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So You Want to be an Astronaut? Or Help Explore Space?



The Clark School has the only neutral buoyancy research
facility on a college campus.

Here are some additional sites to explore this and related topics:

Department of Aerospace Engineering

Center for Hypersonics and Research

Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory (APRL

Composites Research Laboratory (CORE)

Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel (GLMWT)

Space Systems Laboratory

“Satellite Radio” Whiting-Turner Lecture by Sirius Satellite Radio founder Robert Briskman

Maryland’s Place in Space



Engineers play a vital role in space exploration—just watch “Apollo 13” if you want to see how engineers in space and on the ground extend our reach beyond our planet and solve challenging, life-threatening problems.

Watch video from a discussion with three astronauts from recent International Space Station expedition missions. (Video courtesy of NASA) more»

As a student at the Clark School, you can be part of a long tradition of space exploration. One of our alums, Michael Griffin, ran NASA during the George W. Bush administration; three alums have served as astronauts (one tragically giving her life for her work); and many more contribute to the success of space missions as employees of NASA and other organizations.

The Clark School’s location so near to the NASA Goddard facility, and the close connections our faculty members have formed with space-focused government and private organizations, make related internships, co-op experiences and full-time employment real opportunities for many Clark School students.

The Clark School’s NASA Administrator

Michael GriffinMichael D. Griffin (Ph.D. '77, aerospace engineering) was the administrator of NASA under Pres. George W. Bush. Griffin was recently honored with the National Space Trophy.

Clark School Alumni Astronauts

Judith ResnikJudith Resnik (Ph.D. '77, electrical engineering) became the second female astronaut in space in 1984. She perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. The Resnik Crater, which is located within the Apollo impact basin on the far side of the Moon, is named in her honor. The Clark School named a lecture hall in Glenn L. Martin Hall in her honor.

Paul RichardsPaul Richards (M.S. '91, mechanical engineering) flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery on a mission to the International Space Station in 2001, logging more than 300 hours in space. Later that year, he presented UM President C. D. Mote, Jr., with a banner that had flown with him on the mission.

Jeanette EppsAerospace engineering alumna Jeanette Epps (M.S. '94 and Ph.D. '00) has been selected as an astronaut in the NASA 2009 candidate class. She trained for space flight at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Watch an interview with Jeanette to learn what it was like to train to be an astronaut.

A Selection of Clark School Alumni at NASA

  • Richard Day (B.S. '79, aerospace engineering) is assistant center director for management systems at Goddard Spaceflight Center.
  • Keith Chamberlin (B.S. '88, electrical engineering) is an aerospace engineer for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center.
  • John Ruffa (B.S. '84, electrical engineering) is lead systems engineer on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
  • Brent Sherwood (M.S. '88 aerospace engineering) is an assistant division manager for mission concept development in the Systems and Software Division of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Florence Tan (B.S. '86, electrical engineering) works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where she is the lead electrical engineer for the Sample Analysis at Mars module that lifted off in November 2011.
  • Timothy Wilcox (B.S. '91, aerospace engineering) has served as mission planner lead and flight dynamics analyst for the Landsat-5 and Landsat-7 flight operations teams at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Clark FlagA Piece of the Clark School Lifts Off

A Clark School flag accompanied astronaut Robert Satcher on space shuttle Atlantis flight STS-129 in November of 2009. view story...

A Clark School experiment to study how boiling works in a zero-gravity environment launched aboard STS-133 in February 2011, headed for the International Space Station. view story...

NASA Alumni Spotlight: Hubble Telescope Terps

Shuttle AtlantisA number of Terps played a role in the 2009 NASA mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Pictured in the Shuttle Atlantis payload bay in preparation for launch at Kennedy Space Center are (from left to right): Mike Oetken (B.S. '99, mechanical engineering), Mark Peden (B.S. '87, aerospace engineering), Kathy Mascetti (B.S. '86, mechanical engineering), Jackie Johnson (B.S. '94, mechanical engineering) and Steve Hoyle (B.S. '89, aerospace engineering).

