Profile: Michael Barton
Barton poses with rocket "Leviathan," which was built by the MSU Space Cowboys rocket design team.
With his impeccable academic record and long list of extra-curricular activities, most observers describe Michael Barton as a very down-to-earth student. Little do they know that this aerospace engineering major is actually a truly spaced-out individual.
The 23-year-old has always loved NASA and has spent his college career building a resume that one day will net him a job within the space industry. But it's not the typical childhood dream of walking on the moon or being the first man on Mars that drives him. Barton just wants to help make sure those future missions happen and that space exploration reaches its full potential.
A native of Collierville, Tenn., Barton is a natural leader. In addition to completing coursework that will catch the eye of any space-industry recruiter, he also has spent cooperative education semesters as a space shuttle engineer with the United Space Alliance.
"I got to work in and around the space shuttle during its last few years of operation," Barton said, with excitement in his voice. "For any American, that would be a cool experience, but for someone like me, who for so many years has been driven by a love for space, it was completely awesome."
He added, "Everything there was really big and expensive, and so cool. The novelty wears off for most people after about six months, but even then I was often taken aback at the amazing things I was able to do as part of my job. It gave my co-workers a chuckle."
Stationed at the agency's site in Cape Canaveral, Fla., he got to touch and help develop the equipment that would take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
On launch day, he was able to give others their own once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"My co-workers said you didn't want to be at the launch console because you couldn't see anything," Barton explained. "Instead, I volunteered my time with NASA to serve as a tour guide for groups of people who had been selected from a waiting list to come see a launch. We took them to the NASA causeway, which is six miles away but has a direct view over the water. I was able to watch four launches from there."
Set to graduate this week, Barton already has his next work experience lined up. This summer, he will spend 12 weeks in Washington, D.C., as an intern with the National Research Council's Space Studies Board, an independent forum that advises companies and government agencies on space science. He is the first student from Mississippi to ever be selected for the prestigious internship. This fall, he will continue his studies at Purdue University, where he will pursue a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics with a focus on astrodynamics and space applications.
Next week … Sarah Mutter !