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Q&A with 2017 Brooke Owens Fellow and SEDS Member Maryam Gracias

By Samuel Sorkin


Photo Courtesy of Maryam Gracias

Maryam Gracias is a rising senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, majoring in spaceflight operations with minors in flight, aviation safety and human factors. She is involved in her university’s SEDS chapter, the Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers Society.

Earlier this year, she was named as one of 36 inaugural Brooke Owens Fellows. The Fellowship, a volunteer-led program awarding internships and senior mentorship to exceptional undergraduate women seeking careers in aviation or space exploration, was founded in memoriam of space industry pioneer and pilot D. Brooke Owens.

How did you get interested in space?

“I have always wanted to be an astronaut ever since I was a kid growing up in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I still remember in elementary school, when our teacher asked us about our ambitions, I answered that I wanted to be an astronaut. He replied that I cannot be afraid of heights. Fast forward to my current life, I am working on making my dreams come true. I have been working on being a pilot in order to get my flight hours. My parents have been a huge driving force in supporting and encouraging me. I am very passionate about flying and having been pursuing this dream ever since elementary school!”

What interested you about SEDS and what do you enjoy about it?

“I first heard about the SEDS chapter at Activities Fair on campus. The Activities Fair is held twice per year on campus, where all the organizations are showcased and talk to students who might be interested in becoming members. The chapter at my campus is called The Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers Society. It is dedicated to providing hands-on experience in space exploration and related topics for students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. They have several hands-on projects, including Artemis, Pathfinder, Prometheus, and a National Association of Rocketry Certification workshop. They also have several research opportunities including water-based recovery systems, guided parachute recovery and more. It feels great to be working with incredible students who share the same passion as me. I am hoping to be more actively involved in the coming fall after my internship this summer with Air Line Pilots Association.”

How did you hear about the Brooke Owens Fellowship, and what was your multimedia project? Take us through the process of applying and learning that you were accepted.

“I heard about the Brooke Owens Fellowship via the Student Success Coordinator Program on my campus. I am a non-U.S. citizen with permanent resident status, but sometimes it can get a little hectic while trying to apply for internships. Fortunately, the coordinators helped me secure not one but two internships – Delta Air Lines for Spring 2017, and the Air Line Pilots Association, or ALPA, via Brooke Owens Fellowship Program for Summer 2017! I know their advice on resumes and cover letters really made a difference!

When I first read all about the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program, I felt it was more than perfect for me. I felt so connected to the program that I just had to apply! The purpose of the program is so empowering and motivating to all the women in the aviation industry.

I worked on my application and talked about my passion in the aviation industry. In my essay, I talked about myself and career goals. I did a video for my multimedia project, where I further explained about my future goals. After I was content with my application, I submitted it in December of 2016. A few days later, I receive an email stating that I had advanced to the phone interview stage. I was ecstatic, especially when I found out that I would be interviewing with Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA! NASA is basically my dream organization. I was so nervous, but the interview went great. I got back another email in January that I advanced to the final round, and I was matched with Air Line Pilots Association. Keith Hagy, ALPA’s director of engineering and air safety (E&AS), Collie, who is director of human resources, and Garver conducted the final interview. A few days later, I get THE email, the email that I’ve been waiting for! I was selected as a Brooke Owens Fellow and was paired with ALPA! I still remember Garver calling me to deliver the wonderful news, and my reaction by my family — PRICELESS! I remember being in tears after all the hard word and effort I put in — I was finally selected!”

What is the “space culture” like at your school? How have you played a role in it?

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers a lot of degree programs that are related to space. Some of them include astronomy and astrophysics, space physics and spaceflight operations. My major is spaceflight operations, which is a multidisciplinary degree program that focuses on operations, safety, training, human factors, orbital mechanics, spacecraft subsystems and planning of commercial and private space operations. Students from this program [are] well-suited as program/project managers, flight directors or licensing personnel due to the exposure of direct coursework involving all aspects of the commercial space industry.

At my university, I am a national member of the Spaceflight Sciences Policy and Operations Club and International Society of Air Safety Investigators and Women in Aviation International. I am an ambassador for Orientation Team and Career Services Student Program and co-coordinator for the Women’s Ambassador Program. I am also the president of National Society of Collegiate Scholars.”

Why is it important to you to have this fellowship for women specifically enthusiastic about the space industry and getting involved in it? Was there ever a time where you felt that because you’re female, people looked down on you or may not have given you a fair shot?

“I am very passionate about the aviation and aerospace industry and dedicated to pursuing excellence in the field. I have been on the Embry-Riddle Dean’s List since my first semester and have been training hard towards being a pilot.

My dream job is to be a pilot with a concentration in aviation safety. I was born and brought up in Dubai, UAE. Educating women is frowned upon in some part of the Middle East, and a career in such industries seems likely impossible. When my family and I first moved to America five years ago, I easily adapted to the American culture. My family has been very supportive since they strongly believe in education, especially for women. My mom is my biggest role model since she fought the stereotypes of women just being ‘house-wives.’ Including family members from both sides of my parents, my mom is the first and only graduate of my family from her generation. She paid for her college and earned her degree. When my parents brought me to America, they wanted me to dream big. Now, I am the first female and only member of the whole family ever involved in aviation, let alone striving to be a pilot.”

Who are your mentors? What does it mean to you that this fellowship not only comes with an internship, but with a mentor and a group of fellow talented, passionate, driven, enthusiastic women?