Other Clark School alumni involved in the mission include: Meg Meehan (B.S. '06, aerospace engineering), Steve Leiter (B.S. '82, aerospace engineering), Charlie Bacon (B.S. '05, aerospace engineering), Torchia Kelly (B.S. '89, aerospace engineering), Albert Larsen (B.S. '99, mechanical engineering, Wes Ousley (B.S. '77, mechanical engineering, Josh Yeager (B.S. '07, electrical engineering) and Mark Behnke (B.S. '83, aerospace engineering).

Thanks to Russ Werneth (B.S. '64 and M.S. '68, mechanical engineering), who also worked on the mission, for sending us the above photo and information!



Also involved with the Hubble mission were:

  • Jonathan Chung (current undergraduate student)
  • Michael Cortina (B.S. '08, mechanical engineering)
  • Kevin Eisenhower (B.S. '04 and M.S. '08, aerospace engineering)
  • Jon Kraeuter (B.S. '04, mechanical engineering)
  • Mike Liszka (B.S. '04, mechanical engineering; M.S. '07, aerospace engineering)
  • Matt Ashmore (B.S. '01, aerospace engineering)
  • Brendan O'Leary (B.S. '08, mechanical engineering)
  • Daniel Senai (B.S. '04 and M.S. '07, aerospace engineering)
  • Russ Stein (B.S. '01, mechanical engineering)
  • Greg Brinkley (current undergraduate student)
  • Will Majette (B.S. '01, mechanical engineering)
  • Matthew Sammons (B.S. '08, mechanical engineering)

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Clark School students and faculty are always in the news for their work on space exploration projects


Clark School a Finalist in NASA X-Hab Competition

Students from the Clark School made up one of three teams selected by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to build potential habitats for astronauts traveling to the moon or Mars. The aerospace engineering students, led by the Clark School’s Professor David Akin, competed in the eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. Watch the "NASA Edge" program clip above, featuring interview with the team.

Clark School Wins at NASA Competition
Clark School aerospace engineering students won in the undergraduate category and placed second in the graduate category at this year's NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) student design competition. The goal of this year's contest was to design a lunar flying vehicle.

Moon Vehicle Project Receives Award
Brandon Hall, an aerospace engineering senior and Clark School ambassador, has received this year's NASA Academy Research Award at Goddard Space Flight Center, which goes to a project that made a significant contribution to GSFC research. The project, "A Dust Mitigation Vehicle" is a prototype paving system for the Moon that utilizes only resources available in-situ. Hall has been working with Goddard engineer Eric Cardiff for over a year developing and testing the prototype vehicle.

studentStudent, professor fly on ‘Vomit Comet’
Imagine a roller coaster that simulates the experience of feeling twice your normal weight, then drops you into a freefall, all while going out over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Now imagine hopping on that roller coaster 30 times a day, for three straight days. Feeling queasy yet? Despite the frequent changes in gravity on the European Space Agency version of NASA’s “Vomit Comet” – changes that often cause stomach ailments among the flight’s passengers – graduate student Rishi Raj didn’t get sick. Raj and ME professor Jungho Kim traveled on the flight recently to study heat transfer at different gravity levels.

Project TURTLE Wins NASA Competition
A team of aerospace engineering students won first place in the undergraduate division of NASA's Revolutionary Advanced Systems Concepts - Academic Liaison (RASC-AL) student design competition in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Project TURTLE (Terrapin Undergraduate Rover for Terrestrial Lunar Exploration) beat out nine other designs including teams from the University of Washington, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Laura MeyerClark School Ambassador Visits Congress
Laura Meyer traveled with 35 students and 111 other representatives on behalf of Citizens for Space Exploration (CSE), to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to support a robust space exploration program.

Maeling TappTapp Wins NASA Scholarship
Materials Science and Engineering senior Maeling Tapp has been named a 2006 NASA Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology (MUST) Program Scholar. MUST is funded by a $1.75 million grant from NASA and is administered by a consortium lead by the Hispanic College Fund (HCF), with the support of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation (UNCFSP). The MUST Program awards scholarships of up to $10,000 and internships to undergraduate students of science, technology, engineering, and math. MUST Scholars also have access to tutoring, summer research programs, and lectures, as well as academic, industry, and peer mentors.

