Lunar Soil: The Key to Breathing in Space- Shayla Wilhelm

Shayla Wilhelm standing in front of the Launch Crawler
Shayla Wilhelm standing in front of the Crawler Transporter.

If you can dream it, you can do it. Shayla Wilhelm saw the frothy sea of the Milky Way as she grew up in a small town in New York. Using a telescope, Wilhelm saw stars and planets shining everywhere across the sky. After realizing how much she loved what she saw in the sky, she ended up seeing a future in aerospace engineering. 

Oxygen in Space 

If astronauts on the moon can harness the oxygen under their feet, sustaining a human presence on the moon may not be so difficult after all,” Wilhelm said. Currently, Wilhelm is a junior at the Florida Institute of Technology where she is majoring in Aerospace Engineering. As a former NASA intern at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, she worked on the Molten Regolith Electrolysis (MRE) Project. 

The purpose of the MRE Project is to create oxygen on the Moon and to use it in astronaut tanks. By taking the soil on the Moon, Wilhelm would then melt it and run an electric current through it. This would split apart the metal oxides into molten metal and oxygen. After this process, the metal would then sink, allowing the oxygen to be separated, harvested, and eventually purified and distributed. 

This process is potentially an important step in setting up long-term research centers on the moon and beyond. 

Internship Takeaway 

As an intern, Wilhelm had a very hard time to describe an “average” day while at NASA. While she spent every single day differently, she is grateful that her days as an intern was always a unique experience. From staying in the lab and analyzing data, to working in the machine shop and getting her hands dirty, Wilhelm would always be excited and feel lucky enough to take on these new and innovative tasks every single day. Wilhelm also got the opportunity to expand upon her software skills, improve her technical writing, and more. 

Have you ever dreamed of working with NASA? Check out our website for more opportunities and information. Also, feel free to read more exciting stories such as Andrew Hoang, another former NASA intern who worked on parachute landings! 

Persistence is Key – Bianca Ortega

A former NASA intern at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, inside the NASA Center for Climate Simulation.
A former NASA intern at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, inside the NASA Center for Climate Simulation.

Commitment is the foundation of great accomplishments. With dreams to be a pilot, Bianca Ortega flew remote-controlled airplanes in the sky when she was younger. When high school came around, her dreams started to expand, and she instead started to program and send her work into space. It was her first physics class in high school that guided her to find a new purpose for a newer mindset. Ortega wanted her work to mean something and so her skills were put to the test.

Data Visualization and Machine Learning Involvement

“It is one thing to be great at something, but it is an entirely different thing to use that skill not for your own, but for the pursuit of knowledge.” Ortega said. Currently, Ortega is a Senior at Kean University in New Jersey. She is double majoring in Computational Science and Mathematics, and minoring in Applied Physics. Ortega is also a former NASA intern at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she worked on a project titled “Applications of Data Visualization and Machine Learning to HPC Logs.” Her project took place at NASA’s Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS). The NCCS uses supercomputers, the main one being called “Discover,” which examined and used machine learning and different data visualization techniques through recorded performance .

Ortega’s experiment was made possible with the use of The ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana) Stack. The NCCS and NASA rely heavily on Discover to tackle some of their most challenging computational projects for the Science Mission Directorate to date. The purpose of her project was to find ways to correct user error behavior and detect —or ideally, predict system failures before they can happen. With that goal, this project would allow NASA scientists the best experience while using NASA’s NCCS Supercomputers.

Hard Work Pays Off

Ortega says that this internship is “a testament that hard work does pay off.” She hopes that everyone knows that their story is different from anyone else. Ortega came from a long line of Puerto Rican women, and she never really saw a lot of Women in STEM growing up, so she felt alone. “For any and all the young women out there, just know that you are not and will never be alone,” Ortega said.

If you are looking to write your own story, check out our website for opportunities regarding internships and more! You can also read other cool and empowering stories such as Rama Diop, a former intern that contributed to laser welding in

Grace Pham/ NASA Johnson Space Center

 

 

 

Intern Contributes to Laser Welding in Space Advancements

A technician performs welding on the KAMAG spacecraft transporter, inside a facility at the crawler yard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Welding is being performed on the attach points that will hold the Orion transportation pallet in place (NASA/Ben Smegelsky).
A technician performs welding on the KAMAG spacecraft transporter, inside a facility at the crawler yard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Welding is being performed on the attach points that will hold the Orion transportation pallet in place (NASA/Ben Smegelsky).