“Paul Shawcross is one of my mentors from the fellowship program. He is the chief of the science and space branch in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. He lived in the United Kingdom, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Wisconsin and Boston as a child before attending MIT, where he eventually earned three degrees. After college, Paul worked at the National Research Council and at NASA. He has been involved in many space policy issues over the years, but is perhaps best known for authoring the White House response to a petition calling for the construction of a Death Star. I’m very excited that I got a great mentor.

My second mentor is Karen Lacy. She is a first officer for ExpressJet Airlines, and an Executive Vice President and member of the executive council of the Air Line Pilots Association. Karen is the first female pilot to hold this elected position in the union’s 86-year history. She has taken on many other roles in her union and held many positions in the aviation industry including ramp agent for Trans States Airlines, an aeronautical chart maker for a Department of Defense contractor, a revenue management analyst for Continental Airlines, a flight instructor in Sugar Land, Texas, and a first officer for Envoy Airlines. She also spent several years as a computer programmer for Rice University. It was amazing to meet her!

This Fellowship means EVERYTHING to me! It empowers women and helps us step into the aviation industry with confidence and determination. I have no doubt that the other Fellows will be successful in the future as well.”

During the summer, the Brooke Owens Fellows spent time in Washington, D.C., where they attended the Future Space Leaders Conference, had the chance to meet astronauts and industry executives, and were together in person for the first time.

The Brooke Owens Fellows in Washington, D.C. Photo Courtesy of Maryam Gracias


What were your highlights from spending time in Washington, D.C.?

“Making new friends with all of the ‘Brookies’ and celebrating my birthday with them! I know I made many lifetime friends this summer. I was so excited to meet them all! One of my favorite moments was meeting Pamela Melroy, one of the most awesome and powerful women in the aerospace industry, and a personal role model. She is a former NASA astronaut, and I am so blessed that I got to meet her (and take a selfie). Pamela is such a true inspiration.”


Maryam meets her role model, former astronaut Pamela Melroy. Photo Courtesy of Maryam Gracias



Q&A with 2017 Brooke Owens Fellow and SEDS UCSD Member Diana Alsindy

By Samuel Sorkin

diana_alsindyPhoto Courtesy of Diana

Diana Alsindy is a senior at the University of California-San Diego, majoring in chemical engineering with a focus on aerospace and mechanical engineering. She serves as the Propulsion Team Lead and Triteia CubeSat Operations Manager for SEDS UCSD.

Earlier this year, she was named as one of 36 inaugural Brooke Owens Fellows. The Fellowship, a volunteer-led program awarding internships and senior mentorship to exceptional undergraduate women seeking careers in aviation or space exploration, was founded in memoriam of space industry pioneer and pilot D. Brooke Owens.

How did you get interested in space?

“I was never crazy about space exploration specifically when I was 5 years old because I lived in a very tight bubble back in the Middle East. I started reading about astronomy and space in 2008 when I came to United States and escaped the confined cage that society forced me to live within. I slowly learned to question everything, and wrap my head around concepts. I was interested in Mathematics, Engineering and Science. It was very logical for me to purse Engineering. I was inspired by the many stories of women in space and obsessed over building rockets and vehicles that go to space.”

What interested you about SEDS and what do you enjoy about it?

“Endless nights trouble shooting valves and sensors, long humid days in Purdue University analyzing engine testing data and impromptu runs to Home Depot to buy last minute materials is quite typical but I’ve cherished and embraced every minute of SEDS. Leading a team of young and talented engineers to complete an arduous, high visibility project is a lifelong dream of mine. I want to work on projects that are made to inspire the future of human space exploration into the unknown, discover new worlds, and push the boundaries of scientific and technical limits and SEDS was the perfect place to be in order to accomplish those dreams with experienced leaders and dedicated people.”

What did you do at Purdue University?

“[The testing of] the Callan thruster that will power the Triteia CubeSat took place at Purdue University with Professor Timothee Pourpoint and his graduate students. The objective of the testing was to obtain data about the thruster’s pressure, temperature, thrust, heat flux across the thruster walls, and flow velocity of the propellant through the lines. Confirming the thruster design and efficiency from the thrust values at ideal steady state operation would then prove the flight technology readiness level of additively manufactured thrusters. [Our] team conducted this test on Purdue’s test stand because they have the available propellant and technology to test a 1 lbf engine. SEDS will continue work with Purdue for more future testings. The ideal testing of the Callan thruster was to perform a series of burn sequences or pulse tests and determine what amount of mass flow rate sprayed at the catalyst pack and at what time intervals would produce the highest temperature increase in the catalyst pack for the least amount of propellant. As a result, several pulse tests would be performed in order to compare which pulse length and at what interval would be the most efficient. After confirming the most efficient pulse, the thruster would then be tested at 15 sec and at 82 sec in order to replicate the burn times that have been calculated during mission operation. These steady state tests would help SEDS UCSD analyze the fatigue and thermal stresses experienced by the thruster during long operation.”



How did you hear about the Brooke Owens Fellowship, and what was your multimedia project? Take us through the process of applying and learning that you were accepted.

