Approaching the finish line

It’s kind of hard to believe that I’ll be done with my internship in a few weeks! Well, sort of. I’ve also been kept so busy here that I’ve barely noticed the days going by. I know that it’s the summer around here because of the soul-bleaching heat, but other than that? I’ve kind of lost track of the time.

But yeah, I’m almost done. I’ve been keeping track of my tasks on a whiteboard near my desk – partly because it’s easier for me than a spreadsheet, and also so that there’s a handy reference in case anyone thinks I’m just spinning my wheels – and while it doesn’t look like I’ve done very much, the fact is that I’ve finished about twenty projects in the space of two and a half months and will probably be up to thirty or so by the time I leave. I mentioned some of my projects during my final presentation yesterday, but I didn’t go into full detail because I didn’t want to put people to sleep. Continue reading “Approaching the finish line”

The Wild World of Social Media Management

One of the projects I’ve been given during my internship is the task of managing some of our affiliate social media accounts. It’s been pretty good for the most part. There are a few facepalm-worthy trends, though:

  1. Vaguely smartass questions that could be answered by reading the article that you’re commenting on.
  2. Talking smack about one of your company’s big contracts when you have your corporate affiliation prominently listed in your Twitter bio.

The first one is just garden-level obnoxiousness that’s easily ignored. The second? There’s really not a word to describe how dumb that is. Or maybe there is – it’s probably a long compound word in German or Russian that I haven’t learned yet. Anyway.

Here’s a basic rule of thumb for you that’s painfully obvious but apparently bears repeating: If it’s something you wouldn’t want your boss or a hiring manager to read, don’t post it on social media where it can be easily found.

If you’re in the US and reading this, don’t @ me about free speech. Yes, you can say whatever the hell you want to, but the First Amendment doesn’t protect you from the consequences if it ventures into the realm of libel or slander. So if you must vent, do yourself a big favor and stay away from Twitter or Facebook or whatever your platform of choice happens to be. It isn’t worth making yourself look like an idiot and possibly making it difficult for you to land or keep a job.

Adventure at AirVenture – or, Surviving Oshkosh as an Airshow Newbie

One of the central projects of my internship was helping in the planning for one of our biggest annual trade show appearances and then tagging along to offer support at our booth. I saw from reading the website that AirVenture is one of the biggest airshows of its kind in the world, and the attendance stats from last year were mindboggling. That said, nothing can really prepare you for an event of this magnitude if you’ve never been to it before. The last time I went to an airshow, I think I was probably five or six and I didn’t really see anything because my glasses broke within ten minutes of us getting there. I was pissed off. So, AirVenture was my chance to make up for that…

And holy cow, did it.

Continue reading “Adventure at AirVenture – or, Surviving Oshkosh as an Airshow Newbie”

Not dead, just resting

I know it’s been a little bit dead around here for the past few weeks, and that’s on me. Most of the time has been taken up with planning for and carrying out the two employee appreciation events that we’ve had lined up for Propulsion Systems. Those were the two minor-league baseball games, in case anyone’s been keeping track. I was the company photographer for the Ogden Raptors ballgame. It was my first time doing crowd photography, and I’d like to think that I did pretty well. I’ll share just one photo from that event.

Photo: Shelby Miksch/Orbital ATK

Another cool thing that’s happened in the interim is that I got to take a tour of the Bacchus Plant! I got to see a lot of interesting stuff while I was there, but since a lot of it is proprietary, I can’t go into it here. Let’s just say that I got walked through the production cycle of some of the signature products made at the plant and keep it at that. After the tour, a bunch of interns got a catered lunch and listened to Flight Systems Group President Scott Lehr talk about his career. We also got some prime work advice. A lot of it was aimed at students who are a lot younger than me who are just starting out in the workforce, but even so, it was good for me to hear.

Last but not least, I got to work at my first trade show! I supported the Orion/SLS industry team at our booth in the NASA Pavilion at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. AirVenture is one of the biggest airshows in the world and I got to see so many amazing things while working there that it deserves its own post – which I’ll probably get to tomorrow, because I just got back in from Wisconsin today and I’m pooped. But it was great.

So yeah. Stay tuned for a post about last week’s adventure at AirVenture – along with some good photos.

Parts of a Whole

I stood on a metal platform at the top of a flight of stairs earlier this morning and looked across a cavernous manufacturing floor. The view wasn’t particularly picturesque and a photo of what I was looking at wouldn’t have caused many waves outside of a trade magazine. But I was captivated, so I paused for a moment to drink it in.

I’m not an engineer by trade, nor a mechanic – that much should be blatantly obvious – and the most familiarity I have with manufacturing facilities is from touring the boat plant where my dad works. That said, I knew that I was looking at salvaged solid rocket booster casings that had, in their prior working life, been used to launch a Space Shuttle.  Continue reading “Parts of a Whole”

Impostor Syndrome’s Ugly Cousin

I wrote up a spreadsheet today to keep track of how many tasks I’ve finished during this internship and how many I have in progress. Out of fifteen tasks, one is finished – but that one was fairly simple. I have a lot to work on, but I’m not panicking because I know what I’m doing and it feels nice to be trusted to get work done.

But it’s still hard for me to take a sincere compliment. When someone else tells me that I’ve done a good job, part of me wants to say “Hell yeah, I know I’m good.” That urge is held in check by a stronger inner voice that keeps telling me to check myself before I wreck myself. Don’t let it go to your head, it says.

