Monthly Archives: February 2010

Job Prospects

Yesterday, I had my first day of work at my new job. Myself and one of the other Briggs Calculus LAs are the two tutors that will be running the RCAH Math Help Room, which also started last night. We met at the classroom a few minutes before it was set to open, met with some RCAH employees and the RAs for Snyder/Philips and Mason/Abbot, and ate some doughnuts. It was pretty chill, as meet-and-greets go, and we weren’t just completely ignored by the RAs. Plus, two students stopped by around 2100, so we weren’t completely useless! Pretty good for just two hours of work, and I’ll be working there again on Tuesdays for the rest of the semester.

Now, why did I take this job when I already have a fine job as a Briggs Calculus LA? A few simple reasons, really, one of which includes a third job which I haven’t mentioned yet.

The Briggs Physics professors contacted me a week or two ago, asking if I wanted to be a Physics LA for next year. I’ve applied for this position for the last two years, alongside the Calculus position, but I never took the job. My first year as an LA, they decided that I didn’t have enough experience yet (plus I hadn’t taken a single physics course through State yet…), so I got into the calculus track. Last year, I received the calculus letter first, and, not wanting to be without a job for a year, took it. I found out a few weeks later that I had been accepted for both positions, but since Briggs will not let a student be an LA for two different subjects, I only worked the one job.

Which brings us back to the present. I got the e-mail, talked with one of the professors about my MDRS mission (he had been involved with The Mars Society for a while around the time that FMARS and MDRS were starting up and saw my article in The State News), and decided to tentatively accept the position after thinking it through for a few days. While I haven’t received my actual letter yet, that’s just a waiting game at this point, so I’m not worried about not having a job for my senior year.

Why did I accept? Well, after next year once I get to grad school, I’ll either be working as a Physics TA or as a research assistant. Getting a year of TA experience under my belt before starting grad school will help me secure one of those positions, helping to cover my costs on my way to earning a Ph.D., which is my eventual end goal. Plus, making more a semester isn’t too bad either (depending on how many sections I work or if I’m a lab LA), especially since my summer internships are up in the air.

Speaking of summer internships, I’ve decided to rank them, just in case I get accepted to more than one. Of course, this would depend on exactly what project I’ll be working on at each (which I may or may not be informed of when I get a letter), the costs associated with travel and other expenses, and the actual timeline of the internships, which thankfully are pretty flexible. So, here’s the ranks:


For those first two, I seriously don’t know which one I’d go to more. I could get some more planetary exploration-type experience at Johnson, but I could also be involved with more of the computer science and robotic side of things at JPL. It makes the decision harder when you consider that two of my fellow MDRS89 members are (currently, at least) those two centers, making it seem like at this point choosing a favorite sister. I think that I’ll be hearing back from the first of my possible internships within the next month, but it may be much longer away.

And that takes us back to this new job at the RCAH Math Help Room. I need to extra money, especially considering the fact that my bills are currently a large chuck of my bi-weekly pay, not considering certain “soft” expenses which I have tried desperately to cut from my life. I’ve already cut out soda and a lot of other things that I normally enjoy, partially for the health benefits and my experience at MDRS, and partially for the fact that they cost much more. It also doesn’t help that I’ve gradually lost money from Christmas time, even considering everything else that’s going on…

Returning to Life

With one week passing from the end of the crew changeover to MDRS 90, and six days passing from landing back in Michigan, I felt it fitting to take an inventory of my life at this point to quell my Mars withdrawals. It’s been a tough first week back on Earth, especially school-wise, but I think that I’m finally starting to come back around to normalcy.

Life at State
Waking up in the morning for classes instead of EVAs still feels a little off, but thankfully my sleep regiment imposed by MDRS has helped out, with the exception of my late sleep-in today. While yes, it didn’t help out waking up at 0730 on Tuesdays to teach, every other day of the week is fine. I’m also a little quicker to get up in the morning too, making it more likely to stay awake once I am up. I’m also back to eating real food every day (not just every other), although we do need to go grocery shopping soon to replenish our stores. I’ve yet to clean my room from before I left for Mars, but I may have time today or tomorrow to take a stab at finishing that up. I haven’t slept in the sleeping bag since I returned, since I don’t want to take it out of the sack.

