a part of it,” Glover said.

Glover is the fourth Cal Poly alum to become an astronaut. The others are four-time space shuttle commander Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson, who earned an aerospace engineering degree in 1969; and Greg Chamitoff and Frederick “Rick” Sturckow, who both graduated with engineering-related degrees in 1984, according to Cal Poly.

Originally from Pomona, Glover’s passion for science and math started in fifth grade.

When he began school at Cal Poly in 1994, he started out as a mechanical engineering major. “Turns out, I wasn’t ready to give up the adventure and pick up a drafting table full-time,” he said. “And I got lucky.”

Always an athlete, Glover had to choose between engineering and sports when he failed fluid mechanics, recalled Jim LoCascio, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “I told him, ‘If you choose to be an engineer, you can do great things for the rest of your life’.”

Glover made the choice, repeated the class and earned an A, LoCascio said.

The U.S. Navy was his ultimate choice for a career, incorporating his love of science and adventure with being an athlete, he said.

Glover graduated from Cal Poly with a general engineering degree in 1999 while pursuing a career in the Navy, he said.

“In the Navy I trained in the T-34C Turbo Mentor, T-45 Goshawk and flew the F-18C Hornet in my first operational tour,” Glover said.

After the Navy, he went to test pilot school. Among the highlights: flying the Goodyear blimp and flying with the Italian Air Force near Rome, he said.

Later, when he worked as a test pilot, he flew the F-18 Hornet, the F-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18 Growler, he said.

For the past eight months, Glover has been working as a Navy Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate, he said. It’s mainly been a desk job, and he’s looking forward to getting back into training, with physical and academic work, he said.

Glover plans on moving next month from Washington, D.C., to Houston with his family because he’ll start training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Aug. 12.

“My parents, my wife, even my children are extremely supportive and important in all my career choices,” Glover said. “They have all helped and encouraged me thus far and I am very fortunate to have them in my life.”

When Glover called his father, he was very excited.

“I think he actually shed a tear or two,” he said.

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