Trying out something can lead to a new passion. Rama Diop was encouraged by her chemistry teacher during her junior year of high school to apply for a welding engineering internship at Ohio State University. At the time, Diop wasn’t sure what welding engineering entailed, but she decided to apply anyway. During her internship, Diop did hands-on work including sample preparation, quantitative and qualitative analysis, and developed etching procedures. The internship she was once unfamiliar with led to her majoring in welding engineering at Ohio State University.

Welding Engineering Experiences

Diop went on to be involved with several research projects with applications to nuclear, biomedical, and automotive industries. In one project, she examined the correlation between fracture toughness and impact toughness of several grades of steel. She’s also studied the reduction of solidification cracking in aluminum alloys. Recently, she worked on a joint program with the biomedical engineering department to mimic aspects of the bone remodeling process.

Currently, Diop is an intern in the Metal Processes and Manufacturing Branch at the Marshall Space Flight Center supporting the Laser Welding in Space project. Welding in space allows for repairing, manufacturing, and assembling parts. Diop’s project aims to revisit and further the exploration of technologies in space, as an in-space welding experiment has not been conducted since 1973 on Skylab, the first United States space station.

“It means a lot to have been able to come here and participate in this internship. I have always wanted to come here and participate in this internship, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was ecstatic. I have been able to network with a lot of people and learn more about NASA’s mission,” Diop said.

Internship Takeaways

Diop says an internship with NASA is a great way to see what her role could look like in the welding engineering industry, and she is excited to apply the skills she’s gained in her previous research projects. This session, Diop hopes to explore different applications of welding, experience research on a larger scale, expand her coding ability, and branch into more computational modeling.

“I’m disappointed that my time here is coming to an end, but I have thoroughly enjoyed working here and am happy knowing that the work I have done will be used to help further the aims of this project,” Diop said.

If you’re looking to gain hands-on experience and valuable mentorship, check out our website for opportunities. Or continue reading inspiring stories such as Alex Suh, an intern researching the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

 

Get Involved with NASA Days

 

‘NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,’ Marco Guidino, an intern at NASA, said. ‘They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.’ NASA is supporting the dreams of students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities to enter careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (NASA HQ).
‘NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,’ Marco Guidino, an intern at NASA, said. ‘They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.’ NASA is supporting the dreams of students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities to enter careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (NASA HQ).

NASA Days, a Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) activity, was created to increase awareness and opportunity among students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The program is designed to give an overview of NASA’s OSTEM internship program, NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program (IEP), and NASA Fellows activities. 

What is NASA Days?

The activity consists of four sessions. The sessions cover steps detailing the Gateway and OSTEM internship application process, an overview of NASA organizations from their subject matter experts, interview skills, resume reviews, interview strategies, best practices, and collaboration efforts among researchers, professors, and scientists. 

During Marco Guidino’s NASA internship, he wanted to pass on knowledge and help students get connected, so he decided to help run a joint NASA Days event featuring Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center. 

NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,” Guidino says. “They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.” 

Retired NASA Employee Joann Morgan briefing students at Montana State University for NASA Days. Jose Nunez briefing students at Morehouse School of Medicine during NASA Days (NASA/Priscilla Moore).
Retired NASA Employee Joann Morgan briefing students at Montana State University for NASA Days. Jose Nunez briefing students at Morehouse School of Medicine during NASA Days (NASA/Priscilla Moore).

One thing Guidino has learned from his attendance at NASA Days events is to put yourself out there and ask specific questions for the role you are interested in. 

Networking

During the networking mixer portion of the event, NASA managers present an overview of their divisions to attendees. Following this presentation, students separate into small groups where managers rotate answering questions and engaging in conversation with the students.  

Resume Review

In the resume review session, managers divide students for interviews dependent on the project they would be best suited for or for a general interview. In this process, several students are usually selected or referred for internship opportunities. 

If attending a NASA Days event is something you are interested in, NASA Days will be supporting the in-person and virtual career fair at The Annual National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week Conference 

Additionally, Texas Southern University in Houston will be hosting the NASA Days and NASA HBCU Tech Infusion Road Tour which will also be a hybrid event. 

Want to intern with NASA? Check out our website for details on available opportunities. 

