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Driving a Mars rover -- moving something on another world -- is inherently awesome. It is the kind of thing I grew up dreaming of, and I have never been able to believe I get paid for this.

But another great thing about driving Mars rovers is the doors it opens here on Earth. I’ve met Star Trek greats and Tuskegee Airmen and Congressmen and actors and … and you name it.

And I’ve met you. Thousands and thousands of you. Funny, thoughtful, nerdy, great people -- just my type. It’s been a privilege to share my love and enthusiasm for space exploration with you -- and not just that. I’ve been lucky enough to communicate with many of you on a personal level, too; it’s been an honor to rejoice in your joys and commiserate in your sorrows.

But that will soon end -- or transition to a different phase, at least. I’m leaving JPL in a couple of weeks, probably on February 8.

A big change like this rarely has a single cause, and this one doesn’t, either. But it’s a lot like when my 15-year marriage broke up: JPL and I have grown in different directions, and I’m not a good fit there any more. That worsening fit has been making me increasingly unhappy for the last several years, and I no longer have any real hope that it’s going to get better. I’d rather leave while I can do so with some fondness for what’s past, and that means now.

I continue to have the greatest respect and admiration for my fellow RSVP developers and for my fellow rover drivers. Oh, Auntie Em, I’ll miss them most of all. They are the finest crew in Starfleet. I stayed at JPL a lot longer than I would have otherwise, largely so I could spend more time with them.

Right now I don’t know exactly what my future in social media will be -- but supposing I stick around, I won’t be a Mars rover driver any more, and that alters my value proposition. (Although, as a friend points out: how does that make me different from Neil deGrasse Tyson? "I used to drive a Mars rover" is a little like "I used to walk on the moon," and Neil Armstrong didn’t become less awesome when he came back and Pete Conrad went up. It’s a good point.) I’ll participate here up until the end of my time at JPL, and then I’ll probably be quiet for a while, and then … and then we’ll see. I’m sorry to leave this so uncertain, but that’s all I know right now. In a few weeks or months, I’ll have it figured out. I don’t have it figured out yet.

Meantime … meantime, so long. And thank you, thank you. You have no idea what you have meant to me.
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47 comments
 
No matter what, not too many people can say they've driven a Mars rover... in fact you are the only guy I know does that on here.  Hopefully, closing this phase of your life, means that bigger and better opportunities are coming your way.

As I was reading everyones posts, I think the consensus is that you should continue to post here on G+... And I too have enjoyed your post that are not "Mars" related.

I really hope that in my lifetime we actually send some people to Mars.  I will be able to look back and tell my grandkids that I once knew a pioneer in the exploration of Mars.  
 
Good luck with whatever you go on to, +Scott Maxwell . And do stick around, I've really enjoyed reading your posts (on all topics).
 
So long and thanks for all the fish. Look forward to whatever you decide to share with the public in the future.
 
Sorry to hear you're leaving JPL and won't have the most awesome job in the world, but I hope you know you're more than just "the dude who drives Curiosity". Much more.

Stick around, man.
 
That has most likely been a very difficult decision to make & I don't envy having to make it. I'm sure that you're going to land somewhere fantastic, tho. Heck, maybe inner-space? 
 
+Scott Maxwell I know where you're coming from in principle. Do what you have to do, good luck and don't be a stranger!
 
" JPL and I have grown in different directions, and I’m not a good fit there any more. That worsening fit has been making me increasingly unhappy for the last several years"  That's what "I" said last year. My last day at JPL was also 2/8/2012.  I have since traveled most of the world (nearly 75k) received many great offers, been on 2 magazine covers...and have got up every morning with a smile...something I hadn't done for years....Good Luck, you're much better off.
 
You are much more than what you do for a living. It was great to meet you at the JPL Tweetup a couple years ago, and I hope you find happiness in whatever you decide is next. (I vote you open a kite shop/beer garden on a beach somewhere.) In the meantime, Stay on social media. I do, and all I've driven is a Nissan. On Earth. 
 
throwing you so much support and love! go do! thankful for what you've given already. 
 
You certainly shouldn't distance yourself from G+ because of your career change.  People may have found you because of your job, but that's not why they followed you.

I actually added you when you posted your F*ck Cancer post.  To me, you've never represented JPL, you've represented yourself.  So, good luck and stick around man!
 
