Florida Tech Space Sciences Alumna Allison Taylor Participates in Immersive Mars Simulation
By Mary-Lou Watkinson, Florida Tech News Bureau // September 3, 2023
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – In fall 2022, the Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit, federally funded research and development center, sent Taylor and five other experts on a two-week immersive simulation at the Mars Desert Research Station.
The crew conducted field tests and experiments in a Mars-like environment to observe human performance and gather technical insights that could help inform future lunar and planetary missions.
“Our mission to the Mars Desert Research Station was a special project at Aerospace,” says Taylor, who served as the executive officer on the mission. “The proposal to conduct one of these missions to grow our skillset was sponsored by a strategic initiative.”
Taylor is a senior project leader in the human exploration and spaceflight division at Aerospace. In this position, she supports NASA’s Artemis missions, specifically through the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program.
Taylor looks at developing projects and addresses challenges that may arise while keeping in mind the requirements to ensure all components are integrated and on track to meet predetermined milestones.
“I think knowing that I’m using a large part of my time during the day thinking about scenarios for executing operations on the moon is one of my favorite parts,” Taylor says.
“Knowing that I’m making a positive contribution to those next lunar missions and am part of the group that’s going to inspire the next generation is probably my favorite part.”
Taylor says she enjoyed getting hands-on experience at the MDRS, as most of the time she is sitting at a desk supporting people remotely, and it helps her in the long run when working on the requirements for future systems.
Before joining the Aerospace team in 2016, Taylor had spent 10 years in the aerospace industry. Early in her career, Taylor was trying to figure out her next step after graduating with a bachelor’s in space sciences.
She thought she had a job lined up with a company she had previously interned for. In a turn of events, the company ended up not being able to hire all of its interns.
Panicking and trying to figure out her next move, Taylor found a summer job with late distinguished professor emeritus Sam Durrance at the Florida Space Research Institute at Kennedy Space Center.
“I can’t say enough about how supportive and inspirational both Dr. Durrance, his other staff and colleagues, and the other interns were in support of my career aspirations,” Taylor says.
Reflecting on her time at Florida Tech, she felt the university provided her with a good foundation for continuing her education and pursuing a career.
Since then, she has worked for companies such as Bigelow Aerospace, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Apogee Integration.
“I worked extremely hard, and all the coursework was very challenging,” Taylor says. “Having that foundational physics-based degree—I could do anything after that.”
But her favorite Florida Tech memory? Meeting her husband.
“We were in the Swing Dance Club, so we did a lot of swing dancing around Florida Tech and different venues,” she says.
While she can’t guarantee that particular experience for incoming Panthers, Taylor did advise that students take the initiative in making connections while in school and build a strong network.
“People always talk about building your network, and you never know when you’ll need a recommendation letter for something,” she says.
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