Space

The United States Postal Service recently unveiled a new stamp commemorating the work of MIT alumnus Robert Robinson Taylor, considered the nation’s first academically trained African-American architect and the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett of the Obama Administration. Read more in a Slice post on Taylor.

Taylor is not the first alumnus to be honored as the face of American postage. Here’s a list of other alumni and MIT-affiliated notables that have also decorated our mail:

Credit: National Postal Museum

Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63: While the first stamp celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing only featured Neil Armstrong, a 20-year anniversary stamp issued in 1989 honors both Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63, the second man to walk on the moon. Prior to Apollo 11, Aldrin served on the Gemini 12 mission and as a US Air Force jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. Aldrin ranks fourth in a recent Business Insider article highlighting MIT’s most successful alumni.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

 

George Eastman: While not an alumnus, Eastman was a great benefactor of MIT having donated $7.5 million to the Institute in the early 1900s. He founded Eastman Kodak Company and invented the Kodak camera, widely credited with ushering in a new age of amateur photography. Visit a plaque celebrating Eastman in front of Room 6-120 to take part in an 80-year MIT tradition—rubbing his nose for good luck.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

 

Richard Feynman ’39: As the 1965 Nobel Prize recipient in physics, Richard Feynman ‘39 is called a pioneer in Quantum Electrodynamics. His invention of the Feynman Diagrams revolutionized theoretical physics and were celebrated on the pop television show Big Bang Theory. Check out Slice next month for a larger story on Feynman’s quest to visit Tannu Tuva and his love of stamps.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

I.M. Pei ’40: The Louvre Glass Pyramid and Entrance, Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art, and Boston’s Hancock Tower all have been designed by I.M. Pei ‘40. His work on the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., was commemorated as part of a 2005 stamp collection titled the “12 Masterworks of Modern American Architecture.” On MIT’s campus, his firm is responsible for the Green Building (54), as well as Landau (66), Dreyfuss (18), and Wiesner (E15) Buildings.

The Postal Service rolls out upwards of 30 new stamps each year, and the public can petition a subject to be considered. The Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee, appointed by the Postmaster General, reviews stamp ideas and recommends which subjects to consider. All subjects must be of Americans that have made contributions to society or events or themes of “widespread national appeal and significance that showcase our nation’s inclusiveness,” according to the US Postal Service site.

What alumnus or alumna would you like to see on your mail? Tell us in the comments below or share on our Facebook page.

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Taking part in a combined 22 missions, the six alumni astronauts interviewed by Slice of MIT are no strangers to space. Yet John Grunsfeld ’80, Dominic Antonelli ’89, Mike Fincke ’89, Franklin Chang-Diaz ScD ’77, Chris Cassidy SM ’00, and Mike Massimino SM ’88, ENG ’90, ME ’90, PhD ’92 are still in awe of the experience of looking back on Earth. “It’s so hard to put it in words,” shared Chris Cassidy.

In fact this group of MIT alumni astronauts hold a common memory—how moving it is to see your home planet in a new way. “The Earth…I think it might actually be paradise,” Massimino remembered. “It is very much the most beautiful thing you ever saw,” Chang-Diaz recalled in the video. The astronauts also discussed the thrill of takeoff, including last minute fears that they might not be headed to space after all. “All the way up to the final countdown, I thought they were going to open the hatch and say ‘Hey, we made a mistake, get out,’” Fincke recalled.

The six astronauts cover nearly 30 years of space missions. Chang-Diaz, who leads the group with seven missions, took his first space flight in 1986 as a member of STS 61-C (1986) aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. Cassidy bookends the group’s collection of missions with his 2013 trip to the International Space Station as part of Expedition 36.  Many of the astronauts said that whether it’s your first or seventh visit, the experience of space is spectacular each time.

Hear what each astronaut had to say about their missions and what it’s like to look back home from hundreds of miles away.

The video was produced by Alumni Association videographer Brielle Domings. 

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Astronaut Cady Coleman’s ’83 nickname is ‘the Pathfinder.’ “I’ve always been interested in going places people haven’t been,” said Coleman.

But she never really thought about going to space until she met Sally Ride, who talked to students in MIT’s 10-250 about her experiences on Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-7) back in the early 1980s. She tweeted about Ride in a recent #MITAlum Twitter Chat.