“One of [our] mentors and sponsor, Dan Hendrics – the owner of Open Space Maker Labs – forwarded the flyer for the Brooke Owens Fellowship to everyone in SEDS. I immediately got interested and added it to my “Favorites” on my Chrome browser. A few months after, approaching the deadline, I opened the application and filled it out. I specifically liked how concise, simple and easy the application was. I have never seen an application that asks about your top ten values that you want to see in your internship/fellowship. For example, my top ten important values were from most important to less important: Teamwork, hands-on technical experience, company, networking, geographical location, industry knowledge, business experience, policy experience, corporate culture. What makes the application process unique, is that they are not just assessing you based on how “fit” you will be for the company. It is the other way around! How “fit” the company will be for YOU. An interesting addition to the process was the “creative” submission, which allows you to show the other side of your personality. A lot of women in the fellowship shared drawings, skits, poems, [and] songs, etc. I believe to be a great leader in industry, you need to be well-rounded and enjoy every aspect of your strengths and talents. After submitting the application, there were rounds of interviews with the founders to understand your personality and get to know you more. I liked the fact that we were pre- assigned to two companies and we get to select which ones we best fit in most. All in all, the process is very well-established and thought through…the smoothness, speed and passion put into making it a reality was absolutely refreshing and astonishing!”

What are you excited about for this summer as a Brooke Owens Fellow? What do you want to get out of the Fellowship?

“I am super excited to work on LauncherOne as a propulsion engineer in the structural engineering department at Virgin Galactic! Virgin Galactic was [one of] my top three choices for companies that I wanted to work for and I expressed that interest in the fellowship application. LauncherOne is an orbital launch vehicle, which will air launch to orbit rocket, designed to launch “smallsat” payloads of 200 kilograms into Sun-synchronous orbit. I am specifically excited to “hopefully” work on the engines that will power the vehicle. Other than the technical stuff, I am looking forward to meet all the girls who I have met virtually, as well as all the mentors and founders of this amazing fellowship!”

WWhy is it important to you to have this fellowship for women specifically enthusiastic about the space industry and getting involved in it?

“Women are making strides in the [aerospace] industry and STEM as a whole, but it requires a lot of intention, thought and education in order to change those things over time. Two-thirds of the women have been surveyed and reported having to prove themselves over and over again where their successes discounted and their expertise questioned. I have been through this situation before, where I was questioned whether I can use a torque wrench or not. People just assume you’re not going to be able to cut it, or get the job done that men are “supposed” to do. It is a motivation to work harder, but it also makes me feel like I have to be perfect. Being a part of this fellowship is a massive step into changing these ideologies. Being a part of a team such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origins, et al is more than rewarding! It shows that women can do anything and be part of history too!”

Who is your mentor? What does it mean to you that this fellowship not only comes with an internship, but with a mentor and a group of fellow talented, passionate, driven, enthusiastic women?

“My mentor is the great Scott Parazynski [and] we will [be meeting] very soon! I will have the chance to meet a NASA Astronaut, Mount Everest Summiteer, world-renowned speaker and a generally cool, hardworking man! It is an honor to be able to connect and learn from him and his experiences. One of the biggest attractions of this fellowship is the mentorship program (internally and externally). I feel I will be a well-rounded engineer after this fellowship because of its diverse opportunities. Being surrounded by like-minded, enthusiastic, hard working women will teach me how to break free of the labels and the ideas that we place on ourselves because of the nature of the STEM society and its male-dominated tradition.”

What are your goals for a career?

“For many years, since the beginning of the world’s efforts to expand our understanding of our planet, there has been a large quantity of brand new developments in technology. With greater technology and more understanding of the universe, more and more questions have crossed our inquisitive minds. The more we know the more we desire to understand, never fully quenching our thirst for understanding the universe. To not question our surroundings goes against the very basic instinct since the beginning of man’s ability to look around and try to better understand our home. My passion is to expand human understanding of our place in the cosmos. I want to help inform the public and our leaders and make sure that our missions of space exploration are designed to ask the right questions. Being a scientist means you have to be an explorer every day of your life. I would love to test my ideas and design them. Exploration of science, space, [and] new lands is the pursuit of powerful and prosperous nations and I want to be part of that. I believe it is important that NASA employ scientists who are versed and active in state-of-the-art science to provide advice on how to most efficiently enable the nation’s goals in scientific exploration of space.”


Q&A with 2017 Brooke Owens Fellow and SEDS-USC member Jocelyn Clancy

jocelynchangJocelyn Clancy is a sophomore studying Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Earlier this year, she was named as one of 36 inaugural Brooke Owens Fellows. The Fellowship, a volunteer-led program awarding internships and senior mentorship to exceptional undergraduate women seeking careers in aviation or space exploration, was founded in memoriam of space industry pioneer and pilot D. Brooke Owens.

The program was co-founded by Lori Garver, former Deputy Administrator of NASA and now General Manager at the Air Line Pilots Association; Cassie Lee, the Director of Aerospace Applications at Vulcan, Inc.; and William Pomerantz, the Vice President of Special Projects at Virgin Galactic and Chair of the Board of Advisors of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.


How did you get into space?

“I think space has always just been super cool. It started when I was in second grade. My dad said to me, ‘okay, we’re watching Star Wars.’ And I just loved it. It is a fun, enjoyable movie about space, and about good vs. evil and light speed and intergalactic travel and all these amazing things. I loved Star Trek as well. I would watch the Star Trek series and I binged that before binging was even a thing.”

“We recorded it on the DVR and I watched the entire series when I was 14, in freshman year [of high school]. That got me even more interested in space, you know, with Captain Kirk and the Federation. So I started thinking, how cool would it be to work in space? Its not the same as Star Trek, of course, but that got in my head, like, I could work in space, get a job doing things in space. I was good at math and science, and I had an interest, so I was like, ‘Why not?’

And so I took astronomy senior year of high school… that was the coolest class ever. We had two high schools in our city, and the other had a planetarium. So I went every day from my high school to the planetarium. This was basically a class where we would read space articles, talk about space and then go to the planetarium, play chill music and practice finding constellations. It was great. My teacher [told me] the space industry is really starting to pick up speed right now. He started talking about SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, [companies] that were just starting to pick up. At that moment, I was like, yeah, this is it.  This is what I’m going to do.”