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center 

 

 

Medical Student + NASA Intern hopes to research the physiological effects of spaceflight on astronauts

'Every day this summer, I’m excited to get out of bed and learn more about the effects of spaceflight on the human body. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a flight surgeon one day,’ Alex Suh, Cardiovascular and Vision Intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said. (NASA/Alex Suh).
‘Every day this summer, I’m excited to get out of bed and learn more about the effects of spaceflight on the human body. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a flight surgeon one day,’ Alex Suh, Cardiovascular and Vision Intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said. (NASA/Alex Suh).

If it’s meant to be, it will come back. Alex Suh’s opportunity at an internship was taken away due to the pandemic, but he didn’t give up on his dreams. Now, he is researching the effects of spaceflight on the human body as an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Read about his second chance at following both of his career passions: medicine and space.

His Opportunity Vanishes

Suh applied for a NASA internship during his last year being an undergrad. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was unable to continue the process of becoming an intern. Suh felt he had lost his chance to fulfill his childhood dream of working in the space industry since he would soon get busy with his strict academic path toward medical school. Suh had never even heard of a medical student interning at NASA.

Almost two years later, Suh learned that he would receive ten weeks off for summer vacation between his first and second year of medical school and thought this would be the ideal time to try again for an internship opportunity.

A Second Chance

Suh decided to apply and jumped up and down in excitement when he received an acceptance letter to research the physiological effects of spaceflight on the human body at the Johnson Space Center. He loved his initial experience as an intern and decided to extend his internship part-time into the fall while also taking preclinical courses at Tulane University School of Medicine as a Cardiovascular and Vision Intern.

(NASA/Alex Suh)
(NASA/Alex Suh)

“This internship has given me an opportunity of a lifetime to explore the field of aerospace medicine at a place where it is most applicable and exciting — Johnson Space Center. Every day this summer, I’m excited to get out of bed and learn more about the effects of spaceflight on the human body. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a flight surgeon one day,” Suh said.

If you’re interested in interning at NASA, visit the website for information on opportunities and requirements. Read about more interns on the intern blog, such as Susie Bennett’s story on her path to an Exploration Research and Technology Programs internship.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

Touchdown! Intern Works on Safe Parachute Landings

An image of Andrew Hoang
Credit: Andrew Hoang

One choice can open many doors and provide the experience of a lifetime. For Andrew Hoang, it was his decision to join a research lab, eventually leading to his internship at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

“An experience like no other, I have enjoyed every moment of my time as a NASA intern. I hope to use what I have learned to inspire others to pursue their goals, whether it’s applying for an internship at NASA or a dream job,” Hoang said.

Discovery

Hoang joined a research lab while studying at UNC Chapel Hill in order to gain experience outside of the classroom. His time in the lab led to a fascination with the effects of the undersea environment on human physiology.

Hoang learned about existing clinical problems such as decompression sickness (DCS), which occurs when dissolved gases form bubbles inside the body. He felt called to find potential solutions.

Hoang’s research experience introduced him to medical problems in space. The pressurized environment is one of the causes of DCS. While searching for more information on the space and DCS connection, Hoang stumbled upon NASA internships and decided to apply.

“I believed that obtaining an internship would give me the rare opportunity to connect with world-class field experts to gain invaluable insight in aerospace as well as be at the forefront of research development projects. Therefore, I decided to pursue the NASA internship and make the best of every moment here,” Hoang said.

NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program is back in Wanaka, New Zealand, for another flight test of its super pressure balloon, or SPB, technology to support science missions for longer flight durations, with flights running up to 100 days. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).
NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program is back in Wanaka, New Zealand, for another flight test of its super pressure balloon, or SPB, technology to support science missions for longer flight durations, with flights running up to 100 days. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).

Balloon Research and Development

Currently, Hoang interns at the Balloon Research and Development Laboratory and studies the service life of gondola parachutes used in recovering equipment from high-altitude balloon campaigns.

Hoang determines how much strength in the gondola parachute material is lost following each flight and explores possible solutions to reduce the loss. Reusing the parachute is vital to reduce costs for flight materials, explore other cost-effective avenues for conducting investigations on planetary sciences, and encourage the development and improvement of reusable parachutes.

NASA completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond in September 2018. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).
NASA completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond in September 2018. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).

“Attaining this internship proved that all the meticulous efforts and extra hours I put in to create a holistic application were worth it. I learned a lot about myself as I filled out the application. I have been grateful for the immense support and dedication that my mentors and fellow staff members have given me during my time as an intern,” Hoang said.