“All I did was shake her hand,” said Coleman. “But to me it was very significant to have this woman talk about what she did and realize that maybe that was something I could aspire to as well,” she said.

Coleman became an astronaut in 1992 after completing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at MIT, a doctorate in polymer science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts, and ongoing service in the US Air Force, where she became a colonel (now she’s retired).

Coleman  sends greetings from the International Space Station for MIT's 150th with alumni Greg Chamitoff PhD ’92 (right) and Mike Fincke ’89.

Coleman sends greetings from the International Space Station for MIT’s 150th with alumni Greg Chamitoff PhD ’92 (right) and Mike Fincke ’89.

She has served on STS-73, STS-93, and the International Space Station Expedition 26/27 missions conducting key roles in robotics and scientific research, and aiding in the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

On her past missions, she chose to grow out her hair for fun and to send a message. “Up in space, my hair is like this giant thing,” she said. “I think it says to girls, this could be you.”

NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson perform first Space-Earth duet.

NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson perform first Space-Earth duet.

She also found time in orbit to practice her flute with her fellow astronaut bandmates of Bandella including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Watch her play in a duet with Ian Anderson of band Jethro Tull and share how she lost her flute after cutting a practice short in space.

Coleman has been in space for 180 days. But to her, that’s not enough. “It’s very addictive…I just can’t see this getting old,” she said.

Astronaut Coleman’s testimonials are part of Space Shorts, a series of alumni astronaut stories, produced by Alumni Association videographer Brielle Domings. Watch all videos

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As an astronaut, Mike Massimino SM ’88, ENG ’90, ME ’90, PhD ’92  logged over 30 hours in spacewalks—most of them while working on the Hubble Telescope. “I think it’s the greatest scientific instrument that has ever been built,” he says. “It’s a great combination of engineering accomplishment and science accomplishment.”

Massimino

Astronaut Mike Massimino works in tandem with astronaut James Newman. Photo: NASA

One of Massimino’s most memorable moments from working on the telescope required him to think on his feet—even though solid ground was nowhere near. While on STS-125, Massimino was tasked with removing a handrail from the telescope during a spacewalk. After removing a few screws from the handrail, his tool—developed specifically for the mission—began to strip the remaining screws, leaving them stuck. Massimino feared he wouldn’t be able to complete his mission.

“I knew I had a safety tether that would probably hold, but I also had a heart that I wasn’t so sure about,” he says, recalling the experience to a live audience at The Moth.

Thankfully, Massimino went into problem-solving mode and simply yanked the handrail off with force. He credits MIT for the ability to problem-solve while floating in space—tenuously connected to Space Shuttle Atlantis. “MIT shows you how to engage a complex problem,” he says.

“You’re trying to do something really complicated and lots of things are going wrong.  You can’t handle everything, so you have to handle what’s really important…that’s what MIT taught me,” he says

Massimino recently shared lessons from MIT and explains how the Institute affected his choice to become an astronaut.

Astronaut Massimino’s testimonials are part of Space Shorts, a series of alumni astronaut stories, produced by Alumni Association videographer Brielle Domings. Watch all videos

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Discovery Shuttle Crew

Commander Cameron pictured bottom left with his STS-56 Discovery Shuttle crew. Photo: NASA, 4/8/93

When John Glenn first orbited Earth in 1962, fellow Ohioan Kenneth Cameron ’78, SM ’79 was inspired to follow in his footsteps. But it wasn’t until he was an aeronautics and astronautics student at MIT that becoming an astronaut seemed possible. “I realized as an aviator and an MIT graduate, I actually had a shot,” he said.

Cameron would go on to spend 561 hours in space, completing three missions: as a pilot on STS-37, and commander on both STS-56 and STS-74. His travels to space included helping to establish the Gamma Ray Observatory, conducting atmospheric and solar research, and building a new module on the Russian Space Station Mir, after a year-long training program in Russia.

Beyond research, Cameron recalls memories of the lighter side of space. He had a good-hearted rivalry with a fellow crewmate he calls, “a graduate of a lesser engineering school in Indiana.” The pair blanketed their respective collegiate banners from MIT and Purdue on the space station and made sure they were seen by the station cameras and friends back home.