Come back, Scott! Come back!

You know. When you're back in a social frame of mind. Your spot in my Following circle is secure.
 
I'm sorry that things didn't work out, Scott.  But what a wonderful run you ended up with at JPL, and I know you'll succeed wherever you go.  I've valued your participation here on G+, and hope that even if you have a lull, you'll come back in force.  You're engaging and interesting, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say even after you've finished driving rovers.  :)
 
Scott, the decision to give up what had to be  the job of a lifetime must have been heart-wrenching. You personified everything that was good and indeed noble about the activities at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You were gracious with my team on my show and I'll be forever grateful for the time you took to be with us and our listeners. This but the end of the first chapter, and I know Chapter Two will be just as amazing in what ever you decide the next challenge will be. Keep us all posted on what that is and we will be cheering you on. My best to you and to your family. May the wind be at your back.  
 
We'll all miss you if you leave social media. Lots of people started following because of the rovers, but we kept following because of you... 
 
I suppose that any job becomes a chore if you do it for long enough.  Getting to drive a rover on another planet for any amount of time puts you in a very small club, and probably gives you a perspective which the majority of Earthlings don't have.  There are many other frontiers to explore though.
 
Damn!
No need to switch off on socmed. Most of us follow the person rather than the job.
And no need to change the coolest Handle on all of Twitterdom either - it's like Raylene Boyle once told off a journo for referring to her as a "former Olympian" - once an Olympian, always an Olympian she told them. Once a Mars Rover Driver, always a...
Now if you'd like to mosey on out to Australia, I'd love to organise a speaking tour for you! You'd be an absolute hit. Schools, unis, corporates.
Don't forget to souvenir the odd shredded MSL test wheel, etc!

 
The Mars Clock will keep ticking weather you drive something up there or not. Thanks for being awesome. Uhm, seeing how I'm getting laid off myself after the 3rd quarter of this year... Would JPL happen to be looking for a replacement Mars Rover Driver ? One can keep dreaming, right ?
 
+Scott Maxwell, I can't believe it. I've heard of your programming prowess from all my ex-lab friends. They said you'd never leave.

If you have interest in Google, let me know.
 
I'm following you for years now and you became much more than just Mars rover driver. It wasn't just about JPL. I consider you my friend, so I sincerely hope you'll stick around. I like reading your geeky ideas and opinions and I would miss that, if you disappeared from my sight. If anything, you will be even more interesting now, because I wonder what you'll succeed in next. I bet something even grander, but you know, no pressure or anything :) Even if you retire now and don't move a finger for the rest of your life, you'll remain my favorite Mars rover driver. What worries me is the sad tone of your message, I hope everything is OK. Good luck with whatever you decide to do next! If I may be of assistance in any way, it would be an honor for me.
 
Best of luck +Scott Maxwell with whatever you decide to do next. It's been a pleasure following your posts and I hope you'll stay on G+.
 
Can't help but think that it was CalTech that contributed more than 50% to your decision to leave.  It's weighing heavily on mine as well...and they don't care.
 
Tell the truth...you were selected for a super secret mission to Mars to free Spirit?

Best of luck in your career change. It is scary, but it usually turns out for the best.
Nancy B
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following your future adventures is part if the long strange geeky trip we are all on... and makes you even more of a role model for those to come... transitioning isn't a skill taught enough... ever.. travel safe... hope we get to come along for the ride
 
I've enjoyed your posts about one of the coolest jobs ever. You have a definite panache for story telling and getting people excited about what you do. Please don't leave social media, so you can continue to excite people about Mars exploration! Unless, you are going to Mars to free spirit....
 
Best wishes!  I think everyone will continue to "follow you out of curiosity" as the leadership joke goes.  :)
 
Good luck to you.  I've enjoyed your tweets, as well as the fruits of your labors.  Looking forward to seeing what you do next.
 
Good luck with the future Scott, I enjoyed your tweets and posts about your work at JPL. Thank you for taking the time to answer the odd question I sent your way. Thank you for making yourself available to those of us who follow the Mars missions and sharing with us the joy and wonder of driving a robot on another world.

From the outside it seems like the coolest job ever but all jobs have their pluses and minuses and even the politics and responsibility of driving a rover on a distant planet can take it's toll on a person. And people's interests and dreams and challenges change with time.

