Mason Rhodes’ Path to Opportunities

Mason Rhodes in a navy Artemis polo shirt, standing in front of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with his finger on top of the spacecraft at a far distance at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Mason Rhodes in a navy Artemis polo shirt, standing in front of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with his finger on top of the spacecraft at a far distance at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Since the 8th grade, Mason Rhodes knew he wanted to be a part of NASA’s journey and research in some capacity. Rhodes is currently a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Arkansas State University to get a chance to have a well-rounded education. By keeping up to date with NASA missions and projects, Rhodes was fascinated by NASA’s goal of researching and extending everyone’s knowledge of space.

Projects and the Space Grant

Mason Rhodes is a former NASA intern from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. During his internship, he tested and modified a robotic arm as part of the Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) program that assisted in collecting and analyzing dust samples for lunar missions. The robot that Rhodes worked on is also easily interchangeable to allow for quick arrangements of parts and elements for different missions and requirements.

Rhodes was also affiliated with the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium Workforce Development Grant, during his internship. At NASA, the Space Grant expands opportunities for individuals to understand and participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space projects by supporting and enhancing science and engineering education, as well as research and public outreach efforts. Its main goal is to contribute to the nation’s science enterprise by funding education, research, and public engagement projects through a national network of university-based Space Grant consortia.

From Nowhere to Somewhere

Rhodes had a personal goal to obtain a NASA internship for about a decade. Growing up in the middle of Arkansas, he saw that there were no NASA centers within a 300+ mile radius. For the longest time, he believed that he did not have the experience and opportunity to even work at NASA. With this opportunity, he developed a passion for the work, and the ideals that the organization pushed upon him are beyond anything else.

“I didn’t go to your top college, I didn’t live in a hub for science, and I was just a student from a lower-income household a half-hour away from your nearest city. However, I quickly realized through my time at NASA that my previous judgments were entirely misconceived. It’s important to remember that anyone can be a NASA Intern. Regardless of where you came from, anyone and everyone can shape tomorrow,” Rhodes stated.

NASA offers opportunities for everyone! Check out our website for more information about these opportunities we have in store for you. Additionally, feel free to check out Joseph Birtman, another former NASA Intern, who believed that he couldn’t get an internship based on his skill sets and prior experience.

Failure to Future: An Intern’s Journey to Success

Erica Kriner as a child, posing in front of an abstract art mural that consists of NASA, Apollo, and other space-related items.
Erica Kriner as a child, posing in front of an abstract art mural that consists of NASA, Apollo, and other space-related items.

“Failure is not an option.” Erica Kriner thought that this quote was a motto that she could live by. She then learned that the quote is a little misleading. “Failure is inevitable; what defines your character is what you do after it happens,” Kriner said. 

NASA Fellowship 

Erica Kriner recently graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography with minors in Sustainability and Anthropology. She is also a former Audio Storytelling NASA intern with a Fellowship from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Her primary duty as an intern was to help with scripting and producing NASA’s Curious Universe which is a podcast where she told stories about science and the people behind it at NASA. 

NASA Fellowships are competitive awards to support independently conceived or designed research, or senior design projects by highly qualified faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students, in disciplines needed to help advance NASA’s missions. This gives them the opportunity to directly contribute to advancements in STEM-related areas of study. The Fellowship opportunities are focused on innovation and generating measurable research results that contribute to NASA’s current and future science and technology goals. 

DEVELOP Program 

Kriner was also a part of NASA’s DEVELOP Program which conducts feasibility studies that bridge the gap between Earth science information and society. These projects help both participants and partners learn more about using geospatial information. Three times a year, participants apply through a competitive application process. Those selected conduct 10-week research projects in interdisciplinary teams of 4-5 people. They work closely with DEVELOP science advisors and mentors to apply Earth observations address to real-world problems. Through this process, participants build both research and science communication skills. These skills and project experience help set them up for success in the workforce. 

In Defeat, I am Defiant. 

It’s difficult for Kriner to put into words what it means not just to have this internship but even just to be at NASA. She feels like every decision she has made for her future has not just been for herself. 

Those decisions have been for her family: her mother, who raised her young and single, and who had to drop out of college and donate plasma every week just to pay the bills; her grandparents, who opened their home to them and who supported Erica unconditionally, even after she had to come home from college and was at her lowest point. “I’m not just building my legacy here; I’m also continuing their legacies of tenacity, compassion, and resilience. Everything I do is because of them and for them.” Kriner said. 

From the vantage point of hindsight, I can say with certainty that the moments that felt like failure were the moments that made this path possible. I wouldn’t be at NASA if it weren’t for those initial failures.” 

Succeed with NASA like Erica has and apply to be an intern at our website today! Also, feel free to check out Margarita Bassil, a NASA intern who also interpreted her mistakes as lessons to become successful at NASA. 

