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Published October 01, 2020
Jason Fantl, a University of Wyoming senior, spent the summer participating in a virtual internship with NASA’s Glenn Research Center.
The SCaN (Space Communications and Navigation) Internship Project is a paid internship hosted by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center I Greenbelt, Md. The internship is available to students interested in space communications and navigation.
Fantl, a mathematics and computer science major from Parker, Colo., says he was not sure if NASA had many summer internships. But, when he found a program that he was interested in, he signed up, submitted several documents and was interviewed by a person who would later be his internship mentor.
“It was incredible being able to work alongside unbelievably competent and driven people on something meaningful,” Fantl says.
During his virtual internship, he assisted with an overall project, titled “High Speed Delay Tolerant Network Telemetry Dashboard” or HDTN. Fantl’s specific job was to collect research and to provide a visual display of the telemetry data. Fantl says this would hopefully help others in speeding up the network by creating tools for those working on the network.
The data is collected at specific points and is automatically transmitted across the network to be displayed on a dashboard for interpretation. Fantl worked on the debugging, organization, creation and layout design of the dashboard.
“This is needed because the work is no longer just a pure research phase,” Fantl says. “The NASA employees working on the HDTN project are looking to put a module on the International Space Station to demonstrate the feasibility of the high-speed, delay-tolerant networking system.”
NASA’s HDTN capability supports low-earth orbit applications and environments.
Students selected for the internship positions receive hands-on training including real mission scenarios; analyze space communication systems; use software tools; and develop a final presentation of their findings to NASA management.
Each intern is assigned a mentor to help with career counseling and project assistance.
“Students are introduced to space communications and navigation knowledge and practices through their participation in the program,” says Molly Kearns, from the program’s Space Communications and Spectrum Management office. “Each year, as the students’ knowledge matures, their corresponding NASA activities and training increase in complexity.”
Fantl says he learned a lot from his NASA internship experience.
“My favorite takeaway was the understanding that space exploration is advancing rapidly, and I’ll get to see and maybe help people travel farther out into space than ever before,” he says.
Despite the program being held virtually because of COVID-19 concerns, Fantl was able to work with mentors and other interns to complete the 10-week summer internship.
“Being entirely digital came with both its benefits and drawbacks. It meant my commute consisted of walking from my bed to my desk, and I could make any modifications to my workspace that I liked,” he says. “But, it also meant that I didn’t get to work alongside my peers. The social interaction aspect of the internship was nearly gone.”
Fantl says he has yet to decide on his career plans, but the internship has allowed him to learn more about NASA from an insider perspective, giving him a positive view of working in the space industry.