Alumni Feature

To the Moon…

Matt Kuhns ‘02 is helping lead a mission to the moon.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A Xavier alumnus is helping lead a mission to the moon.  Since leaving Xavier, Matt has been busy and now finds himself leading a group of engineers whose mission is to be the first to land on the south pole of the moon. 

Back to the beginning…

Upon graduating from Xavier, Matt attended UW Madison with Melissa Meyer ‘02, also from the Xavier class of 2002.  The two were married in 2006. Last year they were blessed with their daughter, Anna. Melissa graduated with a degree in Molecular Biology in 2006 and Matt with a degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2008.  Jobs took them briefly to Cleveland before they landed in California.  Matt joined Masten Space Systems in 2015. 

Matt considers himself fortunate, working his dream job with rockets and on the space program!  He is the Chief Engineer and Engineering Manager at Masten Space Systems, which specializes in vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) rocketry.  The company really took off (pun intended) in 2009 when Masten won the NASA Centennial Challenge Northrop Lunar Lander Challenge X-Prize for multiple simulated lunar landings.

The moon…

Masten's XL-1 lander was selected for a NASA Commercial Lunar Payload System (CLPS) mission to the south pole, landing in 2022.  As Chief Engineer and Deputy Project Manager on the program, Matt is involved in almost every aspect of the lander design as well as carrying out the mission. He admits it is a daunting responsibility, and recent landing failures show just how difficult it is to land on the moon, but he is up for the challenge.  Masten has over 600 rocket landings to date, so they are confident they can do it.

Shout out…

Matt wishes to give a shout out to Mr. Bartman and Mr. Lohse.  Matt feels Mr. Bartman had an immense impact on his success.  He firmly believes the first engineering job he got was “100% due to the drafting skills he taught me”.  Matt will need the precision Mr. Bartman taught more than ever to get to the moon.  He also lauds Mr. Lohse and credits him with helping Matt learn how to build things in his Engineering course.  He said that both were incredibly supportive and he is eternally grateful. 

Achievements and Activities:

5 patents and 25+ publications

  • Award winning photographer with a successful photography business exhibited in several galleries in Los Angeles. 
  •  Helped build the first prototype for C-Thru, which lets firefighters see in smoke-filled environments, helping to save lives. 
  • Founded Skyfire, which forecasts beautiful sunsets for photographers.  Skyfire has an app that works as part of The Photographer’s Ephemeris, one of the most widely used photography apps in the world. 
  • Helped map Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world.
  • Helped with real rocket sounds (from Masten) for the “First Man” movie about Neil Armstrong’s life.  The sound for the film was nominated for an Oscar. 
  • Volunteer work includes mentoring for FIRST Robotics and Engineers without Borders, recently helping with low-cost ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
  • Recently awarded the title of NASA NIAC Fellow for inventing a new way to safely land on the moon.
  • Helped build a hydrogen fuel cell car, which won awards at Tour de Sol.