Nonstop Aerospace Adventure- Joseph Birtman

A former NASA intern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida standing in front of the Space Launch System Rocket (SLS) for the Artemis I missions.
A former NASA intern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida standing in front of the Space Launch System Rocket (SLS) for the Artemis I missions.

Every day we continue to push the boundaries of our knowledge. Joseph Birtman was always interested in space and fascinated with a sky full of stars ever since he was 12 years old. He finally achieved his dream as he worked hard to contribute to one of the most inspiring parts of humanity. 

Moon Simulation Tool 

“I had an interesting background and mix of skills, and a deep enthusiasm for space,” Birtman said.  

Joseph Birtman is currently a senior at the University of California, Berkley, where he is double majoring in Computer Science and Economics. He is also a former NASA intern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and worked in the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) lab. 

NASA will be landing on the Moon in the coming years. There, they need numerous unmanned vehicles and systems to assist the astronauts, perform science experiments and ultimately work toward the journey to Mars. 

Birtman worked on a simulation tool of the Moon called the Lunar Uncrewed Explorer Tool (LUnExT is an acronym made by Birtman and another intern for this simulation tool). This tool is used to plan independent missions and operations. He implemented into the simulation how much dust is kicked up during a landing, also known as a Plume Surface Interaction (PSI). PSI is essential for planning how close a rocket could land to ground equipment or determining how far a camera could be to document the landing. 

With the features mentioned and numerous others, this allows NASA scientists to quickly and easily create moon mission plans which are extremely important in the Age of Artemis. 

Diversity is Key 

Birtman resonated with NASA’s core values, especially “Diversity.” Diversity is the key factor that leads to world-class innovations and discoveries. “The only way to create amazing things is through people with various backgrounds and viewpoints,” Birtman said. 

His experience at NASA was unlike any other and he was grateful that he worked hard to get to where he is today. He believed that if you are even slightly interested in space or NASA missions, then you should apply. 

Don’t worry if your background isn’t STEM! NASA provides multiple roles for different majors and skill sets such as business, human resources, public relations, and even counterintelligence! The lack of the “traditional” path may make your application even stronger,” Birtman stated. 

Find out if we have the right role for you on our website. Additionally, feel free to check out Samuel Mohler and read about how he learned from pure passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity about space, science, and NASA missions just like Joseph! 


Visualizing the Future – Yuhan Liu 

Yuhan Liu is standing on the roof of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with her hard hat on.
Yuhan Liu is standing on the roof of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with her hard hat on. 

It is National STEM Day! Today is the day that is dedicated to encouraging everyone to explore their interests in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Yuhan Liu, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, is double majoring in Digital Media Design and Entrepreneurship. She is also a former Technology Design Visualization NASA intern at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I am overjoyed to be able to witness the many innovations that are helping to bring us back to the Moon,” Liu said. 

SBIR Program and Boeing DV Lab 

As a former Technology Design Visualization NASA intern, Liu worked with NASA’s Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) Program. The SBIR Program funds small businesses and universities to create new NASA technologies. 

Liu also worked with the Boeing Design Visualization (DV) Lab which specializes in 3D laser scans to support ground operations. The Boeing DV Lab leverages 3D scanning, simulations, and modeling to ensure the efficiency and safety of NASA ground operations. In Liu’s day-to-day as an intern, she was usually in the lab, creating a 3D model or simulation of an environment or piece of technology at the Kennedy Space Center. If she is not found in the lab, then she was supporting the team in capturing 3D laser scans of a building, launchpad, or observing technology that is to be modeled in a research lab. 

Liu works with both teams to 3D model, simulate, and communicate new technology that is being developed for the Artemis Program. She has modeled new plant growth systems and launched software and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) machinery. Her project extended to multiple agencies and various research groups at the Kennedy Space Center. Liu’s most memorable excursion was to the Vehicle Assembly Building, in which the Boeing team came to laser-scan a sagging high bay platform. When one-half of the Orion Capsule Access platform was found to be two inches lower, she performed a laser scan and produced a 3D visualization. 

Every Day is a New Adventure 

Liu has absolutely loved the chance to work with software in the office and grab a safety helmet and see the wonders of the Kennedy Space Center up close. With every day being a new adventure, this internship was a perfect combination of her passions. While working with software to generate meaningful 3D models to contribute to the entire agency’s Artemis efforts, Liu was drawn to the intersection between art and computer science.  

As a computer graphics major, she hopes to invent software that is not only important, efficient, and useful, but also visually compelling. From this position, Liu has learned the significance of 3D modeling and how accurate visualizations can make a tremendous difference in guaranteeing mission safety, advancing new technology, and communicating complicated ideas. 

If you are interested in taking part in the STEM field, then check out our website! Also, don’t be deterred if you are not part of STEM as NASA Internships has many non-STEM positions available. We even have some high school positions! Read more about Drina Shah, a former high school intern at NASA, who worked on artificial intelligence.