Atlantis Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts led by Commander Kenneth Cameron smile at their Russian counterparts aboard the Mir Space Station. Photo: NASA, 11/24/95

He also has advice for fellow astronauts: “When you lose things in orbit, always go to the filter in the front of the cabin fan. Everything finds itself there.” Watch Cameron joke about the dangers of drinking orange juice when first reacclimating to gravity and why astronauts take extra time before stepping on earth.

Astronaut Cameron’s testimonials are part of Space Shorts, a series of alumni astronaut stories, produced by Alumni Association videographer Brielle Domings. Watch all videos

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At last week’s Xploring Space Twitter Chat, Emily Calandrelli SM’13 and Astronaut Cady Coleman ’83 tweeted about space, life at MIT, and inspiring more young women to enter STEM fields.

The two alumnae met while Calandrelli, host of Xploring Outer Space, was filming an episode on astronaut training at the Johnson Space Center. They even shared a ride on the Zero G “Vomit Comet”.

Coleman has spent more than 180 days in space and participated in three missions. As the host and technical curator of Xploring Outer Space, Calandrelli highlights research on Mars, space travel, and astronaut life in the weekly television show.

From the Infinite Corridor to Hollywood
The chat started off with Calandrelli sharing how Xploration is attempting to inspire K-12 and her path from MIT to host of the weekly show.

Flying in Space: Tweets from an Astronaut
Coleman advised actress Sandra Bullock on her performance as an astronaut for the 2013 movie Gravity. She shared some of the tips she gave to Bullock, and Calandrelli joined in with their experience riding the Zero G shuttle.

Coleman also shared why she grew her hair out before her missions.


Inspiring K-12 in STEM
Both alumnae discussed the state of women in STEM and offered suggestions for inspiring more women to pursue the field.  

It Takes a Village

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President Barack Obama has announced that he will nominate two MIT alumnae for key posts within his administration.

Michelle Lee ’89, SM ’89 will be nominated as the Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Professor Dava Newman SM ’89, SM ’89, PhD ’92 will be nominated as the Deputy Administrator for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Michelle_Lee

Michelle Lee ’89, SM ’89

Both appointments require approval of the U.S. Senate.

If Lee is confirmed, she would be the first woman and first person of color to lead the USPTO. A Course 6-1 and Course 6A major at MIT, she has overseen the USPTO’s day-to-day operations since she was appointed deputy director in January 2014.

According to the Washington Post, the USPTO is an integral part of the future of innovation in the United States, and plays an enormous role in creating new products, jobs, and other economic opportunities.

Obama nominates former Google exec to lead U.S. Patent Office,” Washington Post:

“In Lee’s appointment, the tech industry gets someone with deep industry credibility, including MI. degrees in electrical engineering and computer science and several years as a Google lawyer, while the 20 years she spent as a patent attorney is expected to please other stakeholders.”

Prior to the USPTO, Lee served as deputy general counsel and head of patent strategy at Google from 2003-2012. In addition to her degrees from MIT, she earned a juris doctorate from Stanford Law School.

Dava Newman

Dava Newman SM ’89, SM ’89, PhD ’92

Upon confirmation, Newman, an MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems, will assume NASA’s number two leadership position. Her MIT research includes the development of a lightweight, tight-fitting spacesuit that gives astronaut greater mobility than previous designs.

According to MIT News, the deputy administrator’s duties include NASA’s legislative and intergovernmental affairs; communications; the Mission Support Directorate; and relationships with other space organizations.

Dava Newman nominated for NASA post,” MIT News:

“(Newman) has focused on quantifying astronaut performance in space, including computer modeling of the dynamics of human motion in microgravity conditions. Newman has also developed exercise countermeasures, serving as principal investigator for three spaceflight experiments, and specializes in understanding partial-gravity locomotion for future planetary exploration.”

Newman has served on the MIT faculty since 1993. She is director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program and MIT Portugal Program, and a faculty member in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. In addition to her MIT degrees, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.

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More astronauts call MIT their alma mater than any other non-military academic institution. And many are coming back to campus this week for the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium.

