Hello! My name is Jarrett Murray and I was the 2018 FISE United Space School Western Canadian Delegate. The United Space School is a school that takes place in Houston, Texas for two weeks during the summer. This school brings together 47 students from 23 different countries. All of the students are divided into 5 different teams and are tasked with the job of planning a manned mission to Mars.  This program has completely changed my life and was the best two weeks I have ever had! I am excited to share more about my experience. 

I was on the red team which was in charge of designing the transit vehicle that would take the crew from Earth to Mars. More specifically, I was in charge of the orbital mechanics and propulsion. This meant that I had to figure out the different orbits we would be in, the type of transfer orbit, the engine we would use and the math behind all of that. It was a very big challenge but in the end very rewarding. Before the school I didn’t realize what I was capable of doing, and now I see that the stars are within reach. At the end of the program we gave our final presentations. It was an incredible experience being able to speak about and defend our ideas with aerospace engineers. After our presentations I was able to make a lot of connections that I will be able to develop as I pursue my career in aerospace.

In addition to this project we had amazing exposure to the aerospace industry. It was absolutely surreal having the opportunity to learn from NASA workers every day. We had lectures from Planetary Scientists, Mission Controllers, Engineers, and NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Brian. Having the opportunity to learn from these industry experts was a transformational experience. Every day I think about these lectures and I realize just how much I learned. It’s interesting because half way through the program I asked myself what I had learned so far. I found it difficult to pinpoint anything. After this reflection I realized that it felt normal to have all this knowledge. My new normal was that I understand the Life Support Systems of the ISS. It was normal that I would wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea for the propulsion system that I worked on for hours. It all just felt like me. After our team’s final presentation I was talking to the panel about these thoughts that I was having in my head. All they told me was ‘welcome to the aerospace industry’.

Another amazing part of the experience were the cultural aspects. During my stay in Houston I was able to stay with two host families. My first host family had two young kids who were really funny. After school if we had time we would swim and eat barbeque. This may seem insignificant but it was so fun and really showed how warm my host family was. My second host family was very familiar with the United Space School. Criss ‘Mummy’ Butler has been around the school for many years. Every night we watched baseball and I grew to like this sport. Throughout the two weeks we participated in multiple local events to take a break from school and have fun. We went to the Kemah Boardwalk amusement park and Putt-Putt where we played games. We also had the opportunity to go to a Houston Astros baseball game and a Houston Dynamos game. Both of these games were so much fun! The atmosphere was incredible!

Finally, through this experience I formed friendships that I think will be lifelong. I stayed with a student from the Netherlands named Torben. It was really fun getting to know each other and learn about each other’s culture and perspectives.  I learned that the Netherlands is really small. Every time we went out his first reaction was to say how big everything was. I even had the same reaction as ‘everything’s bigger in Texas!’ It was incredible to work with students from every continent around the world. The people I had the privilege of working with were the nicest and most intelligent people I have ever met in my life. It was amazing working with them because we never really had any conflict. Everybody had the mindset of doing what was best for the mission and that really brought us all together. This showed me that even though we are from completely different parts of the world we had a lot more that brought us together than separated us. It was incredible to be able to learn this and I look forward to sharing future adventures around the world.

This program has cemented what I want to do with the rest of my life. Next year I’m planning to go to either the University of Toronto or Carleton to study Aerospace Engineering. After this education I would like to become a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I would love to pursue a Master’s degree in something space related. Eventually, my dream is to become an astronaut. Throughout this entire experience I’ve had the opportunity to make so many connections around the world. I’ve been able to stay in contact with former Canadian Astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk. There is no other way I’d ever have these opportunities. The learning, experiences and friendships made by this program are once in a lifetime. I am so grateful for FISE and the Hangar Flight Museum for making this experience possible. As I literally reach for the stars I will always cherish these two weeks and how they changed my life forever. 


If you have any questions I can be reached at