And after high school, you came to USC with a real knowledge of your passion?

“Exactly. So I came to USC and picked astronautical engineering for a major – a lot of people go into chemical or mechanical engineering, but I knew that I wanted to go into space and build space stuff. The program here was really cool – it’s really dedicated to building space stuff and so I can focus a little bit on the mechanical part and the electrical part and really go deep into this.”

“It’s always really interesting because you have these really intense classes, and there’s reward for it. I’m part of the rocket propulsion lab on campus and you’re actually part of an amazing launch. You see this and the rewards, and to be a part of it, you’re like this is why I do what I do. This is why I’m studying what I’m studying. This is why I got interested in [space] in the first place. It’s a lot of really, really hard work and then there’s tremendous reward at the end.”


How did you hear about the Brooke Owens Fellowship? What was that process like?

“We have an advisor for our department and she’ll send out emails to the whole department if there’s anything space related. So she sent out an email and said, ‘hey, if this seems interesting to anyone, apply for it.’ So I looked at it and I was like, huh, something interesting. I looked more into it and the more I thought about it the more I was like, ‘this is absolutely perfect.’ In that, not only does it include an internship over the summer, which by itself is the dream, it’s the goal, but it’s also working to build a community of women in the aerospace industry, like a support system to be able to talk to these women and learn from each other. That was so appealing to me and to be able to talk to all of these women that are as interested as I am in space is awesome. Everything about it seemed like something I wanted to do.”

“I was studying abroad in New Zealand at the time. It was a little bit early to study abroad as a sophomore but as an astronautical engineering major you don’t get a lot of time. What I did was double up on classes to ensure that I could study abroad and enjoy the whole experience. Once you go abroad, space isn’t that much of a focus. So I started planning really early to study abroad, it was something I was really interested in and it was amazing, I would one hundred percent recommend it. It was actually my first time out of the country. So the submission was due middle of December and the semester in New Zealand ended mid-November, so that’s how I was able to put together such a stellar application, I didn’t have to worry about finals or anything like that. I had a lot of time to really focus on the application.”

“In my essay, I just wrote about how I wanted to work in space, especially in systems work, but that’s why I need mentors to figure out the path that I can go on. Right now I need to start focusing on specific areas to focus on for a career and that’s what I’m really hoping this fellowship does for me. I actually misread the application and I did two multimedia projects, I went extra gung-ho.”

“For one of them, I wrote up a conversation and a little dialogue and had it with my sister, all the different ways space intersects with our lives – with art and satellites and television but even farther back with stars to navigate with and learn when to water your crops and tell stories, and science fiction and all these things.”

“The other multimedia piece that I think was better was a poem about the intersection of art and science; I’ve always felt that’s been a really important part of who I am. I’ve always loved reading and writing and I’ve always loved math and science. Everyone’s always like, you can’t do both, but you CAN, and it also makes sense to! They’re different ways to describe the world we live in. One of them has more numbers and the other has more words. They’re both ways to describe our existence. They intersect really well. You need creativity to be a good engineer and you need discipline to be a good writer or artist. So I wrote a poem about the battle between art and science and how the soldiers couldn’t remember what side they were on at the end.”

“I submitted the application and then it gets to December and they wanted to interview me, and not only did they want to interview me, but the woman whom I interviewed with, her name is Lori Garver, she was the former Deputy Administrator of NASA. I was like, ‘say, what now?’ That’s whom I’m interviewing with? I immediately realized the scope of this program that it wasn’t just ‘let’s get a bunch of girls together and talk about space’ – this is important people in industry that really care about this. I was so nervous for this interview; she is literally career goals for me. How do you talk to someone like that? I eventually got my bearings and it ended up being a conversation. It ended up going well.”

“I hear back and I got matched with two of their partners companies – Aerospace Corporation and Apicen. Then they had their own separate interviewing process. Apicen is more of a business consulting [company], and AC is more of aerospace engineering. [The candidates] ranked which company we wanted to work for, and the companies each ranked us as well. They have some sort of match program and I got matched with Aerospace Corp along with two other girls who were fellows! They wanted three out of the five people they interviewed. I also got matched with a mentor, who is Will Pomerantz, just casually the Chair of the Board of Advisors of SEDS, just casually the Virgin Galactic vice president and just a really cool guy.”

“It’s been incredible. I went to a Women In Space event a few weeks ago and met with a bunch of people in the industry. I met Will a couple of weekends ago for a tour of Virgin Orbit, he’s been an incredible resource already and just very available. The whole thing is a bit overwhelming but super cool. It’s that amazing connection that’s all due to space! All the girls have been chatting and sharing all the cool projects everyone’s working on and it’s just been really awesome.”


How has SEDS impacted you? What has it meant to you to have this organization on campus?

“I had Astro 280 with Dr. [Paul] Giuliano this semester, and he told me there’s this group that’s starting at USC, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space; he said it’s about space, and there’s free food at the first meeting. What more do you need, you know?

So I went and there were a lot of people I already knew, and I met a lot of other people who were interested in space, and we all were just in a group with the same passions, similar to the Fellows. It’s really amazing. What’s really cool is that there are a lot of different people with different intests and studying a variety of things, there’re a lot of engineers but not exclusively engineers.”

