Comet her, bro

Local student's intern experience is out of this world

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With all the amazing work they do at NASA, many get intimidated when job openings show up on their job search. If you’re anything like me, you don’t even peek at the application because you don’t feel qualified. But, if you ask NASA intern Molly Palmer, there’s nothing to worry about.

Palmer is a computer science major at the University of North Alabama and she’s spending her summer working on coding software for the Space Launch System, a rocket which, according to NASA, “will enable astronauts to begin their journey to explore destinations far into the solar system.”

The new rocket will be launching crews of astronauts into deep space. Molly is just one of the many interns making this amazing rocket able to fly outside of Earth’s orbit and possibly even to Mars. Thanks to interns like her, NASA will be able to fly the SLS to such ambitious places.

Molly became interested in working for NASA at an early age.

“I’d always been interested in space exploration,” she said. “I loved going to the Space and Rocket Center.”

Molly is from Athens and, like many others, she was fascinated by the size of the rockets at Huntsville’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Davidson Center for Exploration.

“The rockets were probably my favorite part, and just to see all the pieces that go into making them run.”

“Don’t be discouraged, and don’t feel like you aren’t smart enough.”

She was also inspired by the story of “Hidden Figures,” a film about female, African-American mathematicians who worked as the brains behind several NASA missions, including Project Mercury — the first human spaceflight in the country.

“In that movie, I think it’s really cool how we actually had the first few women that were actually able to work for NASA and make such an impact,” Palmer said, a gleam of excitement in her eyes. “It’s so women-empowering. I love it.”


Thanks to them, women like Molly will be able to stay in this profession for a long time without feeling inferior.

“I definitely think that having an internship at NASA is a really big deal. It’s a very prestigious organization and people know a lot about it. So I feel like it’s a really good foundation for me to gain experience.”

Molly and the other NASA interns will be working together to make two pieces of the SLS: A simulation environment and software for the rocket.

The SLS is an incredibly critical aspect of spaceflight, as the design helps to launch crews of up to four into space using the Orion spacecraft. And there’s always room for growth, of course. The SLS is is flexible in its evolution, meaning it can be built upon more and more to further deep-space exploration.

Palmer and other interns will be working on the SLS, however you won’t see it used in Huntsville. The final product will be used at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, the focal point for American spaceflight.

Molly Palmer first became interested in NASA exploring Huntsville’s Space & Rocket Center, a favorite for locals eager to learn more about spaceflight. [KALI DANIEL]

After her technical advancements, Palmer plans on graduating in May and possibly staying at NASA or moving on to other companies that contract and build flight software.

The experience was one Molly hadn’t necessarily anticipated — she applied to the internship earlier this year and was excited to have gotten it. One of her friends in the computer science program encouraged her to apply, and Palmer now wants to encourage others.

If you want to apply, you should be prepared to fill out more than the average amount of paperwork and gather a plethora of letters of recommendation, but Molly says you shouldn’t be intimidated by the process itself.

“Just don’t be discouraged, and don’t feel like you aren’t smart enough.”

You are.