Mentorship

Mentors, Dr. Sarah Roth and Dr. Christopher Yoder, taught Hoang how to improve his networking skills, connected him with professionals in his future career field, and gave him tips on creating an effective experimental plan for future implementation.

“NASA is a place for everyone of any major and background. If you want to make a positive impact on the world, NASA provides the available resources and opportunities to help you accomplish that goal. Never stop asking questions. Dream big and aim high. Everyone has the capability of making a huge contribution towards the advancement of humankind,” Hoang said.

Continue learning about inspiring NASA interns and read about a fellow intern’s journey. If you want to be part of the advancement of NASA missions, visit our website to learn about qualifications and opportunities.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

 

‘I’m Not Qualified,’ Intern’s Life Detour Towards her Dreams

 

‘There is no one road to get where you are going and there is no timeline. I am incredibly happy to use the life experiences I’ve learned on my detour to my internship.’ Susie Bennett interns at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after years of pursuing an entirely different career. (NASA/Susie Bennett).
‘There is no one road to get where you are going and there is no timeline. I am incredibly happy to use the life experiences I’ve learned on my detour to my internship.’ Susie Bennett interns at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after years of pursuing an entirely different career. (NASA/Susie Bennett).

When going through life, our paths may seem linear, but that is far from the truth. For every choice we make, there are multiple options and paths presented to us. When given the opportunity, would you change your path? For Susie Bennett, a current intern at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, her path to an internship was far from linear. With a degree in business and a resume filled with retail management, the idea of ever working at NASA seemed like an out of reach prospect. Despite all of this, she never gave up on her dream of working in the space industry.
 

Rediscovering Past Interests

A common question we all get when going through school is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” While these answers are simply aspirations, they can make a big impact on your field of study. An aspiring doctor may take a bigger interest in biology, an aspiring painter may look more into the arts, or an aspiring engineer may look into welding courses. 

Bennett spent her years in grade school as a lover of space and science. She used her free time reading and watching the shuttles launch from a distance in her southwest Florida home. However, as she grew older, she struggled with the subjects she once was fond of and decided to put STEM behind her in favor of the arts and humanities. 

After obtaining a B.A. in Business Administration, Bennett worked in retail management for a decade. While she gained valuable experience in the industry, she felt that it was lacking the fulfillment she needed. One day, she decided to change all of that. 

A Major Life Change

Bennett enrolled in a biology program as a student researcher on two different projects. In the first, she worked on dissecting mosquitos and evaluating their microbiomes. In the second, she performed spectral analysis of yeast bio transformed compounds in beer. 

With her newly gained knowledge and confidence within the science field, Bennett started as a research and development scientist at a biotech company. Then she continued her journey as a brewery scientist and built a lab program from scratch. During this time, Bennett learned that NASA Internships were available for graduate students.  

With a childhood longing to work in the space industry as her motivator, she immediately went to apply. ‘I realized I was the only person standing in my way. I wasn’t going to stand in my way this time. I wanted to make elementary school me proud,’ Bennett said. 

Bennett’s Time at NASA 

Bennett accepted an offer as an Exploration Research and Technology Programs intern. She worked on a team who researched the unique stressors for biological life in a space environment using plants as the subject. While spaceflight experiments are not always possible due to time constraints and cost, ground-based equipment may be used to simulate the space environment. 

A Zinnia plant pillow floats through the U.S. Destiny Laboratory aboard the International Space Station. The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity. (NASA Johnson Space Center /International Space Station).
A Zinnia plant pillow floats through the U.S. Destiny Laboratory aboard the International Space Station. The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity. (NASA Johnson Space Center /International Space Station).

The team evaluated 40 scientific papers detailing the accuracy of machines stimulating gravity on earth. Data was compiled and reviewed for how closely simulated microgravity results compared to those obtained from experiments conducted in real microgravity. 

‘This internship signifies a major turning point in my life, not necessarily only on a professional level, but on a personal level. It signifies an end to the doubt I’ve let fill my head. It quieted the voice that spent too long telling me, ‘I’m not qualified.’ It marks the moment I realized I can do anything that I put my mind to, and it puts to bed the idea that there is only one path to success,’ Bennet said. 

Take the leap and apply for an internship. Start your application on our website or read more stories about the paths to working for NASA. Want to prepare for your internship? Read about the six habits of successful interns at NASA. 