I hope you maintain a social media presence because you are more than the job you do. You shared your passion and a curiosity about the wonder of the cosmos and the small part you have recently been exploring. I think most of us who follow you do so because we too have that same passion and curiosity. I look forward to the next chapter.

Good luck sir, and thanks again.
Cheers
Murdo
 
Over the past several months, you've made me look at my life and wonder what I could have done differently to enable me to have a job like you have. It's sad to see that you're moving on to something different, but if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that nothing is constant except change. Good luck to whatever you do. I still look forward to your posts, regardless of what they're centered around. You're a genuinely good human being, and nothing about that will change just because you're in a different career.
 
Hey Scott, all things change and it is great that you willing to share some of that with the rest of us, as scary and challenging as it usually is all by itself. I have really enjoyed reading and keeping up with you here on Google+. It is just so cool to have such a personal view into the Mars rover program. It just isn't something that happens every day, and it is really special. But over that time I feel like I have kind of "gotten to know you," which sounds a little strange since it is just a small window and level of interaction. It might even sound creepy to you since we have never actually met. Social media and human psychology is a different kind of beast. Anyways, I am just saying that I will be interested in hearing about what you are doing next. Mars rover driver or not, you are an interesting person that I respect and want to hear from. Even if only from time to time. Good luck with what's next!
 
There are no words to express the surprise at this announcement other than totally unexpected. However, I know this isn't a rash decision nor easy. You truly have made a mark in terms of exploring Mars. Selfishly, you've made an endelible positive mark on me in a short period of time (if two years is short). I have nothing but positive hopes for you in whatever you choose to do beyond JPL. Your talents and personality will carry you much farther than Mars. Please stay in touch my friend.
 
+Scott Maxwell you literally left your mark on Mars, and you are still leaving it on the people of Earth by sharing your interests here and elsewhere online. You'll leave an even greater mark on our planet, whatever activities you'll end up doing. If I worked at Google and had any power, I'll hire you on the spot to change this world.
tim hem
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+Scott Maxwell I started following you because you drove a rover on Mars... I continued following you because you are a great human being.
You do what you want to do mate - but you are nutts if you think people will no longer be interested in what you have to say.
Oh, and you welcome to come over to europe to help us get "Bridget" ready for 2018
 
Very sorry to hear you're leaving JPL without the best feelings in the world, +Scott Maxwell, but you won't stop being awesome. Being the guy that drove rovers on Mars for a while is probably the best bragging rights ever! 
 
Scott, JPL served as a pretty good launch pad for you. So you might coast a while in orbit before firing your next rocket engine and going much farther. This was the first post of yours that I've read here, so far, but it's good to know it's where we can look in on you in the future. So please do NOT break the "telemetry" link! All the best to you. -- Dave
 
+Scott Maxwell since I was a kid you and the mars team have been my heros. I have great respect for the work you've done. It's the job we engineering nerds dream about. I'm certain the reason so many people follow you isn't just because you drive rovers on mars, but rather your character and enthusiam. To keep it short, I'm just happy to see the journey of like minded nerd unfold and I look forward to hearing about where the road takes you. 
 
Sorry to hear you are leaving JPL, but best of luck in whatever you go on to do next! And thanks for allowing us to tag-along with your Mars adventures through social media. :)
 
Hi from Germany - thanks for what you did. I wish you well. There's so much out there you can do - Falcon Punch! ;-)
 
+Scott Maxwell You time on Mars has afforded you a perspective that the rest of us don't have. Thank you for sharing it with us. 

And you should continue to share it. Inspire the next generation. 
 
This news evokes a true sad face :(   You are awesome beyond words and I can't thank you enough for all the interviews/info you've provided. And thanks for taking us all along on your rovers' journeys on Mars. I can only imagine, +Scott Maxwell that whatever your future holds its gonna be kickass.
 
Sad to lose such an inspiring individual, but as someone said: "Change brings Opportunity' (excuse the pun). Remaining with hope of picking up your new transmission stream in the future. Godspeed!     
 
+Lara Eakins absolutely right, you have been very inspirational for my career as a computer programmer and fan of Mars, you'll be fine, greetings from chile :) 
 
You should track down Randall Munroe and Andrew Looney: both ex-NASA workers that went on to perform great acts of geekdom. One draws comics; another makes games. What do you want to make?
 
in your downtime time for the book..driving on mars..
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