Constellation Education

Orion

Visit the Constellation Program education page, your online source for Constellation-related educational materials and information.

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Constellation Outreach

Constellation Outreach

From speaking to school-age kids to exhibiting at your local state fair, NASA wants to share the story of America's new launch vehicles.

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Stars of Constellation

    Meet the Faces Behind the Hardware of NASA’s Constellation Program

    NASA’s Constellation Program isn’t just about building the next generation spacecraft, but launching explorers that will help us learn more about our world. Discover the faces behind the hardware that will send humans to the moon and beyond.

Josh Figuered

    From the Farm to the Moon

    Josh Figuered

    Title: Robotics Engineer

    Born and Raised: Bloomington, Ind.

    Academics: University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Degree: Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering

    Josh Figuered Video Profile
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    Growing up on an Indiana farm, Josh Figuered knew he loved working on tractors. What he did not know, however, was that his passion would drive him to work on the next vehicle that astronauts may drive on the moon.

    Figuered grew up in Bloomington, Ind., a medium-sized town in the southern part of the state. He spent his spare time on his family’s land, working on the farm and keeping the equipment running.

    “I always loved taking things apart and being hands-on with the equipment and tools around the farm,” Figuered said. “When I was in middle school, I combined that with an interest in science and engineering, and that sort of set the path forward for me. I guess you never know how the things you do as a kid will impact your interests growing up.”

    Figuered took part in several science competitions while he was in middle school, which led to him joining a solar racing team once he entered high school. This team, which Figuered became president of in his sophomore through senior years, built solar-powered bicycles and cars that went fast … really fast. Figuered and his teammates won several national and international competitions, ultimately traveling to Japan to compete in a sort of World Cup for solar racing.

    After graduation, Figuered first attended Georgia Tech University before transferring to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he is a senior. During his sophomore year, his yearning to stay involved in engineering led him to make a fateful decision: He filled out an application to become a co-op with NASA.

    “I was accepted and was first assigned to work on the Orion crew exploration vehicle, specifically looking at how the spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station,” he said. “It was fascinating work because I realized I was very lucky to be working on a brand new spacecraft, which is something that comes along once in a generation.”

    During his second co-op assignment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in the fall of 2006, Figuered started working with a small, close-knit team that was creating concepts for a new lunar rover as part of NASA’s Constellation Program. This group of experienced NASA engineers was working to create a revolutionary concept for how a lunar rover would operate, combining the designs from the Apollo era with modern – and in some cases envelope-pushing – engineering.

    “The team let me help work on the transmission and drive-train concepts for the rover, from the ground up,” Figuered said.

    The Lunar Electric Rover (LER) was imagined as a multi-purpose vehicle for lunar operations that not only would carry astronauts around the surface of the moon but also could be used for plowing, bulldozing and digging areas.

    “Those sort of demands on the rover meant that the transmission and the torque of the vehicle had to be designed in a very specific way,” he said. “I was able to work closely with the rest of the team to come up with the design solutions for it. There were no limits to what we could imagine and try out.”

    Figuered spent three more co-op tours at NASA between 2006 and 2008, alternating between his studies at the University of Wisconsin and his work at the Johnson Space Center with the rover team. During that time, the concepts for the rover morphed from early designs and field trials to a more advanced pressurized rover idea that includes an enclosed cabin mounted on top of the rover’s chassis.

    He says that even though he never could have imagined working on NASA concept vehicles when he was a kid, the work he has done with his JSC colleagues is exactly what he imagined engineering to be.

    “What I love about working on the rover is that I’ve been able to see something go from concept to reality, to help design the vehicle, then help build it with my own hands and ultimately end up driving it and testing it,” Figuered said. “The team has worked very close, because we’ve done all of the troubleshooting and work in house and on our own.”

    The LER has attracted quite a bit of attention from the public and the media during its development, even being invited to participate in the Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., in January. There was just one small problem for Figuered.

    “Well, that was my first week back at school, and I’m taking 19 hours of classes,” he said. “So I had to choose between going to the inauguration and finding out what I needed to do to pass my classes at school. School won.”

    For information about Johnson Space Center, visit:
    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/index.html

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