Systems Engineer at NASA

 
 

Systems Engineer at NASA

As an undergraduate student I spent the summer working for JPL  (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) which is known as the “unmanned” division of NASA. I was on a team responsible for generating hypothetical missions to Mars targeting a precursor mission to humans visiting the red planet. During this time I lived on the Caltech campus (Loyd House, for those interested)

The final output from our team was a report, which probably ended up in a big pile of intern reports. What was amazing for us as little science nerds was being exposed to a large number of technologies, and with them, the people who developed them; many of which are world class experts in their area of expertise.

My role on the team was communications and computation for a robot mission to Mars. We visited the massive satellite dishes in the desert where signals are received (NASA Deep Space Network), and met with researchers developing everything from pocket sized nuclear generators, to ion-propulsion thrusters. 

As students, we learned about sensors that can detect hexavalent chromium and the irregular magnetic fields of Mars, but the real lesson was seeing how top-notch scientists explore the unknown. Most of them delight in not knowing the answers, and have a passion for finding them that is contagious.