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An Intern's Story: A Little Curiosity Goes a Long Way
08.21.12
 
Each June, NASA's Langley Research Center welcomes hundreds of student interns. This summer, about 300 students from all over the U.S. who are studying majors that lend support to NASA's mission, will spend the next 10 weeks working at the center. For the fourth year, the Researcher News is presenting a few of their stories.
By: Courtney Ricks

Rocket launches and Mars landings. These are events that seem more likely to appear in science fiction novels, rather than occur during a summer internship.

Through my work with the News Media Team at NASA's Langley Research Center, I realized that internships could go beyond deskwork. Over the course of the summer our public and internal outreach efforts gave me the opportunities to witness some of NASA’s most recent and exciting events.

Courtney Ricks.

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Courtney Ricks is a Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS) student who worked in the News Media Office. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

This meant that in the early morning hours of August 6, I was sitting in a packed IMAX theater anxiously awaiting conformation that the rover Curiosity had safely landed on Mars.

In the time spent leading up to the landing, I was able to explore the Virginia Air and Space Museum while guests and NASA employees participated in Mars-related activities. Despite the expected landing time of 1:31 a.m., people of all ages had managed to come out to support NASA and witness history in the making.

However, the lighthearted mood gradually shifted to eagerness as we all filtered into the theater and sat riveted to the screen. When the seven minutes of terror began, the audience fell silent. I found myself holding my breath as I watched the events unfolding at Mission Control in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Finally, we heard the two simple words, “touchdown confirmed.” Curiosity had landed, and the cheers that erupted throughout Mission Control were echoed loudly in the theater.

In that moment I felt pride for NASA, and excitement for the groundbreaking moment I just witnessed.

For weeks before the landing, I had been a part of Langley’s efforts to spread the word about Curiosity. I had participated in the first ever multi-center news conference as well as a Mars Science Laboratory Social Media event, which promoted the upcoming landing to people that are heavily involved in social media outlets.

During these events I was able to talk with Langley employees that were a part of the Mars mission, and all that I learned about the project and all the efforts put into spreading awareness, made the rover’s success much more rewarding.

As an English major, working for NASA was one of the best jobs I could hope for. It combined my love for writing with the ability to contribute to a prominent organization.

At school I am all too often writing about past literary works and authors that lived decades before I was born. Though I have a fondness and respect for my major, it is still an area of study that remains grounded in the past.

Here at NASA, I was able to look to the future. The people that work here are innovators, and it was an honor to be surrounded by such brilliant minds.

Within the News Media Team people are making the effort to distribute information in more modern and efficient ways. An entirely new audience base can be reached by using social media sources such as Facebook and Twitter, and over the summer we worked hard to utilize these sources.

In these ways, NASA is able to educate the public about our projects and successes, while also creating a sense of unity on center by promoting internal awareness of events. It was satisfying to see the articles I wrote become available online to anyone interested in the subject.

This summer gave me a great experience in communication and writing, while also allowing me the chance to witness an amazing moment in modern space exploration. I know that in my own future I will not forget all I have done at NASA, and everything that I was able to learn.


The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman