Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Goodbye Houston!

Today is my last day in Houston, Texas, wrapping up my internship at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). The technical details concerning my work at JSC will have to wait until they are published on NASA's website in the middle of September, but for now, I would like to catch you up on my time here, and how I am now.
They say everything's bigger in Texas. I don't know about that, but everything is definitely farther away in Texas, at least in Houston. I thought I was prepared for this, more prepared than my German roommate, as I had grown up in rural Canada, far away from civilization. 

However, Houston, and the surrounding area, have an odd intersection of circumstances where everything is far away, and everyone has a car. My roommates and I have lived right beside JSC for the past three months and while it makes things abundantly convenient for work, it has made it difficult getting anywhere else. While I had grown used to taxi cab service being available anywhere at anytime, I found the taxi cabs in Houston to be totally unprepared to work outside of the city.

It has made getting around difficult and my roommates and I became even more introverted as a result. Not helping with that has been the weather. There are only two kinds of weather here; sunny, and stormy. It is either a heavy 35°C with blinding sunshine, or 30°C with dense rain. It is not that bad, I've enjoyed the sunny days full of palm trees and lizards, but I will be thankful to get back to a more northern climate.

My time at the Johnson Space Center will definitely be a defining moment in my career, and while life will move me past it quite quickly, I am taking the time to reflect upon it now. There were some negatives involved with my internship here, things which made it difficult for my roommate whose work was not as rewarding as mine. NASA is government property and thus foreign nationals are to be escorted at all times. I've mentioned this a few times, but just to sum it up, it is difficult to go anywhere when you have to convince someone to take you. Additionally, our internship was not part of an official program; we just found work to do and joined the appropriate team. Therefore, while we had expected busy schedules, full of lectures, events, and work, we found our schedules lacking  in the first two activities. It made us feel somewhat isolated, but as I mentioned, the work has been rewarding.

I will likely go into this in more detail when I discuss my final work here at NASA, but for now, I will comment on the experience and how it will help my career. While I was escorted everywhere onsite, I found much of my work time to be unsupervised. Everyone sat at their desks, and did their job. If I wasn't so interested in the work, this might have been difficult for me, but as it was I was glad to not have any pressure impeding my productivity. My days usually consisted of reading documents related to spacecraft thermal control, making notes in my notebook and digital document, and updating my calculations. In the last month, I was in such a routine that I listened to podcasts as I worked, doing my best not to laugh at some of the antics heard there.

My office colleagues opened up some more, and I learned more about their work, interests, and particular contribution to projects such as the Orion (NASA's next crewed space vehicle), quantum vacuum thrusters, and the Cannae drive (NASA's innovative propulsion concepts). You may have heard of the Cannae drive recently, and if you haven't, well maybe you've heard of the warp drive, because essentially that is what it is, or proposes to be. While learning about these, I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Harold "Sonny" White, and many others who are working on these projects. As a big fan of Star Trek, I was impressed by their work so far.

I worked 8 hours a day, using my 1 hour lunch break to catch up on emails, plan ahead, or do research into universities and future employment. As such, when I came home at the end of the day, I didn't feel guilty for taking the night off. For the first time in quite a while, I had evenings and weekends all to myself! My time was divided between Skype calls, letter and postcard writing, reading, and playing video games. It may have been an introverted summer, but it was a fun, "productive" one.

Nearing the conclusion of my internship, I had the pleasure of finishing my work early. I compiled a document for NASA, added this to my ongoing internship report, created a presentation, worked ahead on a paper I had to submit for the International Astronautical Conference (IAC), and even did some additional, supplementary work for my supervisor. It was a great feeling, and instead of feeling guilty for slowing down my work pace at the very end, I felt proud that I had gotten my work done, and confident that I deserved a break.

The last couple of days were nice. I was taken out to lunch on Wednesday, treated to a porkchop larger than my two fists, did a presentation of my work at JSC on the Thursday (which was well-received), and taken out for lunch and an additional tour of JSC one last time on the Friday. 

Soon, I will be back in France, there to spend a week in Paris with a dear friend of mine. I have not had the pleasure of even seeing the Eiffel Tower, and we're going to see that, the Louvre, and so much more! Never fear, I will take a lot of photos and they will end up here soon.

After that, back to Strasbourg, to reunite with the rest of the ISU crew. My motto for the month of September is "Show up and be awesome" and that's what I plan on doing. With my work done, I should just be able to show up, present my work, and have a great time. So, Strasbourg, then Oxford for a friend's wedding (I am very happy and honoured and fortunate to be going), back to Strasbourg, perhaps Paris once again, and then back to Canada. I'll be home for a week, then back to Toronto for the IAC. It'll be one crazy month.

So, what have I gained here during my time at the Johnson Space Center? As mentioned in an earlier post, I realized how much I enjoy spacecraft engineering. I broadened my horizons and skill set, realizing there were more opportunities than I first thought. I found new confidence in myself and my abilities, not only because I was doing good work, but also because every university professor with whom I have spoken about PhDs has made it clear they want me as a student; unfortunately neither they nor I have the money, so it's a work in progress.

I learned more about my roommates and made, what I hope to be, long-lasting friendships. Finally, I made a considerable contribution to a field of research which greatly interests me, and gained more opportunities for driving the technology forward in the future.

This past year has helped me feel more connected to the space industry than ever before, and my time here at the Johnson Space Center, my experience at NASA, has improved my confidence that working in this industry is where I want to be, where I'm meant to be.

Thank you for reading, stay tuned for the next few posts which should feature a lot of pictures, and a lot of engineering details.

No comments:

Post a Comment