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Susan G. Finley

Longest-Serving Woman in NASA, Employee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

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 Susan G. Finley Biography

Susan G. Finley has been an employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) since January of 1958, making her the longest-serving woman in NASA. Two days before Explorer 1 was launched, Finley began her career with the laboratory as a human computer, calculating rocket launch trajectories by hand. She now serves as a subsystem engineer for NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). At JPL, she has participated in the exploration of the Moon, the Sun, all the planets and other bodies in the Solar System.

Finley attended Scripps College for three years with the original intention of becoming an architect. Her knowledge of engineering was vast because of her talents in mathematical and computing courses, so she attempted to learn art, but later realized that engineering was in her future. During her college experience, she majored in the humanities which allowed her to be successful as a subsystem engineer. A subsystem refers to a smaller system within a larger one, thus her position requires her to focus on more specific aspects of the technologies she works with at JPL. At the age of 21, she left Scripps College to become an engineer with a thermodynamics group at Convair in Pomona, California.

At the beginning of her career, Finley made sacrifices in her career for her family. She left JPL twice in the first few years of employment in order to support her husband’s education and also took maternity leave for some time for her two sons, returning permanently to JPL in 1969. According to Finley, balancing her work and family lives was difficult because of the “lack of good child care options,” although she believes that women still face these struggles today. One of her goals was to keep her work and home life separate, aiming to never bring her work home with her or “working late without making up that time at home.” She cooked all the meals for her family, but did not spend much time on housework. Her husband, on the other hand, worked on the cars and the yard as he was of the “generation that did not help with the house or children”.

In 1958, Susan Finley took a position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as a computer. This job required her to perform “trajectory computations for rocket launches by hand”. In 1962, it was a calculation Finley made that showed that Ranger 3 had missed the Moon by 22,000 miles.

The advent of electronic computers slowly changed what the all-female computations group did. The women were trained to program in FORTRAN, the primary computer language developed for scientific applications. Male engineers largely didn't want to do the programming themselves in the 1960s. It was still considered "women's work," not part of an engineer's job description. Through her career, Finley provided both manual computation work and FORTRAN programs as part of JPL's missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, in the Ranger, Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, and Voyager programs.

In the 1980s, she switched to software testing and subsystem engineering for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN). A systems engineer in the context of NASA “encourages the use of tools and methods to better comprehend and manage complexity in systems”. The DSN is used to track and communicate with every deep space probe sponsored by NASA as well as non-US space missions. The research group tracked the Russian spacecraft Vega which carried a French balloon to Venus on its journey to Halley’s comet. Although working with the Russians was difficult during this Cold War time period, her team was able to collaborate well with the French and they successfully delivered tracking data for the French balloon to route toward the comet. Finley considers this project the most memorable of her many years at NASA.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Finley contributed to JPL's further explorations of the solar system. Finley worked with the Mars Exploration Rover missions and developed technology in which musical tones were sent at differing phases of descent and were transmitted back to DSN. The engineers were then able to use this information to determine which landing stage the rocket was in at a given time. Finley was stationed at the Goldstone and Tidninbilla stations while the landings were taking place and was the first to hear the tones that confirmed the landers survived their trip to Mars. Unfortunately, her work went unrecognized in the media because they reported from JPL's mission control only.

She continues to work full time for JPL and is involved in DSN support for NASA's recent unmanned missions, including the recent Pluto flyby by the New Horizons spacecraft and the Juno mission to Jupiter.

2013-NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA (nine certificates awarded to Susan Finley). Over the course of her career, Finley won several NASA Group Achievement Awards. This certificate is "awarded to any combination of government and/or non-government individuals for an outstanding group accomplishment that has contributed substantially to NASA's mission". Her years of dedication and service to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have made her the longest-serving woman in the space agency.

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  • HOW TO BOOK Susan G. Finley?

    Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Susan G. Finley for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers. Fill out a booking request form for Susan G. Finley, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Susan G. Finley or any other celebrity of your choice.
  • HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BOOK Susan G. Finley?

    Booking fees for Susan G. Finley, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies according to the circumstances, including the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. Speaker fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Susan G. Finley, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.
  • WHO IS THE AGENT FOR Susan G. Finley?

    All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Susan G. Finley for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Susan G. Finley for your next private or corporate function.
  • WHAT IS A FULL-SERVICE TALENT BOOKING AGENCY?

    All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Susan G. Finley or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Susan G. Finley or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.
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All American Entertainment (AAE) exclusively represents the interests of talent buyers, and does not claim to be the agency or management for any speaker or artist on this site. AAE is a talent booking agency for paid events only. We do not handle requests for donation of time or media requests for interviews, and cannot provide celebrity contact information.

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Susan G. Finley

Longest-Serving Woman in NASA, Employee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

Travels From:
California, USA
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Susan G. Finley Biography

Susan G. Finley has been an employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) since January of 1958, making her the longest-serving woman in NASA. Two days before Explorer 1 was launched, Finley began her career with the laboratory as a human computer, calculating rocket launch trajectories by hand. She now serves as a subsystem engineer for NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). At JPL, she has participated in the exploration of the Moon, the Sun, all the planets and other bodies in the Solar System.

