Joshua Ehrlich graduated with his Master in Mechanical Engineering in 2013 from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach. He was recently selected to participate in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program. For 8 months, six astronaut-like crewmembers will live in a dome atop the Mauna Loa island in Hawaii to perform research to help determine space exploration to various locations including Mars.
Below are some questions Joshua has answered pre-mission. He will do a follow-up blog after his mission is complete.
Discuss your career path since graduating from ERAU?
My career path has been nothing short of dynamic. Since graduating from ERAU in 2013, I worked for SpaceX in California as an integration and test engineer on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Following that venture I took a Systems Engineer position at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver, CO, where I currently work today on the Orion program. It’s been an amazing experience, a unique one to say the least as I’m working with the European Space Agency, Airbus-Safran Launchers, and NASA in designing, integrating, and testing the European Service Module for its maiden voyage in late 2018.
How did you get selected for this great opportunity at HI-SEAS and what will you be doing?
I applied to HI-SEAS back in September ’16. From that point all the way through December I participated in multiple questionnaires and surveys focused on leadership, behavioral, and psychological analyses prescribed by the application review committee. Starting at an applicant pool totaling ~700 candidates, I was selected for the Mission V crew but as its primary backup. Once I got word that a slot had opened up I didn’t hesitate a second and accepted the gig to come to Hawaii a month later.
As a crew member I will be working in simulated Mars mission scenarios and studies defined by the HI-SEAS research team, living in a semi self-sufficient habitat located at 8,200 ft on the Mauna Loa volcano. At the start of the application process, candidates were asked to submit proposals for personal projects in addition to the overall application. Back in 2012-2013 when co-op’ing at NASA Kennedy Space Center, I worked on designing and testing science payloads for the International Space Station. For HI-SEAS Mission V I’ve partnered back up with NASA to focus on the optimization of design parameters on Veggie, a science payload in the third generation of its design on the ISS today.
How did your education at ERAU help prepare you?
As an ERAU graduate student I was enrolled in a variety of core and elective courses. Although my coursework was key to expanding my knowledge base, I will say that my scope as a graduate research assistant and focus on my master’s thesis allowed me the opportunity to build on and thrive as a student both individually and with a team. Taking on work outside the classroom, whether it may be required or completely voluntary, provides the researcher with the opportunity to critically think about problems and devise solutions. When you combine curiosity with innovation, you create discovery.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in this type of work?
The advice I would give to the student body is no different to what I expressed in a similar interview for ERAU’s internship/co-op spotlight: “ My advice to students [interested in this type of work]… is to become active on campus. Pursue research opportunities, attend club meetings/socials, and participate in any extracurricular activities that are presented to you or are available. You cannot be another face in the crowd, but rather a leader outside the classroom. To put it simple: You must want it! You are competing with hundreds of other candidates, so you need to ask yourself, “How am I going to stand out from the rest? What do I have to offer that makes me a highly desired candidate?”…One last piece of advice I will offer, and I must mention that this was actual advice I received from an ex-astronaut when applying to HI-SEAS, is to focus on an interest or hobby that you are passionate about experiencing. Don’t tailor your life to an application or set of criteria simply to meet the minimal requirements. What makes a person unique is their conquest to expand their skill set and tackle new challenges. Life does not have a perfect formula for reaching success, there is not a checklist of everything one must do to reach the end goal. So when it comes to pursuing something you’re interested in or are passionate about, go after it and everything else just falls into place.
For more information about HI-SEAS: http://hi-seas.org/