Woodard lands prestigious NASA Pathways Internship
Aerospace junior and Colorado native Addison Woodard is Johnson Space Center-bound.
The Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences undergraduate has been selected as one of just 25 students nationwide for a 2020 NASA Pathways internship at JSC in Houston, Texas.
“This is a program I've wanted to get into since I first heard about it when I was 13 years old. I'm really excited,” Woodard said.
NASA Pathways is a unique, in-depth internship that offers students the chance to spend two semesters and a summer in multiple NASA job areas ranging from mission control to safety and mission assurance to astronaut training. It gives students the opportunity to explore their interests and contribute to real-world flight operations across the space agency.
“When I was in kindergarten I was the kid who wanted to be an astronaut, and my parents thought it was cute, but it's still what I want to do and they’ve been super supportive! Mom put the kibosh to a one way Mars trip though,” she said.
Growing up in Loveland, Woodard excelled in math and science and found her true passion in space, specifically human space flight. She considered other colleges for her degree, but chose the University of Colorado Boulder following a campus visit.
“CU Boulder was so much more welcoming. The opportunities from the BOLD Center with mentoring, tutoring and really making a personalized experience were important to me. Here, people wanted to help me learn,” she said.
Woodard initially applied to NASA Pathways during her sophomore year but was not selected. She applied again as a junior and was chosen for 2020.
The program will give her a foot in the door at NASA, although it means she will have to delay her graduation by as much as two years, since the program requires that the internship must be completed during two non-consecutive semesters.
“They don't want you to be out of school for a full year and lose that connection. It's a bummer to not get to take senior design with my friends, but no way could I turn down an internship for a career I've wanted since I was 5 years old,” she said.
While the delay is a disappointment, the additional semesters she will spend completing her degree may open a door to an advanced degree. Woodard had already been considering a master's degree in aerospace and is beginning conversations with her academic advisor about how she could structure the internship with her remaining undergrad classes and a master’s.
Woodard is hopeful the internship will not be impacted by coronavirus. The program is slated to begin in fall, and NASA's research and activities have been deemed essential business, since astronauts in space are unable to simply come home and ongoing missions with active, orbiting satellites or deep space probes cannot be paused.
“I hope to eventually be part of the team of astronauts that set up a lunar outpost to prepare for the long-term Mars missions,” Woodard said. “I love space and learning about space. This is where I want to be.”