Umar Kagzi, a senior at Queens College, was invited by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to watch the launch of its Artemis I spacecraft mission to the moon November 16, 2022 as part of his internship with NASA. Kagzi, a resident of Flushing in the borough of Queens in New York, is a computer science major and had helped, along with his team, to develop the software for Artemis I.
Now in his final year, Kagzi will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in December 2022. With a special interest in software related to space travel, Kagzi had approached NASA for an internship under its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement which awarded him a paid remote internship in the summer of 2021 as a software engineer with the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
NASA’s STEM Engagement program is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF is an independent agency of the United States government which aims to increase research and education in sciences and engineering) STEM program. STEM Engagement program offers training programs for diverse students and creates unique opportunities for them to contribute to NASA’s work, thus attracting diverse students to STEM by providing learning opportunities.
Kagzi’s internship did just that. He, along with other interns, was given an opportunity to develop software for organizing a multimillion-dollar NASA competition called the Deep Space Food Challenge. Kagzi and his team developed a new software application within two months and it was selected out of hundreds and used for the official competition.
After the success of his software for NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, Kagzi landed a second internship in the fall of 2021 with NASA’s Space Flight Software Development team and given an opportunity to learn and help write test flight software for the Space Launch System–Artemis Program.
Spacecraft Artemis I is set with cameras which will offer new views of the Orion, the Earth and the Moon. It has already shared new and spectacular views of the Earth after its launch November 16th. Artemis I is the stepping stone to more space exploration leading to manned flights to the Moon.
The primary task at this internship of Kagzi was to develop a software for both the Artemis I and Artemis II spaceships using Python and an internal NASA tool. In preparation for the actual launch, the software Kagzi worked on tested the internal components and the guidance and navigation systems of the spaceships in a virtual environment.
After his second internship, Kagzi was selected in January 2022 for his third consecutive internship at NASA, which he holds till now, through the national Pathways Program.
Instituted in 2010, the Pathways Program is a three part program of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Internship Program, the Recent Graduates Program and the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. The Pathways Program invites talented students and recent graduates to working with the federal government.
Selected from a group of 160 students from the pool of 10,000 applicants, Kagzi’s internship was that of being a remote software engineer, developing NASA software projects with his team at the Kennedy Space Center.
With a deep interest in space sciences, Kagzi looks forward to taking advantage of his current internship to learn new and challenging work and to pursuing an advanced degree.