Borucki's career soars from Apollo to the stars

Friday - 6/28/2013, 12:35pm EDT

William Borucki, space scientist, NASA

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For some people, making a significant contribution to NASA's Apollo program would be enough to say that you've had a successful career. But for William Borucki, Apollo was just the starting point.

Currently a space scientist at the Ames Research Center, Borucki has spent 50 years at NASA.

Starting out on the team that developed heat shields for the Apollo space program, he led the design and operation of the Kepler space observatory, which discovered thousands of planets around distant stars in the Milky Way.

William Borucki, space scientist, NASA

"Kepler is showing that planets are common in our galaxy, opening up the very real possibility that life exists elsewhere in the universe," said S. Pete Worden, director of the Ames Research Center.

For his work, the Partnership for Public Service named Borucki a finalist for a 2013 Service to America Medal in the Career Achievement category. This award honors a federal worker who has made significant achievements throughout his or her public service career.

Borucki was recently interviewed on In Depth with Francis Rose. He also answered the following questions about himself and his career in the federal government.

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Inspiration, focus and perseverance

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?
"Don't give up." Many people have given me this important message at crucial times.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My father is my most important role model. He was good, intelligent, hardworking, willing to take on major projects and succeed, and he treated his family with love and respect. He encouraged and supported me on my many projects and he forgave me when things went awry.

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list?
"Dolphin Diaries" by Denise Herzing and a book on the analysis and identification of minerals.

What's your favorite bureaucratic phrase?
It's easier to get forgiveness than to get permission.

The Career Achievement Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a gallery of all the Sammies nominees here.