For most of us, manned trips to Mars, rockets into space and space transportation vehicles may be things we only see in science fiction. For Holly Newton, thinking about space exploration is a part of her job.
A 2014 Stillwater Area High graduate, Newton is launching her career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas next month.
Newton will work as an aerospace engineer in the Design and Analysis Branch of the Crew and Thermal Systems Division at the NASA center that is responsible for the human spaceflight program.
“The Design and Analysis Branch works on projects for divisions throughout the space center, so I’m looking forward to an interesting variety of challenging assignments,” Newton said. “During my internship with this branch, I was able to design a small part for the new deep-space Orion capsule, a prototype seat control for a proposed space transport vehicle, and a manual medical ventilator that could find its way onto the Mars missions and to locations on Earth that don’t have reliable electricity for hospitals.”
When she graduated from the University of Minnesota in December 2019, Newton had also completed five semesters as a Pathways cooperative intern at JSC, working in five different divisions.
“During my internship, I also had opportunities to work in Mission Control, space vehicle design, flight trajectory planning, and material testing,” Newton recalled. Some of her highlight projects were working on software for use in Mission Control, designing the payload area for a proposed spacecraft that would land supplies and a return-to-orbit vehicle on Mars, testing substances for a database of window materials for space vehicles, planning an alternative flight trajectory for an upcoming moon flyby mission, and designing and assembling a skills challenge board that is training deep-sea divers at the bottom of the ocean near Catalina Island in California.
Prior to her NASA internships, Newton interned with ORBITEC, a NASA contractor in Madison, Wis. She helped assemble and troubleshoot a plant-growing experiment. In 2017, this experiment was flown to the International Space Station and docked by the group Newton worked with in Mission Control. Newton and the ORBITEC team working on the experiment received a NASA Space Flight Awareness Team Award from NASA.
Newton graduated SAHS in 2014 with a 4.1 GPA, was first-chair alto saxophone in the Concert Wind Symphony, performed and worked backstage with the Drama Club, and captained the Robotics Team to an 8th rank out of 63 teams in the FIRST Robotics competition regional semifinals.
“My classes and activities in high school taught me many things that helped me work my way to NASA,” Newton said. “I used those thinking, presenting, calculating, writing and teamwork skills every day as a NASA intern. Everything you learn becomes another tool in the toolbox of abilities and knowledge that you’ll use during your life.”