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center 

 

You Asked, We Answered: Q&A with NASA Internships

 

View from a window on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom crew ship shows Boeing's CST-100 Starliner crew ship moments away from docking to the Harmony module's forward port on the International Space Station for the company's Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. (NASA Johnson Space Center). 
View from a window on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom crew ship shows Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew ship moments away from docking to the Harmony module’s forward port on the International Space Station for the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. (NASA Johnson Space Center). 

You asked, we answered! Today, we’re addressing common questions from our social media followers. Every year, NASA looks for members of the Artemis Generation to bring their talents and ideas to our internship program. We lead the world in space exploration and internships are an important part of our commitment to ensuring that the next generation will be ready for the challenges ahead.

Wondering if we have an internship for your major or what you might need in preparation to apply? This list is for you.

1. What type of internships are offered?

NASA offers opportunities for students to undertake meaningful and challenging projects. We have an internship for almost any major – from engineering and computer science to architecture and journalism, there’s something for everyone. Check the description and preferred major on individual opportunities for more details.

2. Does prior experience or coursework increase the likelihood of being selected?

Each internship experience is unique and will require different prerequisites. If you have not decided on your specialized major, you can still apply. Prior experience can span beyond educational experience – including extracurriculars and volunteer work that may apply to the potential role. Experience and previous coursework are both considered during the application review process.

3. If I am working or taking classes, could I still intern? 

Yes. Working or taking classes does not disqualify you from becoming an intern. NASA offers part-time internships, which is an option for those looking to do both simultaneously. Once you’ve accepted an internship, talk to your coordinator or mentor about hours and scheduling if this is a path you are interested in pursuing.

4. Do I have to live by a NASA location to intern?

If you meet the qualifications, you can intern in person or virtually at any of the centers across the United States. This upcoming fall session, all interns must receive badges at a NASA center, including all virtual internships. In person, hybrid, and virtual interns will need to travel to a NASA center the first week of their internship to receive a badge in person.

5. My grades don’t reflect my passion and interest. Can I still be an intern?

If your grades meet our requirements, you are eligible to apply for an internship. If you do not meet the qualifications, there are a variety of options for ways to get involved at NASA.

Those enrolled in a United States college or university as an undergraduate can apply to L’SPACE, a 12-week academy that provides learning on the space industry. NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) offers three unique 5-week missions for 2-year community college students seeking a STEM degree. Collaborate with a scientist and make a discovery through a Citizen Science project is an option open to everyone around the world. Led by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, Artemis Student Challenges strengthen students’ skills for future mission planning and crewed space missions to other worlds. For more opportunities, visit NASA STEM Engagement.

6. How can I prepare if I don’t meet the age requirements? 

If you don’t meet the age requirements, there are still opportunities at NASA for you. NASA STEM Engagement has educational materials along with contests and challenges for all ages and grade levels. If you’re looking for something to participate in during the summer, NASA offers camps at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). If you are not located near one of these centers, KSC also offers a virtual space camp.

7. Are there any intern projects working on missions that will be carried out within the year?

Yes, internship projects span across all areas of focus for the agency, including current high-profile missions. Currently we have interns working on Artemis, the mission that will land the first woman and person of color on the moon. There are also interns working on projects related to the James Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope sent into space. Not only do interns work on future missions, but they also work on existing missions.

8. I’m in! What’s next?

As a NASA intern, you’ll join a community of diverse professionals who are united by a common purpose: to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. Regardless of your career goals, a NASA internship will give you the kind of rewarding experience that makes a brilliant start for professional advancement.

Do YOU want to join the NASA internships team? Check out our website to learn more about the Artemis Generation, eligibility, and application steps. Find the answers to more of your questions under ‘Top Things to Know About NASA Internships.’

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

Pathways From Internship to NASA- Nicholas Houghton

Nicholas Houghton interned at NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). He now works full-time with the Orion Crew Survival Systems team. The Orion Crew Survival System suit is designed to protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth. (NASA Johnson Space Center / Nicholas Houghton).
Nicholas Houghton interned at NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). He now works full-time with the Orion Crew Survival Systems team. The Orion Crew Survival System suit is designed to protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth. (NASA Johnson Space Center / Nicholas Houghton).

Nicholas Houghton dreamed about becoming an astronaut but initially pursued an internship in the automotive industry instead. He never felt connected to his role, so he decided he wanted to pursue his childhood aspiration with an internship in the space industry. In 2018, after networking with dozens of people to learn about NASA and the application process, he accepted his first internship at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Strategic Partnerships Integration.

