NWU Senior Chases Astronaut Dream All the Way to NASA History Office

  • Nolan Lott
  • Nolan Lott
    Nolan stands with a copy of the Voyager record that was sent to space in 1977.
  • Nolan Lott
  • Nolan Lott
    Nolan stands with a copy of the Voyager record that was sent to space in 1977.

Nolan Lott was only a toddler when Ron Howard’s film, Apollo 13, hit the theaters.

When he was old enough to watch and understand the Academy Award-winning film about the aborted 1970 lunar mission, he —like many young boys — dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

“I started to read everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with space or NASA,” said the Nebraska Wesleyan senior from Lincoln. “As I got older and started taking higher-level math courses, I realized I wasn’t able to do the math that NASA engineers needed to be able to do. That’s when I decided to start focusing on my passion for history.”

Now Lott is chasing that dream down a different path.

This fall Lott is interning at the NASA History Office in Washington, D.C. through the Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP). He is the first NWU student to intern with NASA.

CHIP connects NWU students to an array of Washington, D.C. internships. Students live on Capitol Hill in apartments located near their internship sites, work in government and non-government offices and take classes and seminars that provide further meaning to their internship experiences.

Lott was initially set to intern at the World War I Centennial Commission, but applied for the internship at NASA on a whim, thinking he would be grateful to work at either place. He emailed Chief Historian Dr. Bill Barr, participated in a phone interview, and within a week was notified of his acceptance into the NASA internship program.

Lott spends his days managing NASA history social media sites, researching and writing social media posts, and accompanying his supervisor to daily meetings. Over 11,000 friends of the NASA History Facebook page are being inspired by Lott’s daily posts.

“Beautiful! Thank you NASA,” posted one person in response to a photo taken from the International Space Station.

“Truly awesome sight,” another commented on the photo of Apollo 17 resting on the launch pad.

“I like attending the Office of Communications meetings because it gives insight into what is going on in the different offices across NASA,” said Lott. “These meetings range from upcoming events, press releases, web features on NASA.gov to current and upcoming research.”

Lott credits his many Nebraska Wesleyan classes for helping prepare him for an internship focused on research and writing.

“When I spend several hours tracking down a 70-year-old document and figuring out why it’s important, it helps to have good research methods,” he said. “Most of my history classes are writing intensive, and since writing is what I do most of my day, I feel my classes at NWU have prepared me well to work at NASA.

When Lott isn’t at his internship or attending class, he’s exploring the city he’s calling home for 15 weeks, touring the White House and monuments, and attending baseball and hockey games.

Lott will return to campus in January to finish his college career, earning degrees in history and social sciences education. He plans to be a high school history teacher.