NASA engineer in Georgia - How science can take you to the stars
21 September, 2016
NASA engineer in Georgia - How science can take you to the stars
Perhaps many of you have dreamed of traveling through space or visiting NASA space center. Well, those who have not achieved their goal yet, had a wonderful chance to meet NASA aerospace engineer Tricia Mack in person and ask her questions. The top engineer at NASA was specially invited to hold meetings with Georgian students and society by the US Embassy in Tbilisi. Tricia Mack held a few meetings and the lectures were free and open to the public, as part of Tbilisi Science and Innovation Week 2016. Within the framework of her lectures Tricia shared her career experience with attendants and spoke about international space station, aerospace engineering, its importance and the tasks and responsibilities it deals with. She was in the 8th grade when she decided she wanted to connect her entire life to aerospace and since then she firmly followed her dream until it came true.
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NASA Aerospace Engineer Tricia Mack

“Back in 8th grade, Earth Science class was required and each week we studied a different subject. I saw the iconic photo of space-suited astronaut Bruce McCandless on a Manned Maneuvering Unit untethered from the space shuttle, and it captivated me. I was in awe. How could engineers design and operate such a system? That’s when I knew I wanted to work for our nation’s space program, and what would be more exciting and challenging than working with people who were spacewalkers? I was hooked and the goal was set”, - Tricia said.
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Astronaut Bruce McCandless

While explaining what aerospace engineering is, she said that besides designing aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and fully preparing them to fulfill their missions at best, one of the duties of an aerospace engineer is to train and physically prepare cosmonauts before flying to the outer space. As she explained, special pools are used to teach future astronauts how to float around in the space, since in water there is microgravity almost similar to the one in space.

Apart from the story of her success the speaker also revealed her failure as well, that played a key role in shaping her future career, otherwise she would not have been standing here and talking to us as a representative of NASA.

“While attending the University of Michigan, studying Aerospace Engineering, I learned
about the co-operative program where you alternate university terms with working at NASA. At that time, NASA only hired permanent employees from their co-op program, so I knew that I had to secure a co-op position to fulfill my dream. I applied through my university…and I wasn’t selected. This was the first—though not the last—time in my career where I needed a backup plan. Sure, my school didn’t pick me to co-op, but that didn’t stop me. I contacted NASA at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and asked if I could apply directly to the program…and I was selected. I often look back and wonder if I didn’t have the determination to pursue an alternate solution, where would I be? I was a 19-year old making a decision that put me on my career path with NASA”, - Aerospace engineer explained.
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Astronauts undergoing training in neutral buoyancy pool

The engineer also expressed hope that in the future the number of females in this field will increase, at present 20 percent of NASA engineers are female, which represents a 76 percent increase since the early '90s. While talking about her occupation and duty she once again stressed the huge responsibility and the tremendous work, thanks to which to this day they have maintained a continuous human presence on the space stations board for over 14 years. After her lecture Trisha answered the questions, took a lot of photos with the students and handed out the souvenirs of NASA to them symbolically.
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International Space Station

While speaking with Georgian Journal she remarked that she met young Georgian inventors as well, the winners of Millennium Innovations Awards competition, who were invited to NASA Kennedy Space Center in US and attended the annual innovations summit. As she said, she was impressed by the school boys’ invention, the technology for increasing solar cell efficiency. As Tricia Mack said, her mission was not to convert the whole hall into astronauts or aerospace engineers, although it would be cool, but to show that the human’s abilities are limitless and nothing is impossible. Before leaving the hall she in few words shared her impressions on Georgia. According to her, she visited Georgia for the first time 4 years ago and she was impressed by the beauty of its landscapes. When asking her about Georgian cuisine and her favorite dish, of course we could not miss this question, she exclaimed with excitement – “Of course, Khachapuri, (Georgian cheese bread)”, yet she also singled out Satsivi (chicken, turkey in walnut sauce) and Ojakhuri (family dish with potatoes and meat prepared on clay pan named Ketsi). In one word, the event turned out successful and extremely interesting, yet those who have not managed to attend it and want to learn more about aerospace engineering, can register for online courses and extend one’s knowledge in this field.

Author: Lika Chigladze

Related stories:

16-year old Georgian Inventors will Attend a Summit at NASA

Georgian students attend annual innovations summit at NASA

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