Clark School Wins CANSAT
A team of Clark School aerospace engineering students have won the 2009 American Astronautical Society and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics CANSAT competition in only their first year in the contest, topping a field of 18 schools from around the world.


SSLSpace Systems Lab Awarded NASA Contract
The Clark School is the only university program in the country to be selected for NASA's Constellation Program to develop ideas for how astronauts will live and work on the moon. The Clark School's Space Systems Lab (SSL) and 11 companies will work independently to develop concepts for the program.

Dean Darryll PinesClark School Leads NASA Project
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has renewed a research agreement worth $22.8 million over three to five years that involves 20 universities, including the University of Maryland as the lead institution.


Greg BaecherBaecher Appointed to NASA Committee
Gregory Baecher, G.L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, has been appointed to the Planetary Protection Subcommittee of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The committee, which includes representatives of industry, academe and government, assesses issues and risks of biological contamination for planetary missions, and for biological contamination associated with the launch and return of spacecraft in interplanetary missions and their potential failure modes.

Baras, Gu and Jiang Receive NASA Patent Application Award
Professor John S. Baras (ECE/ISR) and ECE/ISR alumni Junfeng Gu (M.S., EE, 1999) and Yimin Jiang (Ph.D., EE, 1999) recently received a Patent Application Award from the NASA Glenn Research Center, Technology Transfer & Partnership Office, for an invention disclosure and patent titled “3D Wavelet-Based Video Codec with Human Perceptual Model: A Method and Apparatus for Conditional Access in Broadcast/Multicast Systems.”

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SSLThe Clark School's Space Systems Laboratory includes:


Below are examples of engineering coursework at the Clark School for those interested in pursuing a career supporting space exploration.


  • ENAE404 Space Flight Dynamics
  • ENAE441 Space Navigation and Guidance
  • ENAE457 Space Propulsion and Power
  • ENAE483 Principles of Space Systems Design
  • ENAE484 Space Systems Design


  • ENAE601 Astrodynamics
  • ENAE602 Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics and Control
  • ENAE691 Satellite Design
  • ENAE694 Spacecraft Communications
  • ENAE697 Space Human Factors and Life Support
  • ENAE743 Applied Nonlinear Control of Aerospace Vehicles
  • ENAE788X Selected Topics in Aerospace Engineering: Planetary Surface Robotics

Past Events

Here is a selection of past talks by former astronauts and NASA officials:

February 2012: Discussion with three astronauts from recent International Space Station expedition missions. The crew members gave a video presentation about their mission and then answered questions from the audience.

August 2009: Twelfth International Mars Society Convention

More than 200 space enthusiasts and scholars descended on the University of Maryland for this convention to encourage the human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet within our lifetime. The four-day conference -- sponsored in part by the Clark School -- featured presentations by scientists from the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, roundtable discussions with noted authors on Mars and a tour of the Clark School's facilities that are dedicated to human space exploration.

May 2009: Maryland’s Place in Space

Researchers from the Clark School of Engineering's Space Systems Laboratory were on hand at the Baltimore Convention Center to talk with visitors and state leaders.

February 2009: "Aeronautics and Space Research at NASA"

Presented by Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., Director, NASA Glenn Research Center

The presentation focused on technology developments that will enable the aviation industry to enhance aircraft safety, reduce its impact on the environment, increase the capacity of the airspace, and allow the movement of people and goods farther and faster. In addition, the goals of NASA's space exploration efforts will be presented and technologies that will allow human and robotic exploration of the solar system will be discussed.

October 2006: "Fire in Space"

Presented by Gregory T. Linteris, Payload Specialist Astronaut, Columbia STS-83 and STS-94, and Mechanical Engineer, Fire Science Division, NIST

This talk focused on NASA’s Microgravity Sciences Missions STS-83 and STS-94, which were the first space shuttle missions with a large emphasis on combustion science. Linteris helped perform over 150 combustion tests on these flights. In this talk he will share his experiences on his 20 days in orbit.

October 2005: Clark School alumnus and then-NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, Ph.D. '77 aerospace engineering, returned to campus on October 5th to share his vision for the space agency and its plans to return to the moon and beyond.

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