The actual classwork has been fine. I had two exams this week and a paper due, with my final exam for this season falling on next Friday. I didn’t do too well on the two exams, but I did get a 4-point on the paper, which is great! I attended two labs last week, and will have two this week as well, to make up for missing the first two labs for my electronics class, but after that things will be back to normal for even that. The fact that I’m back to doing homework every day instead of riding ATVs is a little depressing, but I’m used to the fact that I’ll be doing homework for quite a few more years anyway…

Since I am now twenty-one after having one of the best birthdays possible, a lot of different opportunities are present for me on the weekends. Last night, I hung out at the bar with my roommate and a few of our good friends, and it was great! The place wasn’t packed, there was no line to get in, and I genuinely enjoyed myself. I also woke up this morning to an e-mail from Carla to check my mail, and I was greeted with a sweet NASA sweatshirt, some freeze-dried ice cream, a lanyard, and a postcard, which, combined with everything I got from her while on Mars, makes for a huge birthday stash of gifts and delicious treats. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a single thing, so she could have given me a piece of paper with NASA scribbled on it and I’d still be ecstatic. I also got a good “birthday gift” from The State News by appearing on the front page of the paper, plus a multi-media spot on the website. All very cool.

In the News

Front Page of the February 11 State News

Since I’ve already mentioned The State News article (you can read it here), I might as well discuss the media coverage that has surrounded my return to Earth. Our crew blog has a list of all of the news coverage we’ve received, as of February 12, which you can browse here and includes all the articles that I’m going to talk about now anyway. My hometown paper, the Birmingham Eccentric gave me the front page as well, on their Sunday paper for February 7, which coincided with me returning to Michigan post mission. Both of those articles had secondary information: the multi-media spot for my college paper, and a quote on my thoughts on the existence of life on other planets for my home paper. I will also have a similar article in the February Lyman Biggs newsletter, but since that hasn’t come out yet I can’t really link to it… While I am slightly surprised about the amount of coverage that we as a crew and me personally have received, that might just be because I had seen no coverage of any of the previous crews. I only recently found out that some footage for an episode of The History Channel’s The Universe (which I own the first three seasons) was filmed at MDRS, since I hadn’t watched that particular episode before. At the same time, it makes sense, since I’m almost positive that I’m the first State student (and greater Birmingham area resident) to take part in the program. Also, as a result of having the photo shoot at the Abrams Planetarium, I may be giving a talk there about my experiences sometime this semester. I also have an entire Google page devoted to me (just search “mike moran mars”)!

I am back to being a Calculus II LA for the semester. I love the job, but it will be strange once more standing in front of a class once a week and grading their exams and quizzes. I’ve also recently (i.e. yesterday) interviewed for a math tutoring position for the RCAH, just to get some more money during the semester and some more job experience. I should hear back early next week about whether or not I got the job, but not to jinx myself, but I think that I’ll get the job based on the final questions he was asking. Should be pretty sweet. I’ve also, strangely, been accepted for a position as a Physics LA for next year, which is strange considering the fact that I have already accepted (I think…?) a position as a Calculus LA for next year. The past two years, I was denied being a Physics LA since I was also a Calculus LA, so either they changed their minds, saw the paper and said, “oh shit, we need this guy to teach for us,” or didn’t realize that I’m still a Calc LA. Or I could have not accepted the Calc position yet… I’ll find out when I get the official statement of employment, which the professors said should be coming shortly, and stopping in the office to check things out.

I’ve also applied for some summer internships: REUs at the University of California, Davis campus, and Notre Dame, and the NASA USRP. Depending on which one I’m accepted to (if any), and where NASA places me, I’ll be spending my summer in California, Texas, Indiana, or Maryland. Any of those would be nice places to be for two months, and I should be hearing back about those within the next few months. I’ve also looked at the Caltech/JPL SURF program, but with a deadline of this Friday and all of the other work I need to get done, I may not have the time to complete the thorough application and round up a third reference, since the internships I’ve already applied to only required two (or one).

