Jason Poffenberger’s job is “out of this world” — or maybe the closest thing to it here on Earth.
The 2010 Master of Aeronautical Science graduate is part of a NASA team that field tests in Earth-based extreme environments to prepare for space exploration. A lot of Jason’s work takes place in underwater environments like the Florida Keys and Pavilion Lake in British Columbia, Canada.
“I’m working my dream job already,” he said. “My education just made it that much better. It’s allowed me to have a much better understanding of what’s going on in this business. The classes I took at Embry-Riddle that focused on things like habitation and life-support systems opened my eyes to a whole new element of space exploration that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.”
In his work, Jason helps develop the architectures required for human exploration of the moon, near-Earth asteroids and Mars. He then takes those plans and helps design and execute Earth-based training scenarios (analogs) that allow astronauts and engineers to practice using the tools and operational concepts that will eventually be performed during an actual space exploration mission.
Jason was already working on his master’s degree when he took a job with United Space Alliance in Houston. He convinced his new employer to cover his tuition and also inspired one of his supervisors to pursue her master’s degree, too.
“Embry-Riddle offers classes and degree plans that fit nicely with just about everything that goes on here at Johnson Space Center,” he said.
My managers loved paying for my education because they knew they were going to get some payback in return.
Jason sees the payback, too. He says it’s nice to sit in meetings and not have to ask questions about areas beyond his scope of work. And that’s due, in part, to Embry-Riddle’s strong and challenging curriculum.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the space studies focus was the best approach for me,” he said.