The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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An Aggie at NASA: Flight mechanics, pizza and beer

Photo by John Rangel

“Boondoggles” pub and pizzaria is one of the many places that showcases Houston’s unique cultural relationship with NASA.”

Mars aerocapture and flight mechanics. Pizza and beer. Internships are as much about enjoying new atmospheres as they are about professional development, and NASA is no exception.  

“Boondoggles” – a pub and pizzeria – sits along the Clear Lake shore across the street from my apartment. A dirty, block-letter sign roughly announces its existence to the main street that runs through the area, but walk around the front stripmall and a brick pubhouse greets you with after-work crowds that spill across an outdoor patio towards the lakeshore. 

After Tuesday’s work finished, one of my roommates and I walked across the street to meet another intern and catch up. Boondoggles has a special for every weeknight, and “Texas Tuesdays” featured half-price Texas brews – a perfect match for the dozen pizza entrees that seem to be the pub’s specialty. I opted for “The Robusto,” a trio of pepperoni, Italian sausage and bacon swimming in cheese and mushrooms, in calzone format. Needless to say, we stayed at the table for quite some time. 

NASA’s cultural impact is present even here. Space mission patches compete with beer logos across the walls, and the menu has animal caricatures of astronauts, office workers and engineers lounging against the bar. The crowd looks like any other evening bar gathering, except many of them probably design spacecraft and do rocket science for a living. It is easy to focus on the technical rigor so prevalent throughout four years of engineering undergraduate study, but there is a life after the diploma after all. 

The 8-to-5 workday is a perfectly kept secret. Adults in the “real world” profess their hatred towards it, and college idealists scoff at its idea, but let me tell you the truth: it is fantastic. Academia creeps into every hour of life either as lectures, notes, or study sessions. But the 9-hour workday has solid, relatively immobile boundaries. You go to work with one purpose – to do work. You make plenty of money. Then the rest of the day is yours to spend as you see fit. 

The intern community plays basketball, soccer or frisbee most days after 5p.m. I’ve met some incredibly talented, incredibly motivated, and hilariously funny people from across the United States. A group of us are planning a New Orleans and Mississippi road trip in mid July. I have time to read a good book, learn how to cook great meals, and generally not be stressed over ever-present assignments. And weekends are completely free. 

The work is complicated and the learning curve is steep, but the freedom a set work schedule brings is one of the many hidden perks rarely mentioned in job applications or discussions. It is an added bonus that my job happens to be one of my passions, and I’d be perfectly happy working even more. 

I’ve learned an incredible amount about how to put humans and robots into Martian orbit over the past three weeks, but I’ve also had a fantastic time living in a new city. It is refreshing to know that the “daily grind” isn’t as flavorless as many make it out to be.

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