Where are they now? Michael Bernatovich GNA ’03

Where are they now? Michael Bernatovich GNA '03

When you were younger, did you ever dream of becoming an astronaut? Michael Bernatovich,  2003 Nanticoke graduate, became the next best thing. The formal title is Systems Engineering  Integration, Orion Crew & Service Module, and Integrated Landing System (ILS). But, if like me that may go in one ear and out of the other. A simpler way of putting it: Michael designs spaceships.

When Michael Bernatovich was a student at Greater Nanticoke Area, he chose the path less taken; the one which required rigorous courses and loads of homework. It wasn’t easy, but he embraced the idea that without challenge, there is no achievement. Michael had dreams – big dreams! Dreams are something many of us have, but we are unwilling to sacrifice in order to attain. In order to conquer his goal of becoming an aerospace engineer, he needed to set sights high. One of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning is the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the school’s aerospace engineering program is among the country’s best.

Upon graduating from GNA, Michael attended the Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. While studying at Georgia Tech, he majored in engineering and minored in Space Systems Design and Optimization. The Aerospace Engineering degree focuses on the systems of engineering principles and integration from a major (project lifecycles; system of systems) and minor (vehicle subsystem design & configuration) perspective. He attained his Bachelor’s Degree in 2008 and later received his Master’s Degree in 2014.

While obtaining his Master’s Degree, Michael worked as an analyst for the re-entry flight dynamic division. He ensured that the Orion spacecraft engineering design effort allowed for efficient integration with Mission College Center operations during a mission. During this time,  also served as a flight controller for the Space Shuttle Program as a landing analyst. For a year after his success with the Mission College Center operation, he led the Sasquatch team. Sasquatch is a tool that determines where items will land after being jettisoned from the capsule during the parachute phase of flight. He defined and tested the integration, along with reviewing the purpose and credibility of the software. And for his final task, he worked on the system and sub system management of the Orion, providing technical and programmatic insight consistent integration. 

GNA provided him with some of the essential building blocks for his success. Now with  children and a beautiful wife, The GNA Insider asked Michael to reflect on his years in high school.


Can you briefly explain your journey to NASA?

“When I was attending my 1st year at Georgia Tech, I decided to pursue a cooperative education (co-op) opportunity while I was earning my degree. I interviewed with several companies including NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), and ended up receiving an offer from NASA Clearly, I accepted this opportunity and completed 3 semesters as a co-op with divisions JSC. After completing my final co-op semester, I received an offer for a full time position… and, once again, I was happy to accept the opportunity!”


What made you want to become an engineer?

“It was an evolution through several interests. To keep it brief, I was initially interested in Architecture, but quickly learned of the more artistic discipline that’s required. That’s when transitioned over to the engineering discipline by way of Architectural Engineering. Soon after that I began researching other engineering disciplines. Based on that research and inspiration from my physics teacher (Mr.Fleury), I finally locked into my final major of Engineering.”


What advice would you give to high school students in regards to following their dreams being successful?

“Don’t choose a path that is the easiest or one that will make you the most money. In the run, life’s most fulfilling when doing something in which you have genuine interest. All goals in ultimately be a stepping stone to your next accomplishment.

All photos courtesy of Michael Bernatovich.