Just who are the 38 MIT men and women who have donned hefty spacesuits in the name of science? Check out our infographic of MIT’s former, current, and candidate astronauts:

Source: NASA

Source: NASA

Celebrating MIT’s contributions to space is nothing new. This week we’ve been sharing some of our favorite alumni astronaut snapshots on Facebook. At an #MITAlum Twitter chat earlier this month, alumni tweeted about the challenges of working in space exploration, and on October 30, Emily Calandrelli SM ’13 will share her own path from MIT to TV host of Xploration Outer Space. Astronaut Cady Coleman ’83 is expected to join.

Alumnus Timothy Creamer sends the first tweet from space.

Alumnus Timothy Creamer sends the first tweet from space.

On Slice, we shared how MIT alumni were instrumental in the Hubble Telescope repairs and celebrated astronaut Cady Coleman ’83, an accomplished flutist, as she played a tune for NPR while on the International Space Station. Timothy Creamer SM ’92 sent the first tweet from space, while Buzz Aldrin shared how his MIT degree equipped him for moon walking and cutting a rug on Dancing with the Stars.

Left: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin takes photos during training on July 1, 1969. Photo: NASA Kennedy Space Center. Right: Aldrin rehearses with dance partner Ashly Costa. A typical session in the studio is three-and-a-half to four hours. Photo: ABC/Rick Rowell.

Left: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin takes photos during training on July 1, 1969. Photo: NASA Kennedy Space Center. Right: Aldrin rehearses with dance partner Ashly Costa. A typical session in the studio is three-and-a-half to four hours. Photo: ABC/Rick Rowell.

Christopher Cassidy SM ’00, P ’16

Christopher Cassidy SM ’00, P ’16

More recent stories include the Curiosity Rover landing on Mars—a mission led by 20 alumni—and the reawakening of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, scheduled to be the first probe to make a comet landing this November.

Here are some of our space favorites. What are yours?

1. MIT to the Rescue: Institute Astronauts Fix Hubble Troubles—Again

2. The NASA-Influenced Dress Shirt

3. Led by MIT Alums, Curiosity Rover Drills into Mars

4. Alums “Mohawk Guy,” “Touchdown Guy” Discuss Mars Landing

5. Space Flute Duet: Alumna’s Salute to Yuri Gagarin

6. Landing on a Comet Millions of Miles Away

7. Space: An Alumni Frontier

8. Meet NASA’s Newest Astronaut–and for MIT, Number 38

9. Alumnus Sends First Tweet from Space!

10. Buzz Cuts a Rug on Dancing with the Stars

Watch videos of this week’s AeroAstro Centennial Symposium. Visit the Alumni Association’s Space Short Series with accounts from alumni astronauts about gravity, reacclimating to earth, and more. 

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Though Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk devoted his college years to some other institutions (that will go unnamed), dozens of MIT alumni have played key roles in advancing these two companies in recent years.

Before hearing Musk speak at Kresge Auditorium this Friday during the AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, consider these thirteen MIT talents who have helped propel his various ventures forward.

Lars Blackmore PhD ’07, Entry, Descent and Landing team leader for SpaceX

“I’m responsible for landing the Falcon 9 rocket. Whereas existing rockets burn up in the atmosphere after lofting their payload, we are working on the Falcon 9R (‘reusable’) rocket, which will be able to land on a pad, be refueled, and fly again. So far we’ve done two successful ocean landings of F9R, as stepping stones to landing on a barge or a landing pad.”

Peter Capozzoli MBA ’05, SM ’06, Director of Commercial Mission Management, SpaceX

Capozzoli joined SpaceX in 2006, serving as senior mission manager for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services and Commercial Resupply Services cargo missions to the International Space Station.

Carter Chang ’12, Corporate Development, SolarCity

I conduct acquisitions, corporate strategy, and operational improvements. My involvement includes management across the complete life cycle of the acquisition-from diligence, through negotiations, and then active development with the portfolio companies. Recently, we completed the $350mm acquisition of Silevo, a solar cell manufacturing company. Musk’s vision in providing cleaner, cheaper energy to the world inspires us at SolarCity to make the world a better place.

Paul Tompkins ‘92.

Paul Tompkins ‘92.

Jim Dunlay ’79, VP of Powertrain Hardware Engineering, Tesla 

Dunlay joined Tesla in 2009. He oversees engineering development and manufacturing of its EV powertrain components and systems, including the lithium-ion traction battery systems, power electronic traction motor control systems, battery charging systems, AC induction traction motors, EV transmissions and HV interconnect systems.

