Published: 17 February 2016

A graduate on a mission

The excitement generated by the British Beagle space mission to Mars captured the imagination of Surrey graduate Abbie Hutty as a teenager and she now is playing her very own part in the latest exploration of the red planet.

She is spacecraft structures engineer at Airbus Defence and Space, working on the ExoMars rover vehicle. This is part of the European Space Agency’s mission to search for the existence of past or present life on Mars, and is due to launch in 2018.

Abbie is also a staunch ambassador for engineering and science in general and for this role and her career success has been commended in the Industry category of the Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Awards 2015.

Abbie, who graduated with MEng in 2010, has worked on the ExoMars rover for more than three years, developing initial concept designs through to manufacture and currently building the first full-scale model.

And her passion for the project is clear: “Just knowing that the rover is going to a planet where no human has been is incredible. To be able to say that I’m working on a mission to Mars still seems a bit bizarre – but I definitely get a buzz from it. One of the most exciting times will be when we launch (and, of course, when we land). I hope to be one of those people jumping up and down, punching the air in a control room somewhere!”

It is this excitement and enthusiasm about her career that has spurred Abbie on to educate and inspire young people and the broader public about engineering at workshops and talks at primary schools through to universities. She took part in the 2014 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and has appeared on Stargazing Live and the Sky at Night to talk about her work.

Abbie says her own career could have been very different is she hadn’t had that initial dream to work in the space industry. She said:  “I stumbled across engineering by luck and didn’t have a clear idea of where I was going until I applied for my placement year at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL). I made some fortunate decisions without realising it but there is a lack of understanding in some schools about the opportunities available. A lot more young people could have exciting careers if they had the knowledge earlier.

“Engineering is a challenging but rewarding industry to work in and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Surrey taught me how to learn and gave me the confidence to believe that, if I applied myself, I could take anything on board.”

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