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Robert Haw

Episode 003

It's not Rocket Science, It's Interplanetary Navigation

Rob (Robert) Haw is a JPL systems engineer who has worked on exploration missions spanning the solar system from Mercury to Pluto.

His official title of Interplanetary Navigator describes how he and his team are responsible for navigating the course through space for missions such as the exploration of the planet Mars.

Rob’s love of space was born during the time of the well-televised space race between then Russia and the United States.

Originally from British Columbia, Canada, Rob spent time studying in Hawaii before finishing his graduate work in Astronautics at Stanford University. After Stanford, Rob came to Southern California to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Altadena.

Science is the ultimate adventure, according to Rob. He’s views the exploration and discoveries within science and using the scientific method to be where real exploration and discoveries can be had.



Rob’s consulting business for designing low-carbon, energy efficient homes.



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Robert Haw Quotes

  • “Real science is just about an investigation.”
  • “What’s very important to me now is that stewardship element of what we can all do to preserve a livable planet.”
  • “We need to put a tax on carbon – on all fossil fuels that are used by us.”
  • “If you miss Mars by not more than half an hour over a six-month, maybe an eight-month, long Voyage, Mars will have already whisked by, and you’ll just see its dust.
  • “I’m more of an applied mathematician.”
  • Rob Haw has always had a passion for space and astrology
  • Rob works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and is an Interplanetary Navigator
  • Rob built his own telescope at a young age
  • Without wealthy parents, Rob struggled to continually finance his education in SGV.
  • He is currently incredibly passionate about preserving our planet and fossil fuels.
  • Rob has assisted with countless space exploratory missions.

What is Robert Haw’s connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

Rob is an engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has always wanted to work at a company like JPL since he was a child.

Growing up in British Columbia, Canada, he was amazed by the space race, and it was truly a childhood dream to work with anything related to space.

What was it about space that intrigued Rob?

The space race, in general, and the idea of NASA launching rockets and astronauts into space really inspired Rob.

In a general sense, the Mercury program, the Gemini program, and the Apollo program are a handful that Rob remembers being fascinated with.

Although Rob was the first generation in his family to attend university.

He met a couple of students in middle school who were already involved and passionate about astrology, which had a major impact on Rob.

In fact, he built his own telescope.

Rob is pushed forward by a love of adventure and science.

What is Rob’s strongest passion currently?

In British Columbia, Rob has developed a love for nature at the environmentalist level.

Not just the idea of liking peace, quiet, and mountains. But the idea is that we need to care for our planet. We need to preserve our planet and keep it livable.

On that topic – how do we address the fires?

The trend has gone up of land burning, especially in California.

There’s no magic bullet to fix this problem. We need to acknowledge the issue and come together for a solution.

The first step is to put a price on carbon. This is a situation we’ve never been in, but it needs to be done.

How does the fossil fuels tax work?

Essentially, every year, gasoline would have a systematic increase. Perhaps 10 cents. And Rob is part of a company that is trying to push this legislation ahead.

Then, that money collected would be put in a trust fund and evenly distributed to everyone in the United States. So, it would offset what you may be paying extra for gas.

However, the catch is – if you’re someone who rides a bike, walks, or takes the bus, you’d be collecting a net profit. You wouldn’t be putting money into the gasoline tax, but you’d still be collecting your share of the rebate.

What is an interplanetary navigator?

Rob is sort of like an applied mathematician.

If you want to send a person or a spacecraft to Mars, which can take upwards of 6 months, you need to calculate how to get there.

Not just how to get to Mars, but it’s a moving target.

In terms of margins, you must be within tens of minutes to accurately land on Mars. Plus, Earth has to be in the right position, too.

What is the room like that Rob works in?

Rob explains that The Martian film had rooms very similar to his real work environment.

During the planning stage, it’s many people in their own offices working on computers.

During the launching stage, it will be similar to movies, with a large group of folks in a massive room with big monitors that everyone is critically observing.

What struggles has Rob overcome?

One obstacle was putting himself through college and finding the means to continue his education and chase his passion.

Picture of Robert Haw

Robert Haw

Hiking up Henninger Flats, which is a nice 3-mile hike.

The free lectures offered at Caltech in the evenings, which occur about once a month. The Watson lectures and the Von Carmen lectures – which are free and open to the public

Noodle shops in the San Gabriel Valley.