The Essence of the Human Spirit
My mother taught me the two most important lessons I have learned: you really can do anything if you work hard and dedicate yourself to it; and, every person has a responsibility to contribute something toward improving the world. She taught me by example. When I was eight, she went to college to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. Very few things in my life have been more inspirational than watching her, a poor woman with a husband and four children, graduate summa cum laude from college.
Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in the stars and the planets. As a child, I persistently asked questions and read books about space, and when I was about seven, my parents took me to see The Right Stuff. Right then, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. As I have grown and matured, I have become even more fascinated with the adventure and intellectual challenge of exploring the newest frontiers. I decided to major in aerospace engineering so I could contribute to technical advancements in space exploration. I decided to attend Boston University because of its Accelerated Four-Year BS/MS Program and its large international student population. Born and raised in Omaha, I had not had much chance to meet people from other countries, and Boston University offered me the opportunity to learn about 131 other cultures.
After spending two years pursuing my passion for engineering science, I needed another challenge, so I applied to be a cooperative Education Student at NASA's Johnson Space Center. I was accepted and moved to Houston to work for a year at the preeminent center for human space exploration in the United Stated. In any given semester, there is a network of 35-70 Co-ops from various universities working at the Johnson Space Center. Many at NASA expect us to be the "future of space exploration." They expect us to succeed where they have not and to fulfill their dreams of interplanetary travel. While in Houston, I helped plan and execute space shuttle missions and helped train astronauts and flight controllers on the International Space Station Guidance, Navigation, and Control System. It was the most educational year of my life.
In Houston, working for NASA for the second summer, I was able to tour the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory. There, I became interested in plasma propulsion, which is a rapidly growing field of great importance to human space flight. Interplanetary travel may be easier with plasma (ion) propulsion because it is more efficient than current propulsion options, and ion engines may even have the added advantage of deflecting cosmic radiation from crew quarters.
At Boston University, I had decided to test my abilities as a researcher by working with Dr....