“NASA Profile Interview: Umut Yildiz: Deep Space Communications Engineer”

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Where are you from?

I was born in the massive city of Istanbul, Turkey. My father was the chief of police and, as a rule in Turkey, a policeman can’t stay in one city for more than five years. We moved to a few other cities like Karabuk, Zonguldak, and Canakkale until I finish my high school. Since then, I’ve moved a lot internationally, from London to Groningen, and from the Canary Islands to Leiden.

Describe the first moment you made a connection with outer space.

I feel like the passion was always there from a very early age. At primary school, I remember we had a thick science encyclopedia that I read cover to cover a few times. And growing up, we were living in the small city of Canakkale, Turkey, where our house was located just next to the beach. During the nights, I would sit at the beach and look at the sky, more and more fascinated by its mystery.

At the same time, I was making electronic circuits, fixing friends’ Walkmans (yes, there were Walkmans at the time!) etc., but it was after the movie “Contact” (1997), which helped me draw a real path to space research. When I saw Jodie Foster pressing a button and turning the New Mexico’s Very Large Array radio telescope antennas, I shivered and said to myself, “One day, I am going to press that button and turn those radio telescopes as well.” I’ve since turned many telescopes many times during my career. …

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