At NASA

Houghton’s next step was the following year at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a Space Suit Engineer intern. He was involved in the Pathways Internship Program: offering a direct pipeline to full-time employment at NASA upon graduation.

Houghton then worked on the Orion Crew Survival Systems team (OCSS): the mission to build the next generation launch and entry suit along with the associated crew survival and recovery hardware the crew uses upon return to Earth.

OCSS

Houghton’s projects for the OCSS team include making an ice-based portable cooling unit for the OCSS suit and modifying an Orion seat mockup in the OCSS lab to incorporate a working display and control unit. The portable cooling unit allows the crew to stay cool while going to the launch pad and during the capsule and crew recovery process. The Orion seat mockup mimics the cockpit and control layout found in the Orion Spacecraft and is used to ensure the OCSS suit is properly sized for each crew member.

‘The OCSS team is very close, and my team members are always willing to answer questions, teach me about the suit, or help me with my projects,’ Houghton said.

One thing Houghton wished he knew before his internship was that NASA accepts interns from every state in the US. ‘I grew up in Michigan and I had no idea that working at NASA was a realistic option. I wish I had known that NASA accepts interns from all over the United States,’ Houghton said.

With his involvement in the Pathways Internship Program and his recent double degree in Master of Science in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering and Industrial Human Factors Engineering at Purdue University, Houghton is set to become a full-time employee at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on the Orion Crew Survival Systems team.

Want To Be A NASA Intern?

If you are a US citizen or from a participating country, make sure to visit our website and apply for a NASA internship. You never know where it will take you! Need some advice on applying? Check out the ten things you can do to prepare for a NASA internship. Or, for more inspiration, read about Nylana Murphy, a Navajo Intern Engineer, and her goal to demonstrate to native students that the world is for them.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

 

 

 

Student’s Shift in Career Aspirations Leads to Internship

Monica Saraf is currently working on the SCaN NASA Cloud Architecture. She is an advocate for women in technology and studies cybersecurity at Purdue University. 
Monica Saraf is currently working on the SCaN NASA Cloud Architecture. She is an advocate for women in technology and studies cybersecurity at Purdue University.

‘As a four-year-old, Monica Saraf repeatedly played the ‘Big Space Shuttle’ DVD that her parents had gifted her. As she watched, her interest in space grew. Monica learned about the heat capacity and assembly of tiles on a shuttle, the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab, and the women who have ventured to space. 

‘I lost track of the number of times I watched it. It all fascinated me to the point that I made the decision: I was going to become an astronaut one day,’ Saraf said. 

Throughout her elementary years, Saraf daydreamed about becoming an astronaut. She even attended camp at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. 

Cybersecurity

Despite quickly declaring her dream role, as she grew older, Saraf’s interests changed. There was a shift in focus from exploration to cybersecurity. While in middle school, Saraf participated in cybersecurity programs and competitions, fueling her new passion. 

In high school, Saraf discovered NASA’s cybersecurity internships, leading back to her previous passion for the agency’s work. With the help of mentors, Saraf applied and was accepted for her first internship. 

‘It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be working for an agency that puts not only its employees first, but also its interns. We’re here to help make a difference, and our mentors make sure we know that. Every one of us is given a project that can truly impact the agency, and the support necessary to do so,’ she said.

Blending Cybersecurity and NASA

Saraf decided to return to NASA every summer since her initial internship. She is interning with the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program for the fourth time. 

The SCaN Internship Project (SIP) allows students to perform hands-on training with real mission scenarios, analyze powerful space communication systems, utilize network software tools, and effectively communicate their findings in a final presentation to NASA management.  
The SCaN Internship Project (SIP) allows students to perform hands-on training with real mission scenarios, analyze powerful space communication systems, utilize network software tools, and effectively communicate their findings in a final presentation to NASA management.

‘It means a lot that I get to participate in an internship where I feel valued. Being someone who has dreamed of working at NASA for most of her life, my past NASA internship experiences do not disappoint. They have given me even more reason to continue to work hard in my field and learn as much as I can,’ she said. 

If you are looking to start exploring, visit our website for more information about internship opportunities available and qualification requirements. Need help getting ready for a NASA internship? Check out 10 Ways to Prepare for a NASA internship. 

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center