“Dr. Giuliano gave a stellar talk about satellites, and that talk actually convinced two people to start studying and majoring in astronomical engineering. There have been a lot of cool events to get together and discuss trends in the industry and getting super involved in space. What more can you need? At this point, it’s nice to have that social aspect and that can be just as valuable as other groups on campus. To be able to geek out about what you love and with people you’re friends with is amazing. I can’t wait to see it grow and develop at USC and help it evolve.”


What does it mean to you to have a fellowship for women who want to work in the space industry specifically?

“In high school I was on a robotics team. They tried to put me on the spirit team, which were all administrative work and charity and things like that. I look over and see the team working and it’s basically all girls, then I look over and see the robotics team working and it’s almost all guys. I’m like, ‘no I want to build the robot or do the coding.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with doing administrative work, but it’s just not what I wanted to do or what I was fit to do. So they put me on the software team and it was cool, but it was a miserable experience in total. We had mentors from the local software and aerospace companies and it was horrible, sexist jokes and the sense that I didn’t really belong there. There was a sense that I was the token girl there, just trying to learn and do all these things but instead of building things they would put me in the actual calculations instead of building. And it was really strange because they were like, ‘in a year you could be the lab lead because you’re really good at organization’ but I was treated terribly the whole time, I never came back. Luckily I’m incredibly stubborn and I knew that that experience wasn’t going to stop me.”

“[Engineering and space] have generally been a “man’s club” but I wasn’t letting that get in the way of what I wanted to do. Luckily at USC, there hasn’t been a real issue. It’s not perfect, it’s about 30-70 (female-male ratio) in the mechanical and aerospace departments, which is a lot better than other places – but just also I’ve never felt left out and not included. At the same time it’s just to have that support group of women is crucial. For that high schooler or young college student that doesn’t know if she really wants to do engineering or go into space, having that group of people that support and care about your progress is crucial. To see women kind of paving the way for other women, it is just so important. To see other women being successful, it’s showing, ‘hey, I can be successful too.’ This is the first year of the fellowship and I’m really looking forward to the future where I can hopefully be that successful role model to a younger person who is interested in space. Just starting that process of bringing together a bunch of really smart, really passionate, talented women, into the space industry and get that support from them is awesome and I’m thrilled for the summer.”


Sam Sorkin


Chapter Profile – APUS SEDS



Overview: The SEDS chapter at American Public University System has the unique setting of an entirely online university, which allows our members to communicate and collaborate from all over the world. With over 100 members strong and only just founded in December 2015, we have participants not only across the U.S. but some in Europe, the middle east and Asia as well. Recently ranked the most active and among the top rated professional organizations at the university, our members participate in bi-weekly meetings over conferencing media to share the latest space news and brainstorm over emerging ideas, as we take our knowledge and passion out into our communities to inform and inspire in space exploration.

Past Accomplishments: It has been our privilege in the past academic year to host an official of the Planetary Society discussing with the chapter about solar sail technology, additionally an expert working in electric propulsion gave a presentation on this field allowing time for detailed questions exploring recent innovations. APUS SEDS has also seen the development of a meteor sighting project, which allows all members to catalog sightings and details of meteors for the purpose of improving the scientific community’s statistics and overall knowledge base of meteor figures such as composition, size, velocity and frequency. With these events and projects we have furthered the SEDS outreach and participation mission goals even though some of our members are separated by thousands of miles, proving that the development of space science draws humanity together.

Future Goals: The future of APUS SEDS looks bright as new goals have been set and are underway with activities to further involve members and develop their research skills as resources are pooled together and cooperative projects flourish.  We are preparing to host guest speakers Story Musgrave who is the USA’s most decorated astronaut, and NASA’s chief historian Roger Lanius, bringing us their insights and perspectives on the work that they have contributed to space science and education.  On March 3rd members in FL will be bringing the stars straight to their community with telescopes open to the public for viewing a host of objects including the Orion Nebula, the moon and Mars, while advocating for the excitement of space and the need to keep our night skies free of light pollution.  This is only the beginning, more awaits the APUS SEDS chapter as we start planning for a cube-sat project, other presenters, and ways to share this year’s total solar eclipse, stay tuned for what may turn out to be our finest year!

Ad Astra!

Jayce Pearson-President
Ryan Robertson-Vice President
Ryan Johnson-Webmaster
Melanie Crowson-Council of Chapters Representative
Matt Getridge-Secretary


Yuri’s Night Award


As announced at SpaceVision 2016 last November, Yuri’s Night has partnered with SEDS USA to offer a $500 award for the best Yuri’s Night party thrown by a SEDS Chapter! This is an awesome and fun way to celebrate space exploration and potentially win some sweet funding for your chapter (to spend on more social events, obviously).

If you don’t know, Yuri’s Night is a giant celebration held on April 12th each year to celebrate Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human ever in space on April 12th, 1961. Incredibly, it also coincides with the inaugural launch of the Space Shuttle on the same day 20 years later! You can read all about Yuri’s Night over on their website, yurisnight.net.

CUSEDS hosts the annual Yuri's Night in Boulder, CO

CUSEDS hosts the annual Yuri’s Night in Boulder, CO

The challenge at hand is to throw the best Yuri’s Night party around based on criteria like the number and variety of attendees, quality of promotion and graphic design, social media attention (#YurisNight), creativity, and more – read the full details of the process here. To participate, register on the website beforehand then email event photos and information to rachel@yurisnight.net by June 30th, 2017. The winning chapter will then be announced at SpaceVision 2017!

Check yurisnight.net or reach out to rachel@yurisnight.net with questions.