Doug Field SM ’92, VP of Vehicle Programs, Tesla 

Musk hired Field away from Apple in 2013, where he led development of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac. Prior to that, he held engineering roles at Ford and Segway. Said Musk: “Doug’s experience in both consumer electronics and traditional automotive makes him an important addition to our leadership team.”

Tairin Hahn SM ’06, MechE ’09, Senior Software Engineer, SolarCity

Hahn’s code fuels the UI of SolarCity, the company Musk chairs that bills itself as “America’s largest solar power provider.” The website helps customers make decisions about their home or business energy use.

Cal Lankton SM ’10, MBA ’10, Director, Global EV Infrastructure, Tesla

Lankton is working to expand the availability of Tesla Supercharger stations across the country. Currently, there are 216 such stations on major highways in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, with chargers that provide another 170-mile range to a Tesla in about 30 minutes.

Kevin Lohner SM ’99, ‎Lead Propulsion Engineer, Liquid Engine Development, SpaceX

“My work is focused on thrust chamber and nozzle development for the Merlin and Raptor propulsion systems,” Lohner says.

At center, Musk joins Jalpa Patel SM ’12, MBA ‘12 and Cal Lankton SM ’10, MBA ‘10. Photo: Tom Pocrnich.

Musk joins Jalpa Patel SM ’12, MBA ‘12 (third from right) and Cal Lankton SM ’10, MBA ‘10 (second from right). Photo: Tom Pocrnich.

Brian Meade ’93, Propulsion Liaison Engineer, SpaceX

Meade’s career has focused skyward, with stints at the Air Force, NASA, and the FAA. At SpaceX, his goal is simple: “I want to go to Mars…and now I’m doing something about it!”

Jalpa Patel SM ’12, MBA ’12, Senior Project Manager, Tesla

Patel distinguished herself in February by being one of several drivers for Tesla’s first Cross Country Rally: crossing the U.S. in a Tesla Model S sedan in just 76.5 hours. The team used only Tesla supercharging stations on the way and claimed to record the lowest total charge time for such a feat.

Andrew Rader PhD ’09, Mission Integrator, SpaceX

When not working on SpaceX projects, Rader is a game designer, blogger, and TV star!

Paul Tompkins ’92, Manager of Mission Operations, SpaceX

Tompkins leads development, training, and execution of flight operations for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Milo Werner SM ’07, MBA ’07, Senior Manager, Manufacturing Introduction, Tesla

Werner is responsible for the release of Tesla’s new vehicle powertrain models. She also manages partnerships between Tesla and other automakers, like Toyota and Daimler, who have employed Tesla batteries in their newest electric cars.

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Last week six alumni working in space exploration as managers, engineers, and researchers joined us for Twitter chat MIT Alumni and the Final Frontier. The alumni fielded questions about their favorite projects, life at MIT, and shared insider knowledge on upcoming missions like OSIRIS-REx and Mars 2020.

New NASA Projects

All the alumni experts have a connection to NASA—as a current or past employee—and all have a great interest in upcoming missions, especially their favorites. Alessondra Springmann SM ’11 leaned towards asteroids, while Allen Chen ’00 SM ’02 had to pick an obvious favorite. Bobak Ferdowsi ‘03 chimed in with why he thinks the Europa Clipper mission is so exciting.

Mars 2020

The Mars 2020 mission will send another rover to the red planet—one with more capabilities than current rover Curiosity. Tamra Johnson ‘01 and Vanessa Thomas ’98 were curious how this newest mission might be different. Chen and Noah Warner ‘01, SM ‘03, PhD ‘07 shared some changes we can look for in 2020.

See You on Mars

Warner also shared insight into the future of the Curiosity—one we may never get to see.

Mission Moments

Caley Burke SM ’10 works in launches and Chen works in landings—both of which can be very stressful. Burke and Chen discussed what it’s like when they can finally breathe again.

NASA and MIT

Which AeroAstro class do the alumni keep thinking about? David Oh ’91, SM ’93, SCD ’97 joined in with his favorite.

To end the chat, Chen summed up what makes MIT and NASA so similar in his eyes.

This chat was cosponsored by MIT AeroAstro. See a more complete transcript of the chat

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