I have finally finished my 3rd NASA internship!
My experience working with the Hubble Space Telescope has been an absolute dream come true. A year ago at this time of the year, I was preparing to move to Houston to complete my first internship at Johnson Space Center (JSC). Now, I’m ending my third internship at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) working on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and am preparing to complete my fourth internship with NASA, continuing my work with Hubble. Even after all this time, I am grateful for each and every experience I have received with NASA. Working at Goddard has been very different from working at Johnson, and my project with Hubble is quite different from any of the projects I completed in Houston as well. (Image featured on the right is me with the Hubble Vehicle Electrical Test Facility, or HST VEST for short, at Goddard Space Flight Center.)
Knowing the process of interning at a NASA space center, I had certain expectations coming into this internship. However, working with Hubble has completely surpassed my expectations. The team here was so welcoming and they have treated me as if I was hired on as a full-time employee (something that doesn’t often happen to interns). They quickly became my second family here at Goddard. From my mentor to my officemate to the social media lead to the outreach lead, I appreciate each and every member. At my other internships, this was something I had not experienced before. I developed relationships with my fellow interns at JSC, but not with my mentor and team. It has been the opposite here at Goddard, since I have developed a relationship with my team but not my fellow interns. We will see what the summer brings when there are approximately 450 interns at Goddard! Regardless, I will always respect and admire my relationship with my Hubble team. (Image featured on the left is my officemate and I at the James Webb Space Telescope control center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.)
What I Did
Since I have been accepted as part of the Hubble team, I have been able to do so much with my work here at Hubble. I was published on the nasa.gov/hubble webpage for my articles on Messier’s Objects (see here!) and several tool placards that I wrote for astronaut tools used during HST servicing missions are now on display for the public in the Hubble Control Center at Goddard. Many of the posts that I wrote for Hubble have been published on HST social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), and a few of my posts hold the top positions for the entirety of Hubble social media! (One of my posts is the image featured to the right). While I was at Goddard, the HST social media reached 6 million followers on Twitter, over 500,000 followers on Instagram, and over 50,000 followers on Facebook! I produced a video for Hubble’s 28th anniversary and it was published on HST social media – and it holds the top spot on most likes and retweets for all of Hubble’s Twitter! Watch it here! It is also featured on televisions all around the building that holds Hubble’s Control Center at Goddard Space Flight Center for visitors to watch. Throughout my time with Hubble, I will be producing several other videos for social media and a few are already in the works. The work with Hubble is never-ending, but that is what keeps it exciting. I knew several interns who did not have enough work to do and were bored during their internships, but my mentor has made sure that I have plenty of work to do every day. I was not expecting to do all of the work that I have been able to do during my time here with Hubble – and the work continues! I am so lucky to be published on the nasa.gov website, as well as on the HST social media. Earning top spots on HST posts was definitely unexpected, but much appreciated. I came into this internship expecting to only work on social media statistics and maybe a few posts, but I am so glad that I have been able to do much more than that.
Throughout my time on Hubble, I’ve learned so much Hubble-specific knowledge. From how the telescope operates to the program capabilities on its’ computer to how Hubble observations are pieced together to create the beautiful images we have learned to love and expect from Hubble. I would not say that I have intimate knowledge of the space telescope, however, I know much more than I ever thought that I would. I also now know a lot about the servicing missions for Hubble and the HST astronauts who served on those space shuttle flights. (Hubble astronaut John Grunsfeld and I are featured on the left.) I can identify specific Hubble images by name and why they are significant and/or the purpose of the observations. Similarly, I have learned so much about astrophysics in general. From blueshift versus redshifted objects, gravitational lensing, gravitational waves, “reflection nebulae,” planetary nebula, supernovae, light echoes, types of galaxies, comets/asteroids, solar system planets, and so much more. It surprises me how much I have learned about this projects and its findings in 18 weeks.
The Difference Between Johnson Space Center and Goddard Space Flight Center
This internship has gone so much better than I ever imagined and it has only enhanced my perspective of NASA and where I want to work. Having worked at JSC, I knew the type of organization that NASA was and I also knew that I wanted to work for this incredible organization. It really is a super close community, almost like a family. However, it felt much more like a family while I was at JSC. This is because the people at Goddard and at JSC are very different. Goddard has the east-coaster “up-tight” and much more political type of individuals (something I’m not used to). Everyone at Goddard is focused on their individual project and there is not much overlap between projects. This is a great environment if you want to be a scientist for a specific planet or project, but for a generalist like me, it is not ideal. However, at JSC, everyone is on the same team: to work on human exploration, so there is a much closer community there because everyone is working on the same project. Texans are also much friendlier and welcoming in general, and they remind me of Arizonans (and specifically, Tucsonans). I prefer working at JSC more than here at Goddard, however, I do appreciate the Hubble team. They have been my redeeming factor here in Maryland. I now realize that, if I can, I would love to move back to Houston and try to find a way to get a job at JSC after I graduate. (Image featured to the right is a group of us interns in front of a WFIRST mock-up at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.)
Reflection on the Future
As for my future career goals, they have not changed. My number one choice is working in the public affairs office at NASA, specifically at JSC (although I would accept a position at literally any space center), if possible. I love working for this organization and will be sad when I eventually have to go back to school to finish my degree. In public affairs, I have no preference for what I do – events, writing, social media, etc. I now have experience in all of it and would be happy with any position. If I don’t manage to get a job with NASA, I plan to apply to the Peace Corps. If I don’t get either of these, then I might apply to graduate school at the University of Arizona and complete their dual-master’s program with the School of Journalism and School of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science. After that, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I, unfortunately, have put all of my eggs into my NASA basket – but I do not regret my decision. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that have come my way. From moving to Houston, Texas, and working at Johnson Space Center for six months, to moving (literally) across the country and working at Goddard Space Flight Center on the Hubble Space Telescope project for nearly five months, with plans to stay here for eight months total. I can’t wait to go home and tell my friends and family of my adventures with NASA. I appreciate every experience I have had and would not change anything. (Image featured to the left is me with the poster I created for the final poster session that interns must complete as their exit presentation.)
Thanks for sticking around the end of my story! I know that it was a long one. I hope that it provides you some insight on what an internship, particularly a science journalism/communications internship, with NASA, Goddard and Hubble is like. If you’re thinking about applying to a NASA internship — do it! I cannot recommend this experience enough. (This link will direct you to the NASA internship page.)