So, I have a lot going on still. I spent today in the shower, at a Chinese food restaurant, in my bed, watching TV and reading TIME, eating freeze-dried ice cream, and putting off studying and working on homework for as long as I can. Once this goes out, though, I’m actually going to clean my room to facilitate the homework aspect of my plans.

Earth Return Vehicle

Yesterday, MDRS 89 relinquished their occupation of the Hab over to the all-Belgian MDRS 90 crew. It was a bitter-sweet moment to say the least.

The morning felt almost somber, with all of my movements more sluggish than usual. I ate slowly, walked around the Hab checking on everything, and made sure that I had everything packed. I cleaned off the jumpsuits, removed our nametags, and helped Kiri laminate our newly-printed and updated Quick Guides. I carried bags outside and dropped them off on our “staging area,” which was nothing more than some plywood resting on 2x4s on the far end of the pressurized rover garage. As a crew, we were all set to leave once MDRS 90 showed up, but as individuals we weren’t ready to leave the Hab, possibly for good.

Due to some major car problems, Crew 90 arrived three hours late, along with their two separate news crews. It was a huge shock going from six people in the Hab, our Hab, to over twenty in a matter of minutes. The entire two-hour handover was a huge sensory overload, and the language barrier was a little tough at times, but eventually we got all of our things into our car (including Darrel’s jacket) and drove down Lowell Highway, saying one last good-bye to the Hab.

And with that, my MDRS mission ended. Once we rounded that corner, that was it. We talked about our first real meal, our first shower, Darrel wanting to get me drunk, all the normal conversational topics. We decided to drive straight to Grand Junction, after dropping off the geophone equipment with DG at Hollow Mountain, so that we could shower and eat and still have time to sleep before waking up for our flights in the morning. Especially for me, since my flight was leaving at 0625, but that also meant that I could drive the rental car to the airport and drop it off, which was really nice.

We got back to Grand Junction, showered, and got dressed (Carla quickest of all, surprisingly), and piled back into our ERV to head to Rockslide Brewery, which we had picked out earlier in the mission as our first meal stop. We pulled up, got a table, and started thumbing through the menus. I went straight for the Bacon Cheeseburger, with curly fries, a side salad, and a sampler of their microbrews. Our table got three of them, but since Kiri wasn’t drinking, Carla was helping everyone out with theirs, and we were partially celebrating my birthday, I got a full one to myself. Once those were gone, soon after ordering calamari for our appetizers, I ordered a pint of the one I liked the best.

All of the food was delicious, and we talked and joked the entire time (HabCom to EVA crew…), and ordered a few more rounds of beers. It was great to relax and eat some real food (I finished all of mine, then ordered dessert), plus to just unwind after staying in a Hab for two weeks. Near the end of the night, Luís ordered two pints, one for me and one for him, and I couldn’t really refuse, could I? The ride back was hilarious as well, with Kiri driving, Carla in shotgun, and the four guys in the back two rows joking and laughing. We got back to the hotel and hung out in Brian and I’s room for a while, then eventually fell asleep.

I didn’t sleep that well, but that might have been because I didn’t want to sleep through my alarm and miss my flight. I got up, got dressed, and double-checked the directions with Brian before heading out to the airport. I parked, dropped the keys off at the desk, printed both of my boarding passes, and checked my bags. I fell asleep on the flight out to Dallas and slept the entire way there, knowing that I would most definitely wake up during my three-hour layover and wouldn’t easily fall back asleep. The layover wasn’t even that bad, and I did spend quite a bit of time walking around and taking pictures, plus grabbing some nourishment while there.

I landed in Detroit after a mildly uncomfortable and packed flight, grabbed my bag, and met with my parents to take me back to State. We stopped at Wendy’s on the way, I told them all about the trip, they showed me a news story that had been published earlier in the day, and we got back to State (and got some Menna’s).

And with that, MDRS was officially over. I miss the Hab, I miss the crew, I miss the rovers, I miss the suits. I don’t miss the short showers, the Alpineaire meals, or the muddy snowy mess outside of the Hab (unless I was riding a rover…). I may see some of the crew later this year, depending on how my plans actually pan out, so that will be nice, but for now I am back on Earth with my friends and roommates.