Remarkable Alumni in Space Exploration


To infinity and beyond
The influence of Missouri S&T grads extends beyond the Earth. These Miners have helped map the cosmos and have flown in outer space.

 • Jonathan Brinkmann, Phys'75, an affiliate professor at New Mexico State University, is part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, one of the most ambitious and influential surveys of the skies in the history of astronomy. Since 2000, the SDSS has obtained deep, multicolor images covering more than a quarter of the sky and created 3-D maps with more than 930,000 galaxies and 120,000 quasars. Brinkmann helped build the instruments used for the survey at Apache Point Observatory near Sunspot, N.M., where he has been a scientific instruments engineer, manager and systems administrator. He considers himself the "SDSS Factotum," helping take the instruments and equipment from a "buggy experiment" to a reliable, smoothly functioning system. His extensive background in physics, astrophysics, computer programming and instrumentation helped him coordinate the equipment installation, commission, upgrades and maintenance. SDSS researchers have studied the properties of galaxies, the evolution of quasars, and the structure and stellar populations of the Milky Way.

The milky Way ... rises up from behind the Earth like a glowing white path leading off into the distance, inviting you to follow. The stars surround the Earth and wrap around her horizon -- a blanket of light illustrating that we are not alone.

- Sandra "Sandy" Magnus, Phys'86, MS EE'90  

 • Janet Kavandi, MS Chem'82, has logged more than 33 days in space and traveled more than 13.1 million miles during her three successful missions as a NASA astronaut. Chosen as an astronaut candidate in 1994, her first space flight was as a mission specialist on the shuttle Discovery in 1998, the ninth and final shuttle-Mir docking mission, concluding the joint U.S./Russian Phase 1 program. That mission was the initial flight of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which detects dark matter and antimatter in space. Kavandi then flew aboard Endeavour in 2000 on a space radar mission to map more than 47 million miles of the Earth's land surface for a high-resolution 3-D topographical map. Her most recent mission was in 2001 on the shuttle Atlantis to install a new airlock for the International Space Station (ISS). She controlled the shuttle's robot arm, which maneuvered two fellow astronauts as they installed the new passageway. Kavandi is director of Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson Space Center, where she manages the U.S. Astronaut Office and the Aircraft Operations Division at Ellington Field in Texas. Kavandi holds two patents for her pre-astronaut work on pressure-indicating paints.

 • Sandra "Sandy" Magnus, Phys'86, MS EE'90, left the Earth in November 2008 for a 4 ½-month stay aboard the International Space Station. During her visit, Magnus blogged for the Missouri S&T-hosted site She returned in March 2009. This was her second space flight. During the mission, she helped install components necessary to upgrade the ISS from a three-person to a six-person crew. She also served as science officer, conducting experiments and helping take care of payloads. Magnus became a NASA mission specialist in 1998. Her first shuttle mission was in 2002 aboard Atlantis, delivering and installing a new component to the space station's truss structure. She operated the space station's robotic arm during the three spacewalks required to outfit and activate the new component. Her last mission was also the last for the shuttle program. Magnus flew aboard Atlantis as one of four mission specialists on the shuttle fleet's final flight to the ISS on July 8, 2011.