Chapter Profile – USNA SEDS

Overview: The United States Naval Academy (USNA) SEDS chapter was founded in Fall 2016 in order to educate the United States’ future Naval and Marine Corps Officers about the opportunities, concepts, possibilities, and developments space has to offer. USNA SEDS consists of approximately 100 members with majors including all STEM fields and Humanities/Social Sciences. We meet to discuss conceptual and philosophical ideas concerning the exploration and development of space, invite guest speakers to expose us to leaders in the highly technical field, and take club trips to space related facilities around the DC-MD-VA area. As we are a new chapter, we frequently encourage our members to join the various technical projects around the Yard including, but not limited to, the USNA Rockets Team, the Autonomous Mobile On-orbit Diagnostic System (AMODS) CubeSat project, and the Unrestricted Satellite Motion Simulator.

USNA SEDS member analyzing hybrid rocket grain design and performance

USNA SEDS member analyzing hybrid rocket grain design and performance

USNA SEDS members checking the progress on their new 3-D printed hybrid rocket grain

USNA SEDS members checking the progress on their new 3-D printed hybrid rocket grain

Past Events: Fall Semester 2016, USNA SEDS invited Mr. Peter Wilhelm, the retired Director of the Naval Center for Space Technology at U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, to speak to our members. He gave us a detailed history of the Naval Center and the profound impact that each project had on the world. Following Mr. Wilhelm’s speech, USNA SEDS was given a private tour of the Naval Center for Space Technology’s laboratory spaces and robotics chamber. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the fascinating projects under development and visualize how our undergraduate studies are already equipping us with the tools necessary to make an impact in the innovative space community.

Future Events: For the spring semester, USNA SEDS is organizing a trip to the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and would like for members to attend the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meetings. We are also inviting multiple guest speakers to come educate our members and spark conversation, inspiring students to research further and learn more beyond our chapter meetings. With each meeting and event, we aim to captivate our members and others with the exciting and unending opportunities in space, fulfilling our chapter’s mission and cultivating future Navy and Marine Corps leaders’ minds with a perspective on space’s vital role in today’s world.

USNA SEDS Officers (from left to right): Gavin Roser, Vice President; K Parriott, Treasurer; Eryn Culton, President; Francisco Figueroa, Secretary

USNA SEDS Officers (from left to right): Gavin Roser, Vice President; K Parriott, Treasurer; Eryn Culton, President; Francisco Figueroa, Secretary

Ad Astra,
MIDN Eryn Culton, Founder and President
MIDN Gavin Roser, Vice President
MIDN K Parriott, Treasurer
MIDN Francisco Figueroa, Secretary


Students on Capitol Hill

On the 4th and 5th of January, students stormed House and Senate offices in Washington D.C. getting their opinions out to congressional staffers on space policy. It was my first year lobbying for Students on Capitol Hill and I can say, it was the best experience I have ever had. On my ride over to Capitol Hill, I got a text from my very experienced partner who has lobbied before saying he was sick and that I would be on my own for the ten meetings I had with House and Senate staffers for the day. Needless to say, I may have peed my pants just a bit after reading that text. Joshua Jenkins, the founder and leader of Students of Capitol Hill turned to me and said, “You will do fine, you know what you are doing.” When in reality, I had no idea what I was doing. I got to my first meeting, sat down, looked over the list of topics we were to discuss with the staffers and opened my mouth. By some amazement, everything came out smooth and comprehendible. From that meeting on, the day flew by. I met some of the nicest and most understanding staffers and even got a picture with a couple of senators. I plan to participate in Students of Capitol Hill again and I recommend the experience to anyone, even if you have no desire to work with politicians in the future. It was a wonderful challenge.

The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) leadership retreat followed closely after Students on Capitol Hill. This retreat is designed to pull the SEDS-USA leadership and the SEDS-regional chapter leadership together and hold a two to three day forum on what SEDS is really all about. The weekend was filled with bad jokes, good food, meaningful discussions on the importance of SEDS-USA, brain storming new ideas for general meetings that individual chapters can take back home, when the next rocketry competition will be posted, how we keep track of every chapter nationwide, pros and cons of SpaceVision 2016 and ideas for SpaceVision 2017. Every leadership retreat includes a day dedicated to “the industry.” At this retreat we toured aerospace facilities like the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Federal Aviation Administration. Each visit was extremely inspiring and gave us all an incredibly in-depth look into the aerospace industry.


Space Domains

space-domain-postAs an organization, SEDS emphasizes entrepreneurship as one of its pillars of leadership. Many students are starting their own startup companies while in college, and some may want a creative way to showcase their resume and portfolio. Websites are a great way to accomplish this, and www.launch.space is making it easier to do so. They now allow people in the space industry to show their passion through their website. Rather than concluding a URL with .com or .org, students can now have .space in their web address!

Who should have it?
A web address of .space is perfect for anyone wanting a highly-focused way to represent their brand. This can be any organization from start-ups, research labs and organizations, hobbyists, interest groups, and so much more. This feature only costs $4.99, and the website even throws in a couple freebies, so it’s well worth checking out!

Visit www.launch.space for more information.


MDRS Mission, Sol 5

Here are the science updates, sol records, and journalist post from the team at the Hab on the fifth sol of their mission. Check out Facebook for posts including the photos from each day.


Journalist’s Report – Sol 5

The main event of the day (other than fresh scones) was the second major EVA to the area we’ve named the “dinosaur quarry.” There are a lot of interesting geological formations there that resemble dinosaur bones. The area seems like it may have been a small reservoir at some point, but is obviously long since dried up. It’s about 15 minutes away on our individual electric rovers. A cold, bumpy ride but not too bad. Some insulation lessons were learned from the first expedition on Sol 03. After a long exploration of the quarry area, the crew regrouped in the hab. A few showers and some greenhab work rounded out the majority of the day.