Maybe it’s because the modus operandi I’ve employed for most of my life is to do my job, do it well, and do it quietly. It helped me get through boot camp relatively unscathed – which is hard to do when you’re a scrawny teenager with coke bottle glasses and poofy red Carrot Top hair. But I’ve survived this long by being quiet, and it startles the crap out of me when anyone gives me any kind of positive attention. So when I found out that my department nominated me for a prestigious scholarship at the end of this last quarter, I was flabbergasted. When both my supervisor and my team lead looked over my first official pitch letter recently and said that it has “a lot of great ideas,” I genuinely didn’t know what to do.

It’s all too easy to look at someone who has this kind of problem and say “Well, duh, you’re supposed to say thank you.” But if you’ve experienced this, you know the feeling. It’s not quite impostor syndrome, but close enough. Like impostor syndrome’s ugly cousin. I know that I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t deserve it, though, and I wouldn’t be trusted with so many projects if I hadn’t demonstrated some kind of competency. So even though I’m still staying quiet, I’m re-learning how to say thank you.

It’s not easy.

Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars…

Okay, okay, fine. I know that “Fly Me to the Moon” is more of an Apollo song. I’ve kind of had Apollo on the mind recently since the odds are pretty good that I’ll be able to go to the 50th Anniversary Reunion program while I’m in Oshkosh, and just being able to set eyes on those guys is pretty dang thrilling to me.

But there’s a reason for my lyrical appropriation. Put your rotten fruit away for a little while and think back twenty years ago. The Internet was still in its nascent stages, when a clean white background and crisp Times New Roman typeface were all that you needed to show that you were a Serious Webpage… though if you wanted to lighten things up a little bit, you might do a paragraph or two in color and throw in some smileys while you were at it. I can’t be too harsh, though, because I committed some of those same sins when I was first dabbling in web design – and let’s face it, the website which JPL set up for their brand-new Mars mission was pretty swish for its time. (Put your way-back goggles on and take a look.) Continue reading “Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars…”

Making use of the quiet

Doing public relations work for the aerospace sector has the potential to be glamorous and exciting, especially if you’re a space nerd like me. I’m at the start of my third week of my internship and, even though the early morning start time is still a drag, the experience has yet to lose its luster.

That said, not every day is glamorous and exciting. Today was one of those in-between days. It had a lot to do with the holiday tomorrow and most of my coworkers taking today off so that they could have a long weekend. Being a relatively new intern, I don’t have the PTO accrued in order to do that… so I got to work in an office that was almost sepulchrally quiet. My supervisor had anticipated such an occurrence, though, so I had a nice stack of work to do. The bulk of that work involved updating media lists based on who came to our last big static fire test. Sounds exciting, huh? Well, if you like data entry, then this would be right up your alley. But as tedious as it sounds, I know that this is an absolutely necessary thing that has to get taken care of – and who better to do it than the intern? So I genuinely didn’t mind.

Now, shifting gears for a little bit… I’d mentioned last week that one of my tasks is curating content for a social media account that we work with. I’m having a blast with this job because it’s something that I do in my spare time anyway and now I get paid for it. Well, I just realized today that if someone doesn’t know that’s my job, it looks like I’m just goofing off on the Internet. Awkward. Oh well. They’re more than welcome to ask me, and then they’ll probably be stunned into silence by the beacons-of-Gondor levels of space nerdery which got me this particular assignment in the first place.

There are a couple of big milestones in space exploration coming up soon. I’ll have a post about them tomorrow. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share some cool stuff that I found while I was doing my content curation today…

  • A lot of cool science is happening on board the ISS, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS, for short) wants to tell you all about it. Volume 2, Issue 2 of Upward talks about 3D printing in space, protein crystal experiments, and Tomatosphere. You can read this issue here.
  • If you want to know what’s going on with Orion, the mission team’s got you covered. Orion’s monthly newsletter is chock-full of photos, links, and stories about the crew capsule development process. Their archive is located here.
  • Last but not least, check out Explore Deep Space. Full disclosure: I’m a part-time contributor. I don’t run the account, but I still think you should have a look if you want a great curated feed featuring current news about space exploration, SLS, and Orion.

That’s all from me for now. I’ve got some research to do for tomorrow’s post – time to cue up some Frank Sinatra and get nostalgic.

The Everyday Amazing

I’m trying to keep my posts at least semi-professional in tone… but…

Y’ALL. Today was freakin’ unbelievable!

I didn’t mention today’s exact plans in yesterday’s post because I had a feeling that I’d need some room to wax rhapsodic. So what happened today that was so great? Two of our staff gave an interview for a local podcast today and I got to be a fly on the wall just to see how the whole process goes. The topic was space exploration in general and, more specifically, Orbital ATK’s role in developing the Launch Abort Motor for the Orion crew capsule – and I’ll tell you what, my heart is full.

I won’t go into specific details of what was discussed out of professional courtesy. With that in mind, keep an ear out for the space episode of Out Standing in a Field, the science and environment podcast from Leia Larsen and Benjamin Zack of Ogden’s Standard-Examiner. Hopefully they’ll put this out soon so that all of you can get to hear the same amazing stuff that I did.

You’ll get to hear Erica Sandoval, the team engineer lead for launch abort motor manufacturing, talk about her work. Erica also had some wonderful words of encouragement for anyone wanting to pursue study in a STEM field. Kent Rominger (OATK’s Vice President of Strategic Programs, if memory serves) gave his general perspective about space exploration – which he’s well-qualified to do, having flown on five Space Shuttle missions. He was also the Chief of the Astronaut Office during the Columbia disaster and if I get the chance, I would love to pick his brain on how he was able to handle that. He’s a busy guy, though, so I doubt that’d ever happen.

So yeah. I got to listen to a brilliant engineer talk about rocket motors, and I met an astronaut. No big deal.

Blog at

Up ↑