Summer Reflections: James Bell

In this blog post, senior James Bell shares his experience interning with NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center, which included witnessing a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center. 

As a child, everyone told me that I could do whatever I wanted in life, assuming that I worked hard and studied for my upcoming math test. Taking this to heart, I decided on my calling at just twelve years old while watching Star Trek: Enterprise (the 2001 show set before Captain Kirk’s time) – I wanted to design interplanetary spacecraft. 

As idealistic as that dream might have seemed at the time, given the outlook of the space program, I followed it blindly all the way through high school and into UT Austin, where I currently study Aerospace Engineering. Although I now know that Star Trek may never be a reality, I still love anything related to space and hope to one day become an engineer working on NASA’s next big deep space project. To my great surprise and pleasure, I was accepted in April for an internship at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center, where I started working in early June.

As a part of the internship program, NASA pays for interns to go and visit other centers to give us a better idea of possible jobs are available to us upon graduation. Typically, the visits are simply tours of the center by various employees who show us their jobs and the facilities they work in. So when I was told that our trip would include a rocket launch out of Kennedy Space Center, I was very excited. 

After a twelve hour bus ride, followed by a late night and early morning, the day of the launch arrived. The interns were bussed out for a tour of the vehicle assembly building before moving on to the launch viewing area. The rocket itself launched from across the bay about a mile away, and the launch tower was barely visible. Despite being just midmorning, the heat reflected onto the bleachers from the pavement and water was near unbearable, yet we stayed glued to our seats all the same. Finally, and without more than a one-minute warning, the rocket took off, slowly at first, then accelerating to the speed of sound and beyond. The air reverberated with the power of the fuel combusting and exploding out of the engine nozzles at supersonic speeds. We continued to watch as the vehicle turned, angled itself into the beginnings of a prograde orbit, and disappeared from sight.

Although the capability to reach outer space has existed for over half a century, to witness it in person has reinvigorated me to find newer and better ways to reach orbit and beyond. I know that I am blessed to have seen such an event, and I hope to one day take part in designing and launching missions, in exploring the universe that God has provided for us.