Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
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Danylo Malyuta - report


ETH Zürich


NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


MSc Robotics, Systems and Control


The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is an amazing organization that gathers thousands of engineers and scientists to participate in cradle to grave technology development for robotic space exploration. Here is a short list of highlights from my JPL experience:
• Meeting engineers like Miguel San Martin (chief engineer for spacecraft Guidance and Control), David Bayard (leader of the Guidance and Control Analysis group) and many others;
• Talking to Charles Elachi (the previous director of JPL) about planetary protection and the role of commercial companies in the future exploration of space;
• Visiting the Mars Yard, where rovers such as the life-size replica of the Curiosity rover are tested;
• Visiting the SpaceX Headquarters, where I saw the landed Falcon 9 first stage and had a chance to talk to some of the engineers working on dramatically reducing the cost of access to space;
• Visiting the Mount Wilson observatory and seeing the 60- and 100-inch telescopes (some of the largest in the world!) that have in their past been used by George Hale, Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein and others;
• Seeing my algorithms for long-term quadcopter drone autonomy come to life during flight tests.


• Do more than required;
• Solve the whole problem – do not just provide an algorithm, but a full and complete solution to the problem;
• Always be prepared – overprepared – and early for meetings;
• Collaborate with people with complimentary skills;
• Stay technical until you are known for something – then lead;
• Persevere – and stay happy by making the journey be your reward.


I am going to start a PhD in aerospace control engineering at the University of Washington with Prof. Behçet Açıkmeşe, designing novel automation algorithms for rockets and spacecraft. After the PhD, my goal is to work at SpaceX, helping to develop the transportation technology necessary for colonizing Mars and transforming humanity into a spacefaring civilization.


At first, I was slightly skeptical about being capable of receiving the prestigious Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala scholarship, but my burning desire to go to JPL and to achieve my dreams convinced me to try anyway. From the moment that I stepped into the Maison des Fondations in May for the 2016 scholarship interviews, all skepticism and doubt were gone. The scholarship committee was very friendly, engaging and supportive - they only strengthened my belief in that what I aim for is possible and that they are there to help. Here is my advice to any student seeking to make their dream a reality:
1. Work hard - extremely hard, and then even harder than that;
2. If you are looking for a scholarship, then the one from the Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala is excellent - do not be afraid, make the application and show your passion and drive to succeed. You can do it!
I would like to once again immensely thank the Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala for helping me to realize this life changing opportunity of working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You can rest assured that this experience shall be followed by many even greater ones as I advance towards my goal and vision of leading the engineering effort of building rockets and spacecraft to colonize Mars.

© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala