A former Stanford Tree reaches for the stars
Grayson Armour, ’23, grew up on a dairy farm in Illinois, where nightly views of the Milky Way inspired a fascination with distant horizons. He graduates in June with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace computational engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics.
The Milky Way shines above the Armour family dairy farm in southern Illinois, where Grayson Armour has been gazing up and dreaming about spaceflight for as long as he can remember.
“I’m so interested in the idea of sending people out there to explore,” Armour says. “Humans are not supposed to be there, but we have, through our own initiative and our own vigor, built these things that allow us to go there.”
In an introductory seminar during his first quarter at Stanford, Armour’s team designed a conceptual mission to study dust storms on Mars, which they presented to a panel of industry experts. That spring, he met Stanford alumna Ellen Ochoa, MS ’81, PhD ’85, a former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the first Hispanic woman to go to space.
“Meeting Dr. Ochoa that day – introducing myself to her and having her be interested in who I am and what I’m passionate about – was probably a pivot point in my entire life, where I decided I was going to pull all stops and reach for the stars, pun intended,” Armour says. “Stanford is just amazing for finding mentors who care about you and want you to succeed.”
Armour designed his own major, focusing on computer programming within aerospace engineering. During the pandemic, he took a leave of absence for an eight-month remote internship at NASA, where he wrote a software tool that automatically calculates precise trajectories for spaceflight missions based on actual, rather than planned, launch times. When Artemis I launched in 2022, NASA used Armour’s tool as the rocket was taking off. They’ll use it again in 2024 for Artemis II.
At Stanford, Armour also earned a minor in modern languages, spending a summer at Chonnam National University in South Korea on a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship; leaned into his love of music, entertaining fellow students as the lead singer of the funk-rock band General Consumption and as a member of the Stanford Harmonics; worked as a campus tour guide; and served as the 43rd Stanford Tree.
“Stanford is a place that is just completely filled to the brim with fun and awesome opportunities to develop yourself as a person and grow in ways that you don’t expect,” Armour says. “I can’t wait to see what I’ll do in the future if more opportunities are put in front of me and I keep saying yes.”
Story by Andrew Brodhead, Harry Gregory, Kurt Hickman, Julia James, and Tara Roberts.