A student organization at MSOE helped launch mechanical engineering alumnus Justin McElderry ’21 into his career path. During his time at MSOE, McElderry joined MSOE’s NASA Lunabotics team, an organization that is directly affiliated with NASA where students at higher education institutions construct robots that can handle the terrain and conditions of the Moon for competitions. It was here that he got exposed to the work of NASA and helped him decide that he wanted to work there after graduation.

McElderry had the opportunity to intern at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama over one of his college summers within their microgravity group. This experience led to receiving a co-op work opportunity that converted to a full-time job working on the Mars Ascent Vehicle. So far in his career at NASA as a materials engineer, he’s been able to make an impact through the projects he has worked on.

“I became co-investigator on MISSE-19. The Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) investigates the effects of long-term exposure of materials by exposing samples on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS) on low earth orbit,” said McElderry.  “My experiment tested several 3D printed polymers I outfitted (in dog bone form) on a former flight tray and these samples will be launched to the ISS in March 2024. It was my proudest moment in my career because none of these polymers have been sent to space and I felt like it was the most difference I have made to the space exploration field so far in my career.”

In addition to this accomplishment, McElderry is excited for publications related to his MISSE work to be published as well as an additional publication he contributed to regarding work with the Los Alamos National Laboratory about regolith simulants.

McElderry’s MSOE education helped him find success at NASA through the valuable skills learned in classes and relationships formed with faculty during his college career.

“MSOE provided me with not just the course work and knowledge of materials and mechanical engineering but brought me the commitment to get projects done in tough timeframes, the communication I needed to work with other engineers, the enthusiasm and motivation to pursue space technology through professors who were valuable mentors and the courage to speak up for critical discussions on space-flight hardware such as Artemis and ISS payloads.”

Originally from Elburn, Illinois, McElderry has been enjoying his time in Alabama where he’s had the opportunity to explore the Appalachian Mountains and spend time outdoors hiking, biking and rafting. He also enjoys swing dancing, spending time with friends and coworkers and he hopes to travel to all 50 states.