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NASA: Now Hiring

Oh, NASA. How the mighty have fallen.

Starting with the Lunar Landing and into the 1980s, NASA had it going on. Kids wanted to be astronauts, cosmonauts, explorers sipping TANG and pooping in their padded trousers. Then NASA started screwing up, or perhaps the news broadcasters were more honest than before, and public opinion flagged. The failed Challenger Mission was perhaps the most difficult for the American public to face. That was 1986, just in time for computers to steal children’s interest. 1986 brought us MS-DOS (finally!), Listservs, and the first laptop: 12 pounds of unadulterated floppy disc action. Granted, many technologies NASA has developed are implemented in everyday life in ways which we are hardly aware. Cellular technology wouldn’t exist without satellites. Digital imaging equipment for detecting breast cancer was derived from NASA-based technology. Water purification was devised by NASA employees. Even golf balls were made better by NASA.

So where does NASA stand in the public opinion today? The organization has recently come under attack for using tax dollars on research that may or may not benefit humanity in the long run and, some argue, doesn’t benefit us in the here-and-now.

NASA regularly sends probes to other planets and, most recently, lobbed a satellite (LCROSS) and a worn out rocket (Centaur) at the Moon. Some of NASA’s activities go unnoticed or are announced, as in the case of “bombing” the moon, with almost no advance warning.

NASA is so great that some people have spent their lives trying to prove the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing was fake. Some of those people believe NASA is a front for Freemason/Illuminati groups and is in cahoots with a program called HAARP to zap UFOs/Aliens before they take over our planet.

Maybe that’s true. But no matter what you believe some things stay the same when it comes to NASA. They still need engineers: Aerospace Engineers to be precise. If you’re looking to get into NASA, you might try applying to be an Aerospace Engineer Assistant Flight Systems Tester. You’ll make big bucks, upwards of $85K. AND you’ll get to work in the Space Simulation Test Engineering Section!! Isn’t that exactly what you wanted to do when you were twelve? (I did.)

As an Aerospace Engineer, you will be “preparing and implementing test procedures for space simulation testing, high vacuum techniques, cryogenics systems, solar simulation systems, particulate and molecular contamination control, automated data systems” all by using “state-of-the-art instrumentation.”

Sure, when you look over the job description there’s a lot of testing:

  • test, checkout, and readiness of test fixtures and test facilities
  • technical specialist … techniques used for test, checkout, and preparation of systems or hardware in the areas of vacuum technology, heat transfer, cryogenics, contamination, data acquisition and instrumentation.
  • coordinates the development of test fixture and test facility designs for large multi-purpose, multiple-phase projects
  • conducts the specialized testing of unique or leading-edge-technology, equipment, or systems
  • directs, plans, and conducts test programs in areas such as the James Webb Space Telescope Helium Shroud, Dust Environmental Effects Particulate (DEEP) Chamber, Optical Characterization Lab (OCL) Facility and Space Environmental Simulator (SES)
  • monitors test, interprets and analyzes data, and reports results
  • develops detailed test plans and procedures

Maybe the job is not as fun as it seemed to begin with. But Space Environmental Simulator! Isn’t that why you printed out the application?

Before you go running to your fax machine with your resume, check out the qualifications. A Bachelor’s in an appropriate physical science or engineering field is required. An engineering technology degree does not qualify. (For that you can go here.) You’ll need statistics, computer science, differential and integral calculus and specialized experience in something such as cryogenics. Most of the hiring is automated. Your resume is loaded to a computer and filtered for keywords. If you’re a match, you get called in. Otherwise, back to Burger King, sucker.

According to US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aerospace Engineers “develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and space exploration, often specializing in areas such as structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation and communication, or production methods. They also may specialize in a particular type of aerospace product, such as commercial aircraft, military fighter jets, helicopters, spacecraft, or missiles and rockets, and may become experts in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, or guidance and control systems.”

The design, testing and work completed by Aerospace Engineers may come under a lot of heat. Outside the scope of NASA-the-business, you may have a lot of explaining to do about why you condone “bombing” the moon and why O-Ring failure (Challenger) or wing damage (Columbia) resulting in the death of astronauts is part of the learning process that leads to future successes.

Just remember Gils Scott-Heron while you’re floating in an anti-gravity test chamber: Whitey’s on the Moon. Watch it, kids. (JMM)

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