COOPERMADE: The Voyager Probe Missions

voyager mission

In the 1970’s Cooper graduate Maxine Nietz CE’76, served as a mission operations controller for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), coordinating communications with the Pioneer, Helios, Viking, and Voyager probes. These unmanned spacecrafts provided (and in some cases, continue to provide) data from extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that deepen our understanding of the solar system and beyond. Many of our most iconic images of space come from these probes, and Voyager I and II are still functioning today making them the longest running and farthest traveled of any space mission in history. 

Nietz credits her Cooper education with giving her the fortitude to seize opportunities like this that were initially closed to women: “Cooper prepared me for almost anything. It made me open to learning new things, understanding the technical sides of things, being adaptable, following through on projects.” After graduating from Cooper and moving to Southern California, Nietz answered a newspaper ad for a job at NASA, where she first worked as a negotiator managing communication between distinct satellite operations. She eventually worked as a mission operations controller, monitoring data from spacecraft and ensuring that communication remained sound throughout a mission. “It’s 24-hours-a-day shift work, and I was the first woman ever to do that. We were getting ready to track the Voyager spacecraft, and I guess the other controllers were flustered because after we set up our download, they called in and said, ‘Was that really a lady just now?’” 



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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.