Engineering student aims for the stars with Mars2020 internship

Amanda Bessette, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering and member of the STRIDE (SysTems Research on Intelligent Design and Engineering) team led by Dr. Beshoy Morkos, walked into the Florida Tech career fair last spring confident and prepared to land her dream internship. Two weeks later, she received the call – she’d be spending the summer supporting the Flight Systems System Engineering Team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in California, working on the Mars2020 project.

Mars2020 is a heritage mission, which means it has been done once before (in this case with the Curiosity rover) and the team is following the same plans to repeat the success. Because the mechanics of the Curiosity worked well, the team was able to conserve many of those items and focus on making improvements to the payload – which is the scientific portion of the launch and includes things like updated cameras and radar equipment.

Bessette’s main role in the project was working on requirements clean-up for various teams, which means reviewing and verifying all of the engineering requirements are met. “Basically, when a mission comes to fruition, there are a bunch of targets that need to be met for it to be able to fly, to keep the planet safe, to get into orbit, and to travel and make it to Mars,” she said. “So, they come up with requirements and spacecraft have to meet every single requirement in order to fly. On a mission like this, there can be over tens of thousands of requirements, so managing that is important.”

Bessette said that the broad engineering education she received at Florida Tech as a mechanical and aerospace engineering undergraduate really helped her take on a wide variety of tasks, something that might not be possible without the exposure to many facets of engineering. “Being able to be that broad mechanical engineer made it really easy to adapt to doing systems engineering because I already had bits and pieces of all of the different systems,” she said. “I was able to help in more than one aspect of the project because I knew the thermo, I knew the advanced dynamics. I had a background in all of these topics.”

Bessette’s advice to other students hoping to land some of these top-tier internships: Be confident.
“Florida Tech has definitely prepared you with a dominant background in engineering – that’s what these employers are looking for, that’s why they’re here,” she said.

Amanda Bessette works with the spacecraft while wearing a clean suit.
Amanda Bessette works with the spacecraft while wearing a clean suit.
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