Missouri S&T alumni shoot for the moon

Posted by
On March 28, 2024

Matt Klosterman stands in front of the Odysseus spacecraft that recently landed on the moon.

Matt Klosterman stands in front of the Odysseus spacecraft that recently landed on the moon. Photo by Intuitive Machines/Nick Rios.

In the 1960s, Donald Beinart, a Missouri S&T alumnus, helped create flight simulation systems for NASA’s Project Gemini, which was a precursor to the Apollo program’s manned lunar landings.

Almost six decades later, his grandson, Matt Klosterman, who is also a Missouri S&T alumnus, played a role in the country’s first lunar landing since the Apollo program came to an end.

“I didn’t directly set out to follow in my grandpa’s footsteps, but I love that this is something we have in common,” says Klosterman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from S&T in 2018. “He was involved in the beginning of our country’s spaceflight developments, and now I am working on similar projects.”

Klosterman says he first realized he wanted to be an engineer after taking a high school physics course in 2012.

“That is what kind of sealed my fate,” he says. “My teacher, Mr. Glenn Murray, explained everything in such relatable, hands-on ways and made me know what I wanted to do.

“I remember thinking: Wouldn’t it be so cool if I could use this math and science that I’m good at and do something amazing that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with technology?

About 12 years later, that’s exactly what he did.

Klosterman serves as a propulsion engineer for Intuitive Machines, the company that landed the Odysseus spacecraft on the moon’s surface in February 2024. He worked on the project’s liquid oxygen, liquid methane rocket engine and supporting systems for trajectory and breaking burns to maneuver and slow down the lander and allow it to have a safe descent to the Moon’s rocky, gray surface.

He has worked at Intuitive Machines for about three years. When he first interviewed with the company, he shared a unique selling point to support his candidacy: He already had experience working on a propulsion system for a spacecraft while he was a student at Missouri S&T.

Klosterman was a member of the university’s Satellite Research Team and helped develop the experimental propulsion system for the team’s satellite that was recently launched into space.

“I was able to feel confident throughout the interview process because I had so much more than just coursework to talk about,” he says. “This really gave me a jumpstart for my career at Intuitive.”

After graduating from S&T, Klosterman completed a cooperative education experience with NASA and then earned a master’s degree at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

But he says his experiences at S&T are most similar to what he now does every day.

“The experiences and knowledge I gained at S&T directly apply to everything I’m doing,” he says. “Being from St. Louis, S&T was always the obvious choice for me to attend, and it was absolutely the right decision to make.”

Even though a few weeks have passed since the lunar landing, Klosterman says he is already fully focused on his next project for Intuitive Machines. This project involves a drone that will detach from a future lunar lander and then fly multiple flights on the moon to take surface measurements and high-resolution imagery.

Alex Mundahl, a Missouri S&T alumnus who also was on Intuitive Machines’ propulsion team for the recent lunar landing, is joining Klosterman for this project as well. Mundahl earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the university in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

“This goes to show how a degree from Missouri S&T can help take graduates anywhere — even the moon,” Klosterman says.

About Missouri S&T

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.  

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