Making history on the final frontier
A 1984 graduate in mathematics, Mark Kasinger built a foundation for his future education and career at NNU. Mark remembers his professors fondly and shares that the classes he took taught him not just the material but also how to learn. “They equipped me for a career where new challenges can be met, and they taught me a willingness and desire for discovery,” he shares. The faculty also helped to create a community in their department. “I mattered. My interests mattered. They were there not only to educate me towards earning a degree; they were great examples of how to live a Christian life and share that life with others.”
While at NNU, Mark made the decision to pursue work on the final frontier. “I have always been interested in space,” he says, “then at some point I came across material from NASA that helped to inspire my senior project.” Mark applied to NASA during his senior year, but a hiring freeze caused him to look elsewhere. Faculty put him in contact with alumnus Rick Hieb (’77) who was already working at NASA and would later become an astronaut. Rick passed Mark’s resume on to the Johnson Space Center (JSC), opening the door for Mark’s first job in the aerospace industry.
Since then, Mark has held a variety of positions in the industry including time spent at the National Security Agency and Boeing Co. He is currently working for NASA at the JSC as group lead for the Production, Integration and Control Office in the Mission Operations Directorate (MOD). MOD provides real-time planning and operation support for the International Space Station (ISS). Mark’s group is responsible for planning and integrating all software-related changes on the ISS and working with the flight crew to implement the changes. “You don’t have to be an astronaut to realize you’re part of an industry that is unique, and that you’re one of those who actually gets to participate in making history,” Mark shares.
NNU alumnus and planetary geologist Jim Zimbelman (’76) has followed Mark’s career and speaks highly of his achievements. “Mark is never one to self-promote, but the numerous awards he has received during his career speak to the recognition of his contributions by NASA and the Johnson Space Center.”
Most recently Mark was awarded the JSC Director’s Commendation Award for his work with international partners and the JSC Group Achievement Award for his work on the Oxygen Generation System for the space station. In the midst of success, Mark continues to display a servant’s heart. “To think that what I do in my job has a direct effect on the occupants working aboard the station in the harsh environment of space is humbling and, at the same time, a calling for excellence.”