Finley attended Scripps College for three years with the original intention of becoming an architect. Her knowledge of engineering was vast because of her talents in mathematical and computing courses, so she attempted to learn art, but later realized that engineering was in her future. During her college experience, she majored in the humanities which allowed her to be successful as a subsystem engineer. A subsystem refers to a smaller system within a larger one, thus her position requires her to focus on more specific aspects of the technologies she works with at JPL. At the age of 21, she left Scripps College to become an engineer with a thermodynamics group at Convair in Pomona, California.

At the beginning of her career, Finley made sacrifices in her career for her family. She left JPL twice in the first few years of employment in order to support her husband’s education and also took maternity leave for some time for her two sons, returning permanently to JPL in 1969. According to Finley, balancing her work and family lives was difficult because of the “lack of good child care options,” although she believes that women still face these struggles today. One of her goals was to keep her work and home life separate, aiming to never bring her work home with her or “working late without making up that time at home.” She cooked all the meals for her family, but did not spend much time on housework. Her husband, on the other hand, worked on the cars and the yard as he was of the “generation that did not help with the house or children”.

In 1958, Susan Finley took a position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as a computer. This job required her to perform “trajectory computations for rocket launches by hand”. In 1962, it was a calculation Finley made that showed that Ranger 3 had missed the Moon by 22,000 miles.

The advent of electronic computers slowly changed what the all-female computations group did. The women were trained to program in FORTRAN, the primary computer language developed for scientific applications. Male engineers largely didn't want to do the programming themselves in the 1960s. It was still considered "women's work," not part of an engineer's job description. Through her career, Finley provided both manual computation work and FORTRAN programs as part of JPL's missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, in the Ranger, Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, and Voyager programs.

In the 1980s, she switched to software testing and subsystem engineering for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN). A systems engineer in the context of NASA “encourages the use of tools and methods to better comprehend and manage complexity in systems”. The DSN is used to track and communicate with every deep space probe sponsored by NASA as well as non-US space missions. The research group tracked the Russian spacecraft Vega which carried a French balloon to Venus on its journey to Halley’s comet. Although working with the Russians was difficult during this Cold War time period, her team was able to collaborate well with the French and they successfully delivered tracking data for the French balloon to route toward the comet. Finley considers this project the most memorable of her many years at NASA.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Finley contributed to JPL's further explorations of the solar system. Finley worked with the Mars Exploration Rover missions and developed technology in which musical tones were sent at differing phases of descent and were transmitted back to DSN. The engineers were then able to use this information to determine which landing stage the rocket was in at a given time. Finley was stationed at the Goldstone and Tidninbilla stations while the landings were taking place and was the first to hear the tones that confirmed the landers survived their trip to Mars. Unfortunately, her work went unrecognized in the media because they reported from JPL's mission control only.

She continues to work full time for JPL and is involved in DSN support for NASA's recent unmanned missions, including the recent Pluto flyby by the New Horizons spacecraft and the Juno mission to Jupiter.

2013-NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA (nine certificates awarded to Susan Finley). Over the course of her career, Finley won several NASA Group Achievement Awards. This certificate is "awarded to any combination of government and/or non-government individuals for an outstanding group accomplishment that has contributed substantially to NASA's mission". Her years of dedication and service to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have made her the longest-serving woman in the space agency.

FAQs on booking Susan G. Finley

  • How to book Susan G. Finley?

    Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Susan G. Finley for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers. Fill out a booking request form for Susan G. Finley, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Susan G. Finley or any other celebrity of your choice.
  • How much does it cost to book Susan G. Finley?

    Booking fees for Susan G. Finley, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies according to the circumstances, including the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. Speaker fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Susan G. Finley, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.
  • Who is the agent for Susan G. Finley?

    All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Susan G. Finley for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Susan G. Finley for your next private or corporate function.
  • What is a full-service talent booking agency?

    All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Susan G. Finley or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Susan G. Finley or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.

Susan G. Finley is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics . The estimated speaking fee range to book Susan G. Finley for your event is available upon request. Susan G. Finley generally travels from CA, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Ellen Stofan, Ann Lewnes, Amanda Nguyen, Tiffany Pham and Tara M. Ruttley. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Susan G. Finley for an upcoming event.

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Speakers Similar to Susan G. Finley

This website is a resource for event professionals and strives to provide the most comprehensive catalog of thought leaders and industry experts to consider for speaking engagements. A listing or profile on this website does not imply an agency affiliation or endorsement by the talent.

All American Entertainment (AAE) exclusively represents the interests of talent buyers, and does not claim to be the agency or management for any speaker or artist on this site. AAE is a talent booking agency for paid events only. We do not handle requests for donation of time or media requests for interviews, and cannot provide celebrity contact information.

If you are the talent, and wish to request removal from this catalog or report an issue with your profile, please click here.

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