Seneca grad is rocket scientist working on Artemis I project

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Wyatt Fisher stands with the Artemis I rocket in the background. (Photo submitted)

This view shows how high the Artemis I rocket is, 322 feet. (Photo submitted)

Jennifer Fisher talks to her class about the Artemis I Project on the first day of school at Seneca Monday morning. The Artemis rocket is on the screen. Jennifer teaches middle school science and STEM and is teaching a unit about the Artemis mission. The launch was scrubbed Monday morning. The new day is Friday. (Photo by Ted Pennekamp)

A Seneca High School graduate is truly a rocket scientist. Wyatt Fisher works for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and is currently working on the ongoing Artemis I rocket project. 

The Artemis I rocket had its first launch opportunity between 7:33 a.m. and 9:33 a.m. on Aug. 29 but the launch was scrubbed. A new launch date has been set for Friday, Sept. 2. The Space Launch Systems (SLS) rocket and the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) (or the crew capsule) are currently at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, making final preparations for launch. This mission will lay the framework to ensure that a crewed Artemis II mission will be successful. 

“After 50 years, Artemis will take us back to the moon,” said Wyatt, a 2000 graduate of Seneca High School, and a 2006 graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. 

Wyatt will be sitting console during the mission. He has worked with NASA for 16 years as a systems engineer. 

“Basically, a systems engineer has to know enough about a variety of systems, understand how they work together, and be able to coordinate between people working systems and programs to make sure things will work,” said Wyatt. “It’s very interdisciplinary, I am a mechanical engineer, but there are NASA systems engineers that are electrical, chemical, aerospace, and many others. All are important, nobody can do this all themselves. I’ve worked design, development, and test for rocket and crew systems. Basically, I’m a rocket scientist.”

Wyatt lives in rural Eastman and his wife Jennifer teaches at Seneca.  Their three children, Penelope, Calvin and Olivia, also attend Seneca.

“We’re very excited,” said Jennifer. “He’s been working on this project for over 15 years, and it will be exciting to see it finally launch.” 

Jennifer tried to show the launch live on Monday, the first day of school, but the mission was postponed. She said she will be showing the launch on Friday. Hopefully, everything will go well. 

“I teach middle school science and STEM, and I intend to teach my classes about the mission,” said Jennifer. “Wyatt agreed to come in to speak to my classes, and other classes in the school. I think it is very important for the kids to see what he has accomplished, and that these are options for opportunities and careers. Having someone in the community involved in space exploration brings that idea a little more tangible for students.”

“It is really exciting to see a Seneca alumni achieve what Wyatt has at NASA,” said Seneca District Administrator David Boland. “Our school community would like to congratulate him and his family, we are extremely proud of him! Seneca Schools has had many high achieving alumni over the years, and Wyatt certainly has represented himself and our community well.”

“This type of remote work wasn’t always possible, or practical,” said Wyatt. “It took me about 10 years of working with people, in person and virtually, to get to the point where I could confidently work remotely full-time. I worked in Huntsville, Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Huntsville does most of the rocket performance and rocket engineering work, so my background leans in that direction, but much of my work as a systems engineer wound up involving coordination with other engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. And this is true for most of the people I interact with, we are very distributed teams with wide-ranging backgrounds, it has been one of our major strengths. So when my wife had the opportunity to take a teaching job back home, I was ideally situated to transition to full-time remote.”

“I normally travel about six times a year to work in person, and attend face-to-face meetings,” Wyatt continued. “This past year there has been more travel to prepare for working console. Typically, there has been a flight simulation once a month that I participate in. The sims help prepare us for situations that could come up on flights, and help keep us familiar with our roles. Our console is at Johnson Space Center in Houston, so that is where I will travel to sit console. There are other consoles at Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center, once again, a distributed system to help reduce the likelihood of a storm or power outage from causing major flight issues.” 

Wyatt says, “Spaceflight is hard, we skirt the edges of what is currently physically possible, but the people are great, truly some of the best in the world. New technologies and new materials help, but it’s the people that get things to work.”

Editor’s Note: Ted Pennekamp and Charley Preusser contributed to this article.

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