Interning with the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
I am so lucky to have finished my fourth NASA internship! This post is a little delayed as I was finishing up my internship, finishing summer school courses, moving back across the country from Washington D.C. to Tucson, AZ, and then started school shortly after. But, it was all such a whirlwind experience since I completed all four internships in little over a year, but I am so thankful to have had these experiences.
To be perfectly honest, it is extremely sad for me to be writing this. This is the third time that I have written a reflection about my NASA internships, and this will be the last time that I will write a reflection post because this was my final NASA internship before I graduate with my undergraduate degree. For 8 months, I interned at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This internship was specifically working on social media and public science communications for the Hubble Space Telescope, although I have completed work for other projects and divisions at NASA. Prior to interning with Hubble at Goddard, I was in Houston, Texas, at Johnson Space Center for six months interning with both the astromaterials division and safety division. I absolutely loved interning in Houston and hope to return there for a full-time position after graduation. However, my experiences at Goddard have taught me so many more valuable career skills that I will use in my future.
During the summer, I had a few main projects and objectives. The first was to continue my spring work analyzing statistics for Hubble’s social media – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I came to several conclusions regarding what types of posts perform well on each social media outlet, as well as multimedia posts like videos and live events. I presented my findings to the entire Hubble outreach team in several presentations throughout my internship and all of my findings were applied to Hubble’s social media strategies. From this experience, I learned that analyzing social media is a valuable tool in increasing followership and engagement from social media users. Also regarding social media, I finished developing a social media calendar of potential posts that the social media lead could publish on Hubble’s social media outlets. I also presented this calendar when I completed it towards the middle of my summer internship. Many of those posts that I included in that timeline have since been published on all of Hubble’s social media. Other projects I worked on regarding social media was producing short videos explaining commonly asked questions regarding Hubble, which I completed and one video has already been published on social media. Outside of social media, I wrote articles published on Hubble’s Messier Catalog on nasa.gov, which provided me with insight into the editing process of articles published for Hubble. I also assisted with outreach events and tours at Goddard and the Hubble Space Telescope Operations Control Center (STOCC). These events taught me the value of communication and thorough planning ahead of time.
My final and main task for the summer internship session was developing a timeline of Hubble’s history. For this project, I had to research Hubble’s history, starting back in the 1940’s, and work with Hubble operations managers and scientists to evaluate which dates and events should be included in the timeline. I collected images for each date and worked with web designers in the Office of Communications to develop the layout of the timeline and how best to present the timeline on nasa.gov. I completed all of the items that I needed for this project, which I was working on right up until the very last day of my internship. The timeline itself should hopefully go live and be available to the public for NASA’s 60th anniversary at the beginning of October (yay!).
This internship taught me more than I ever could have imagined. I learned more information about Hubble, from the technicalities of how the space telescope works to servicing missions and the astronauts that worked on Hubble, and the astrophysics behind the objects that Hubble observes every day. Outside of Hubble and astrophysics information, I gained valuable career skills. I learned the importance of communication between team members and that planning is key in having a successful event. I learned about online communication via social media and utilizing nasa.gov as a resource for communicating science to the general public. I developed my writing skills and the editing processes while I was writing about Messier’s Catalog objects. Something I learned that I wasn’t expecting was using Premier Pro to edit videos, produce GIFs, and make more effective and visually appealing media. For soft skills, I developed my organizational skills further and learned to speak my mind because my mentor actively sought out my comments and perspective.
Regarding how my academic schooling (college specifically) prepared me for my NASA internships… it didn’t, really. I developed so many skills from my internship that I will apply to my schooling. I have, of course, applied my journalism schooling when I wrote my articles and utilized some Photoshop skills from my multimedia classes. However, I have not taken classes that taught me how to run a successful social media, like how Hubble’s Twitter has 6 million followers. I had not taken classes on how to use Premier (but there are plenty of ways to learn how to use the software), how to write in NASA’s specific writing style, or what the processes are for review at major news organizations. While I wish that I could say that I applied my schooling to my internship, I was away from proper schooling for over a year and my learning techniques most recently involved asking my Hubble team questions (constantly).
I am so appreciative of the Hubble team and their support in my future and my career. I owe the past eight months of my life to them, which has been eight months that I will never forget. Working with Hubble was stressful and the work never ceased, but I would not have been able to absorb as much information as I have if that had not been the case. My mentor was spectacular and definitely the best mentor I have ever had, and potentially the best boss I will ever have. I owe everything I have learned over the past year to NASA, which is an organization that I hope to work at full-time after graduation. My internship has solidified my dedication and passion towards striving to work for NASA. I love science communications and am truly passionate about it. It requires constant learning and is never-ending, but that is why I cannot wait to get into this industry after graduation and begin my life as a professional science communicator.
Sadly, I don’t think that I’ll be completing a fifth any time soon, if ever. My NASA internship chapter is closing and I am both excited to move on and nostalgic because interning at NASA has literally been a dream come true.
If you want to know more about my 3rd NASA internship, check out this post!
Thank you for reading! Have you completed an internship with NASA, or have you ever wanted to? Would you like to know anything else about my experiences interning with NASA? Let me know in the comments below, and like this post!