Many of you might be wondering “how can I work on something like NASA’s Curiosity when I grow up?” Well, you have come to the right place. NASA typically has missions proposed/planned well into the future. If you look at their list here, the following planetary mission are either in development or under study:
Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a NASA mission that will orbit the Moon and its main objective is to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment. This mission is part of SMD’s Robotic Lunar Exploration program. Scheduled for: May 02, 2013
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch in 2013, will explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds—such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water—from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. The MAVEN Principal Investigator is Dr. Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP), and the project is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. November 18, 2013
NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system’s formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. After traveling three years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2019. Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft’s arm will take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. RQ36 is approximately 1,900 feet in diameter or roughly the size of six football fields. The asteroid, little altered over time, is likely to represent a snapshot of our solar system’s infancy. Scheduled for: September 2016
International Lunar Net-work (ILN), aims to provide an organizing theme for all landed science missions in the 2010s by involving each landed station as a node in a geophysical network. This mission is part of SMD’s Robotic Lunar Exploration program. Scheduled for: March 01, 2018
So how do you get to work on a mission like one of these?
There are many organizations that have created educational oportunities designed to inspire young minds to become tomorrow’s rocket scientists. NASA has a MONSTER list of student and educator programs that include internships, K-12 programs, higher ed. programs, scholarships, and ongoing experiments that are sure to meet your need.
I am particularly fond of Space Grant as they were the organization who sponsored my 10 week graduate level internship at NASA’s JPL facility…..and getting that opportunity was as easy as picking up the phone and writing a proposal.
The National Space Grant Foundation has also sponsored the Summer of Innovation: Mini-Grant Program.
The Summer of Innovation (SoI) supports student interest in STEM by strengthening the capacity of community and school-based organizations that inspire and engage middle school students in STEM content during the summer. SoI then continues to support follow-on and extended learning efforts designed to keep students involved in NASA-themed STEM activities during the academic year.
Another popular program is the Student Launch Initiative that
challenges middle and high school students to design, build and launch a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload to one mile above ground level, or AGL. The project engages students in scientific research and real-world engineering processes with NASA engineers.
So, what are you waiting for, pick up the phone or write an email and start paving your way into space!
And if NASA runs out of dough, you could always look for a job with Planetary Resources 🙂
Congrats to my friend Hannah and all of the talented engineers whose tireless work on MSL has really paid off!