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Cal Poly students, alum advance U.S. space exploration

Posted at 9:47 PM, Dec 09, 2018

A NASA astronaut and the CEO of United Launch Alliance are just two Cal Poly graduates energizing current students to launch into a career of space exploration.

Victor Glover, a NASA astronaut, was recently chosen for the first commercial SpaceX mission.

Glover’s success in the field of aeronautics is something that inspires the next class of Cal Poly students, like 4th-year physics student Luc Bouchard.

“They went to Cal Poly, did the same engineering stuff I did, took the same classes I did and even had the same professors I did,” Bouchard said. “So I guess it’s more like the world is becoming a little bit smaller.”

Glover’s upcoming mission to space has long been a dream of Cal Poly Junior, Lacey Davis, who studies aerospace engineering.

“I’ve had that dream for a while ever since I was 5 or 6 and people would ask what do you wanna be when you grow up,” Davis said.

Another alum, Tim Weise, now works in partnership with NASA on mission control, but for a decent length of his time at Cal Poly, he didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduation.

“Thinking back on my career, I never dreamed I’d be doing this when I was in college,” Weise said.

Weise was recently involved in the successful and historic mission called InSight Mars, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations.

The mission was successful, albeit stressful for Weise, because it captured the first sounds of wind on the Red Planet.

InSight is far from mission complete, though, as it will last another two years.

“We’re going to spend about two to three months to get our instruments deployed to the surface of Mars,” Weise said. “This is something that’s never been done before, where we’re picking up a scientific instrument off the deck of the lander and placing it on the surface of Mars.”

The engineering side of things is where Bouchard said he’s most excited to get involved. He and his classmates participated in constructing DAVE, a CubeSat that launched into space earlier this year.

“We are really pushing the industry forward and it’s really rewarding to feel like I am at the forefront of something,” Bouchard said. “I get to see my software launching into orbit.”

The project, which is being utilized by SpaceX, was something Aerospace Engineering Assistant Professor Amelia Greig knows is already advancing American space exploration.

“Our graduates are really highly sought after in industry because they have the hands-on experience of building rockets and satellites,” Grieg said.

Grieg said she believes what’s next for space exploration is space tourism, the idea of sending people to live and work outside Earth.

“I really hope it’s around in my lifetime just in case I don’t get to be an astronaut,” Grieg said.

Weise expects that industry will grow but remain expensive for the foreseeable future.