Karen Mae Baldonado

Karen Mae

Karen Mae is a first-generation student from New York City pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis. Karen Mae graduated from the City College of New York in January 2022 with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. She is interested in mission design, Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL), human spaceflight, and astrodynamics.

Karen Mae has interned at NASA Langley, NASA Armstrong, and is currently a Pathways Graduate Student intern at NASA Johnson. At Langley, she worked on the project “Design of Planetary Rovers Using Tensegrity” within the Vehicle Analysis Branch in the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate from January to August 2021. The project was to design a mission to Saturn’s moon, Titan, for a tensegrity rover. Her role on the project was to design the EDL sequence, concept of operations, and aeroshell design for the rover. This project was presented at the Interplanetary Probe Workshop and NASA Innovative and Advanced Concepts Symposium.

Her second internship at NASA Armstrong was for Fiber Optics Sensing Systems (FOSS) technologies at the Research Engineering Operations Branch from January 2022 to June 2022. Here she performed CAD modelling for FOSS technology for lab experiments and in-flight technology. She also assisted the Technology Transfer Office with inquiries from private companies about using the FOSS technology companies and assessed the commercial viability of those projects.

At NASA Johnson, Karen Mae is an intern in the Flight Mechanics and Trajectory Design Branch, the branch that designed the Artemis trajectories, within the Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Division. She has worked on the Pterodactyl project, a project to develop a guidance and control solution for the deployable aeroshell Adaptable Deployable Entry Placement Technology (ADEPT). Karen Mae verified and improved software that combined guidance and controls with aerodynamics to analyze the Pterodactyl trajectory. She was also able to support the Artemis II mission by evaluating emergency abort sequences for Orion in High Earth Orbit (HEO) within a specific launch period. Given that this internship took place during the Artemis I mission, she was also able to OJT (On the Job Training) in the Mission Control backrooms with the Trajectory, Analysis, RetarGeting Optimization (TARGO) team while Orion was returning to Earth. During OJT, she saw how the team provided the next coordinates for Orion, evaluated emergency abort trajectories, and was even able to provide input for those trajectories.

In her free time, Karen Mae enjoys reading, film, weightlifting, playing basketball, and outreach. She has been able to speak at multiple NASA and NASA-related events about her experience as a NASA intern and her desire to represent those from diverse backgrounds like hers. Karen Mae hopes to inspire the next generation of students with her story of overcoming adversity.