A Journey from SIC to NASA

Submitted by Angela Wilson, SIC
excerpt taken from story by Shannon Welker, SIC Student
photos, submitted by Mr. & Mrs. Oldham.

Oldham and his wife, Jessica, standing in front of the Orion Ground Test Article. Oldham states, “This is a precursor to the spacecraft that recently made a successful flight around the Earth during Orion Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1).” photos, submitted by Mr. & Mrs. Oldham

Growing up in Shawneetown, Joseph Oldham was a small-town boy with big goals and aspirations. After graduating from Gallatin County High School in 1999. Several members of his family attended Southeastern Illinois College, and his aunt, Dr. Mary Jo Oldham was a former president of the school. Because of this, it came as no surprise that Oldham decided to attend Southeastern in pursuit of an associate degree in pre-engineering.
Oldham expressed that SIC gifted him with a plethora of skills, including strong study habits. He explained that he was struggling to find inspiration to really push himself in his laborious math and science courses and was astonished when a professor at SIC told him that in order to truly ‘get’ it, he needed to dedicate two or three hours of studying for every hour of class time. While this appeared to be a difficult feat, Oldham eventually learned how to convince himself that what he was studying was genuinely interesting, a way of thinking that has had long-lasting effects on his approach to life.
Dr. Steve Rea spoke very highly of Oldham, saying, “He was very bright. All of the instructors loved him. A very impressive young man.”
He currently resides near Denver, Colorado, with his wife, Jessica, and their young son, Oliver. In addition, Oldham works for NASA’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.
Oldham and his team are developing the Orion spacecraft, which will be used for a US mission to Mars. He explained that Orion is similar to the Apollo mission conducted in the 1960s and 70s. Oldham works as a structural dynamicist.
He explained his job by saying, “I help work out many things on the Orion spacecraft from how the parts of the ship will separate during flight staging events or how hard the air will pummel the outside of the craft on its way to space, to how the parachutes are launched from the capsule to slow the spacecraft before landing.”
More information about the Orion spacecraft, scheduled to fly in 2018, can be found at www.lockheedmartin.com. Orion is currently undergoing assembly and testing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Oldham and his wife, Jessica, on the NASA Kennedy Space Center Causeway, Cape Canaveral, Florida, watching the launch of Orion EFT-1 mission 2014. photos, submitted by Mr. & Mrs. Oldham