A recent West Virginia University graduate is among the NASA scientists and engineers on cloud nine following the successful landing of a data-gathering robot on Mars.
Dan Moyers helped develop software to operate the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit as part of an engineering team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The 25-year-old Bruceton Mills native graduated last May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
“This has been really amazing,”said Moyers, son of Ward and Dolores Moyers.”Since I was a kid I wanted to do something like this. I grew up playing with LEGOs, and now I’m playing with Mars Rover LEGOs.
“I enjoy going to work, and that’s what you should look for in a job,”he added.”It’s really nice to be a part of history like this.”
Spirit, which landed on the red planet Saturday, Jan. 3, will search for signs that Mars once contained water capable of sustaining life. The rover has already been sending to Earth photographs of what will be its home for the next three months.
Moyers, whose interest is in robotics, started working as an intern at JPL over the summer. His supervisors were so impressed with his work he was offered a full-time job as a sequence integration engineer.
As an intern, he helped to develop software that simulated paths the rover could travel after arriving on Mars. Since joining JPL ’s payroll, he has been part of a team responsible for creating commands in computer tongue so the rover and its twin, Opportunity, can do what the scientists want it to. Opportunity is scheduled to land on the opposite side of Mars Jan. 25.
“The operations team’s job is to fulfill the request of the scientists,”he said.”In a few days I’ll be helping to drive the rover on the surface.”
Although relatively new at JPL , Moyers is no stranger to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. While at WVU , he participated in the NASA Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars program for three straight years. Upon graduation, the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium at WVU secured him his internship at JPL so he could pursue his work in robotics.
The Space Grant Consortium has placed more than 20 graduates at NASA facilities through its internship program, and Moyers is the first one to land a job immediately, said Majid Jaraiedi, director.
The consortium, established in 1991, seeks to promote aerospace research and education in West Virginia, Jaraiedi explained. Eleven other state colleges and universities belong to the consortium.
“It makes me so proud we have been able to place young folks like Dan at various NASA facilities and showcase the type of students we have at WVU ,”Jaraiedi said.
Moyers said he is grateful to WVU and the Space Grant Consortium for the opportunity to pursue his career goals. He landed his research internships at NASA Langley through an employee who was a former student of WVU mechanical and engineering professor John Kuhlman. Those internships, in turn, led to the JPL internship.
“It wouldn’t have been possible for me to work at JPL this summer without the help of everyone who helped contribute to my education, including Dr. Kuhlman, Dr. Jaraiedi and the Space Grant Consortium office,”he said.”WVU may not be a huge university, but you get to know teachers a lot better and you get opportunities that students in a larger university wouldn’t get.”