CHIHA REACHES FOR THE STARS
most of us, a long distance call means talking to friends
in San Francisco or New York. For Fouad Chiha it means communicating
Chiha, who attended Mission College from 1997-99 before earning
his B.A. in electrical and computer engineering from Cal Poly, Pomona,
is an engineer with NASA/JPLs Spacecraft Transmitter Systems
Group. As such, he helps design the hardware for the telecommunication
systems that makes possible communication between spacecraft and
helping to develop an instrument called a "traveling wave tube
amplifier" which takes a signal and "amplifies" it
so that it can reach satellites, rovers and other craft in space.
When two recently launched Mars rovers arrive at the red planet sometime
after the new year, Chihas team will play an important role
in making sure the inter-planetary communications are working well.
Chihas other projects are more Earth-bound. They involve telecommunications
with satellites that bounce signals off the oceans, mapping their
surfaces and elevation levels to better forecast the weather and predict
El Niño occurrences. Still, its the space signals that
most capture his imagination.
"I may be sitting here, but I know that the reach of my hand
is in space," he said. "Its reaching beyond the moon
and in another three months, it will touch Mars. And it will keep
going, no matter what happens to me."
Chiha compares his work to the technology that makes it possible to
talk to nearly anyone on Earth.
"Its very easy to make a phone call, say, to the Middle
East," he said. "The hard part, the challenge, was figuring
out how to make it possible and thats what I do, except
that the call is to deep space."
Chiha expects to receive a Masters degree in telecommunication
systems from Cal Poly within the next several months and hopes eventually
to earn a doctorate. He holds fond memories of his years at Mission
College, recalling that he spoke no English when he began but
used the international languages of math and science to move forward.
"I had a really beautiful experience at Mission College,"
he said. "It was the basis of my education. My instructors spent
lots of time with me. I hope to teach part-time there some time."
BY EDUARDO PARDO /