Patch design credit: NASA.

In 2016 I participated in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program, a 5-week online graded course hosted by NASA. Each week involved reading, a quiz and special topics. A final project is required at the end of the five weeks. If your grades are high enough you are invited to a 3-day on-site workshop at a NASA Center. I aced the course and attended Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

For my final project I investigated a proposed split-mission architecture NASA could use for an eventual Mars mission. The paper was very high-level, i.e., non-mathematical, conceptual, first-year student analysis and it's frankly amusing to see how the quality of my work compares to today as I finish up the Mechanical Engineering curriculum at Iowa State University. Essentially, the mission architecture deploys some mission assets to Mars using cheaper solar-electric propulsion space tugs before Astronauts are sent. Side note, it was after this that I read Robert Zubrin's The Case for Mars and I was happy to learn some of Dr. Zubrin's ideas permeated NASA's thinking.

Jenni and I are discussing strategy during our rover's final run at MSFC.