Following a Passion for Space Exploration

Blake Brown ’24 spent his summer as a Student Enhancement in Earth and Space Science (SEES) summer intern for The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Space Research. In this internship program, he worked remotely with his project scientist before going to the UT campus to work with other students, scientists and engineers to conduct authentic research from data received from NASA's earth observing satellites and designed Mars habitats, conducted lunar exploration, and analyzed images from the International Space Station.
This nationally competitive program sponsored by NASA's Texas Space Grant Consortium selects students who will increase their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math through earth and space education. Nearly 1,100 applications were received for the coveted 92 onsite internship positions.

Brown originally discovered the SEES internship on the NASA website and was prompted to learn more and apply after a friend who took part in the SEES virtual internship told me more about the program. “I applied because  I wanted to learn more about NASA and space research and believed that this opportunity would grant me the ability to expand my perspective and gain insight into a future STEM career,” Brown said. “I feel incredibly fortunate to be one of the 92 out of 1,100 applicants admitted to the program.”

With a passion for space exploration ever since seeing the distant stars in the night sky on a camping trip, Brown has wanted to expand his learning about the wonders of human space exploration. 

The internship required prerequisite background work, research, and an online basic programming course throughout June. “From this internship, I learned a vast amount about working in a STEM field and collaborating in a group to achieve a common goal,” Brown said. “Although the work was often intense, it was an incredible experience that broadened my perspective of the aerospace industry and space research.”

The onsite internship took place over two weeks in July at the Center for Space Research in Austin and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, during which the 92 interns stayed on the  UT campus. Those two weeks were jam-packed.

“As part of the Moon Exploration and Habitation team, we worked alongside our mentor to conduct research and analyze the necessary systems and requirements needed to maintain an operational and sustainable presence on the lunar South Pole,” Brown said. “We got to work in a research center and met virtually and in-person with experts and NASA scientists who gave us recommendations and provided us with the resources for our project. 

“To accomplish our task, we analyzed satellite data to search for signs of water-ice and studied a variety of topics for a lunar laboratory such as environmental control and life support systems, radiation shielding, the chemical composition of lunar volatiles, materials, risk mitigation, scientific objectives and so much more,” she continued. “At the end of our research, we presented our findings and research in the form of a virtual presentation to over 2,000 NASA scientists and engineers and published our abstract and proposal to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and plan on submitting it as an official NASA (NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts) proposal in the future.”

The group was also involved in other STEM engagement activities, including engineering competitions, touring the UT engineering building, designing 3D models, and seeing behind-the-scenes at Johnson Space Center.

“There were many unforgettable parts of the internship,” Brown said. “My favorite part was probably meeting some incredibly talented people from across the country and learning so much about the lunar environment while working hands-on with NASA professionals and engineers.”

SEES is a collaborative effort of Texas Space Grant Consortium members and affiliates, NASA, and The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Space Research. Students apply for SEES and are selected competitively. The internships are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA's diverse engineering and scientific research programs. The program combines the strengths of collaborators to enrich the teaching and learning of STEM. 

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