The weather was pretty typical today – bland skies and lots of cold. A small amount of precipitation, but not much stuck. Still too little data to draw conclusions about that. We shouldn’t see much snow at these latitiudes. I mean we’re hardly equatorial, but we’re a ways from the pole.. Maybe the wind currents are strong enough to scape some ice off and carry it all the way down? *shrug* Jury’s still out on that.

Speaking of the cold, our Greenhab progress is.. slow. We suspect some small leaks in the insulation that are causing the heating system to overload and shut down until things are near freezing, then snap back on full blast. Back and forth. We attempted to seal some of the gaps we found, but one of our mission commanders back home told us to
postpone repairs. Not sure yet how that will affect our research. Hopefully some lettuce can last a few light frosts.. On the other hand, all germination attempts are going well. We’ve got red and green oak lettuce, radish, and some mysterious unlabelled seeds that we found stowed away in the hab. I’ll let the biologists talk about that more though. I’ll just complain about the weather instead.

I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about snow, really. Some of the crew came from dry desert areas on earth and have never had snow for the holidays. Christmas is coming up soon (we haven’t been here long enough for the time difference to throw us off yet – the first Martian Christmas will still be on Earth’s Dec 25.) We all brought small gifts for a white elephant exchange and are trying to decide on a fancy meal to celebrate. I’m sure we’ll think of something interesting. We’ve got a creative group.

Despite minimal coffee intake (gotta save water, ya know?), a lot of freeze dried food, rare showers, intermittent wifi, etc., crew morale is holding strong. Personality is obviously a major concern in the astronaut selection process – technical skills are a dime a dozen, but teams that work well under stress are more difficult to find. I have high hopes for the coming week. We all bring very different attributes to the table, but ones that fit together and are greater than the sum of their parts.

Of course, even with the crew getting along well, I’m still more than happy to complain. A massage and a shower would really hit the spot. It’s only been a few days, but those helmets are heavy and hard on the shoulders and We’re building up some considerable stank. We don’t have those ISS goon’s luxurious air filtering system or low gravity to keep things cleanly. Maybe we should just take turns snapping the airlock open for half a second each and freeze drying all the bacteria off of us.. Super dangerous. Not doing that.. At least for another 3 days.. Ha.



Science Log – Sol 5

We are afraid the plants in the GreenHab may die. The temperatures are just not favorable for plant growth.  The GreenHab is too hot during sunny days and too cold while the sun is obscured. The GreenHab is not sealed well enough to stabilize the inside temperature. Almost all of the plastic located inside of the GreenHab has noticeable heat deformation making several of the items unusable. Also, the seeds that were stored out there are not viable. The seeds that we brought with us have germinated but no growth is being seen from those supplied through MDRS, likely due to the heat they were stored in. The heater is severely undersized to keep up with the thermally inefficient GreenHab structure. Radish, lettuces and mystery crop are germinating very well in the crew quarters.

Geology, Connor Lynch – Crew Geologist/Astrophysicist
Outside the humidity has stayed high and the temperatures have remained fairly constant. The temperatures in the GreenHAB have stayed lower than what is optimal growing temperatures. The clouds have also reduced the Solar Flux reaching the ground and thus will hinder photosynthesis.

During our next EVA I will gather my time lapse camera from near the HAB and place another one outside that points toward a geologically interesting area. Near one of the hill sides by the HAB could be good because the forecasted rain will drain and we can watch the change over time.

Outdoor Temp – 31 F – 37 F
Outdoor Humidity – 88% – 99%
GreenHAB Temp – 50 F – 62 F
GreenHAB Humidity – 39% – 49%
Barometer – 29.50 – 29.60 inHg
Wind – 3.0 mph, gust – 4.5 mph
Solar Flux Max – 132.1 W/m^2
UV Index – 455 uW/cm^2
Recorded Precipitation – 0.04 in

Mars Self-Sleep Study Update
Even though we have struggled with adhering to the new sleep schedule, we recognize that it would probably improve our 24 hr productivity. This new schedule would prove to be beneficial because our window of free WiFi is from 2-7 MST (Mars Standard Time). We can be awake during a big chunk of this time and get some work done.

In general I think we are more productive as a crew when we go to bed earlier and get up earlier. If we were to go to bed by around 9 pm and wake up by 5 am we might be more productive in the mornings. Experimenting these new sleep schedules (either in one chunk or multiple) proves to be difficult but will pay off for future astronauts.

Philosophy of Colonizing Mars Report
I want to start discussing in this new report the ethics and vision of colonizing Mars. As a crew we feel this is an important issue to make public as we immerse ourselves in this research simulation. One idea I want to talk about in this first installment is planetary protection of the environment. When we create a permanent human settlement on the surface of Mars we will have to think about the ways in which we will protect the environment and to what extent it will be altered. Global warming is obviously an issue we know about here on Earth. On Mars we must think critically about the effects of our actions so that we can work and thrive while maintaining a balance with the Martian landscape.

Daily Sol Summary – Sol 5

SOL: 05
Person filling out Report: Anselm Wiercioch, XO
Summary Title: Week One Nearly Complete
Mission Status: Research moving along, but slowly.
Sol Activity Summary: Second EVA to dinosaur quarry, minor greenhab concerns
Look Ahead Plan: Christmas is coming up!
Anomalies in work: None
Weather: High 37F, Low 31F, wind avg 3mph, gust 4.5mph, precip 0.04″, grey cloudy skies
Crew Physical Status: Active. Full crew functional.
EVA: Crew B to dinosaur quarry
Reports to be filed:
– Sol Summary
– Journalist’s Report
– Science Reports
– 6-8 Photos
– EVA Plan
– Operations Report
Support Requested: None


MDRS Mission, Sol 4

Here are the science updates, sol records, and journalist post from the team at the Hab on the fourth sol of their mission. Check out Facebook for posts including the photos from each day.

