Engineer from Bay County Headed To A NASA Launch

Miya VanTol has been invited to the launch of NASA’s Psyche mission from Kennedy Space Center in conjunction with SpaceX. NASA is targeting Oct. 12 at 10:16 a.m. EDT for the launch. Psyche’s journey through space will last nearly six years and about 2.2 billion miles (3.6 billion kilometers) before reaching an asteroid of the same name, which is orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe Psyche could be part of the core of a planetesimal, likely made of iron-nickel metal. The ore will not be mined but studied from orbit in hopes of giving researchers a better idea of what may make up Earth’s core.


Additionally, the Psyche spacecraft will host a pioneering technology demonstration: NASA’s DSOC (Deep Space Optical Communications) experiment. This laser communications system will test high-bandwidth optical communications to Earth for the first two years of Psyche’s journey.

Miya is thrilled to be involved and has Delta College to thank for her interest and involvement in STEM. Without a clear direction after graduating from high school, Delta College provided her with more financial freedom and time to explore different subjects and learn what she was interested in. Additionally, the faculty and professors there created such an effective learning environment in those STEM courses that it kept her and her fellow scholars engaged and involved.

A little over 60 credits later, she transferred to Michigan State University, where she declared her major and attended the Applied Engineering Sciences program. This engineering program was unique in that graduates learn to combine STEM knowledge and background with a number of different business functions. Michigan State prepared her for her professional career after graduation. The exercises and projects assigned in her undergraduate career, in those higher-level courses, relate very closely to projects she works on today in her current role as project manager at Trane Technologies. The program itself excelled in ensuring students were well-prepared for whatever role came next after graduation.

A very special callout should be made to Michigan State’s partnerships that assist with accomplishing this goal. Miya will always have pride in her opportunity to work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for her Capstone project during her final year. Her team of five was tasked to essentially help build awareness for their mission to 16-Psyche. The mission’s principal investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, wanted the Psyche Inspired and Psyche Capstones to focus on engaging broader participation from students and the public around different aspects of this mission. Her team was involved, specifically, with their Psyche-inspired program, which was focused on combining the scientific and engineering facts about the mission with artistic and creative works of undergraduate students across the country.

Miya believes there is a lot that can be learned about how NASA’s JPL team coordinated the outreach for this launch. Through combining art and STEM, the team inspired the broader public to become interested in space exploration and recognize that there is room for all fields of expertise when it comes to a grand project like the 16-Psyche mission. They not only created a wider audience that now have a personal connection to this launch, but they proved that science, engineering, technology, and mathematics can be enjoyed by all. There is tremendous enthusiasm surrounding the 16-Psyche’s STEAM objectives. JPL has also gained Miya’s continued interest and support in other missions through that one student collaboration project she  participated in, and she’s ecstatic to see that the launch date is finally nearing, estimated now for October 12th 2023.

Miya is fortunate to participate in the event and is an inspiration for others interested in STEM.  Students and educators can be involved in a variety of ways by using NASA resources like the example shown below.


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