Journalist Report – Sol 4

It snowed for a few hours today. That’s not supposed to happen.

Going to have to put some serious effort into revamping our understanding of Mars’ climate. Coldest day since we landed. The EVA crew decided to postpone until tomorrow due to potentially inclement weather. I’m not on tomorrow’s crew, but we might need to reprioritize some climate data while they’re out.. Will keep investigating.

Otherwise, today was a slow day. Some progress was made in the greenhouse, and the network connectivity issues persist despite many hours of messing with it. Felt like a snow day in elementary school where you’re off class and can feel christmas around the corner.

Our crew engineer engineered some cinnamon raisin swirl bread and it’s magical. The freeze dried food stores will probably start to wear on us eventually, but for the time being we’re living it up. As long as coffee and tea holds out, crew morale is going to be coasting just fine.

Connor and I’s sleep schedule is holding out strong. We aren’t being too strict about the schedule and we aren’t going too extreme – still a solid six hours or so per night, spaced into ~3 naps. We’ve been ever so slightly tired but that’s to be expected on the first day or two. Generally feel pretty energized though.

The most annoying thing at the moment for me is just being cooped up in a tin can. Really struggling to understand how all those super smart engineers on the ground decided a treadmill wasn’t necessary. Yoga and pushups only get you so far. The hab’s air system isn’t exactly refreshing either. Meh. It’s all good though. I’m sure we’ll get used to it. Or at least, we’ll be gone before it really starts to get to us.

We did find a massive binder of awesome (mostly old and/or super goofy) movies, so that’s helping the nights pass faster after work is done each day.

Nothing too crazy. The days are moving by faster as a whole.



Science Log – Sol 4

EVA Proposed Plan SOL 5 – We had to cancel the EVA for SOL 4 due to the inclement weather here at the HAB. For SOL 5 we propose the same format of EVA as SOL 3 but for the other three crew members who did not set out on SOL 3 (Geoffrey, Brittany and Sean). They will go to the dinosaur quarry and explore via rover. They will also take a GPS and map in order to gauge how easy it is to navigate to a precise location. The coordinates of this final location are the same as SOL 3: Northing: 4257412, Easting: 518238 Zone 12S.

Greenhab, Sean Gellenbeck – HSO and Greenhab Officer #2
Today marked the completion of the transplantation effort in the GreenHab.  We have assembled eight total conveyor trays (four Red Oak Lettuce and four Green Oak Lettuce in both hydroponic solution and in soil) and one tray with a density experiment which was planted in soil.  The slow process of sealing the GreenHab also began today.  We have continued to notice that despite the near continuous operation of the heater, the GreenHab does not stay within an acceptable temperature range.  At night, the temperature gets down to between 48 F and 54 F which is not conducive to productive and rapid plant growth that is necessary to sustain a healthy astronaut’s diet.  In order to help prevent some of the theorized leakage of heated air, clear caulk is being used to seal the places at the top of the GreenHab where air could escape.  This is a difficult process as the materials from which the GreenHab is constructed are clearly not meant to be used for a greenhouse.  We are concerned there may not be enough caulk on Mars to seal the GreenHab.  I hope future crews can figure out how to stabilize the temperature. Finally, the seedlings are germinating at excellent rates!  We can easily identify growth in the radish, green and red oak lettuce, carrot, and mystery crop.  Yay mystery crop!

Geology, Connor Lynch – Crew Geologist/Astrophysicist
Today no one had an EVA due to the inclement weather. We noticed that over the past 24 hours the temperature has remained very constant due to these clouds that have been around. The air has also spiked in humidity this afternoon which could be a factor in keeping the daily temperatures stable. The temperatures in the GreenHAB have also remained steady. The desired temp is 75 in the GreenHAB all the time, so this is an improvement from the wild temperature fluctuations the first couple days.

An interesting observation is that even though today the solar radiation was lower due to the clouds, the UV flux stayed about the same as past days. Proof that even on a cloudy day you need sunscreen!

The barometric pressure is lower today and has been dropping slightly this afternoon.

Outdoor Temp – 29 F – 35 F
GreenHab Temp – 53 F – 68 F
GreenHAB Humidity – 18% – 46%
Barometer – 29.52 – 29.92 inHg
Wind – 1.5 mph, gust – N/A mph
Solar Rad. Max – 173.9 W/m^2
UV Index – 526 uW/cm^2
Outdoor Humidity – 35% – 98%


Daily Summary Report – Sol 4

SOL: 04
Person filling out Report: Anselm Wiercioch, XO
Summary Title: Snowday
Mission Status: Active. Full crew functional.
Sol Activity Summary: Snow on ground, greenhouse work continues, EVA postponed
Look Ahead Plan: EVA tomorrow to follow up on initial Quarry recon
Anomalies in work: Nothing
Weather: High 35F, Low 29F, wind avg 1.5mpg, gust N/A, humidity 35-98%, grey cloudy skies
Crew Physical Status: Slightly stir crazy, but ok.
EVA: Postponed until tomorrow
Reports to be filed:
– Sol Summary
– Journalist’s Report
– Science Reports
– 6-8 Photos
– EVA Plan
– Operations Report
Support Requested: