City Councilmember’s career at NASA carries over to Palouse

Nathan Weller worked on multi-satellite project, one of few people to witness Mars landings, uses NASA experience to help community

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COURTESY OF NATHAN WELLER

“[Weller is] kind of like a giant teddy bear because he works out, he’s in great shape, [and] I feel like he dwarfs me in size and yet he’s got a big heart,” Councilmember Brandon Chapman said.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

Before joining Pullman City Council in January 2008, one councilmember worked at NASA and was involved in multiple projects. 

Councilmember Nathan Weller originally applied for a position with NASA in California. When he got a call back, NASA asked him to go to their Virginia headquarters instead, he said. 

“[Instead of a research intern], they wanted me to be a team lead, [and] to lead this project because it was new,” Weller said. “It was a very exciting opportunity.”

Weller was a team lead on a satellite project; the team took 16 different satellites and put them in one location to be used by scientists, politicians and the general public. 

The team was able to track everything from underground water resources to deforestation with the satellites, Weller said. 

The project was eventually picked up by the defense industry, and instead of returning home, Weller was asked to stay on as a consultant for the project. Working with NASA was one of his most rewarding experiences, he said. 

“There are so many projects [at NASA] that the wider public have no clue about,” he said. “We got excited about the Mars landing and fortunately I was one of the few that got to see that.”

While the Mars landing was exciting, Weller said there are many other projects just as important that do not get as much publicity. 

“When I was there, one of the projects that was being worked on was a jet that didn’t use any fuel whatsoever,” he said. 

While space-related events are rare on the Palouse, Weller said he still tries to incorporate his experiences from NASA into his work with the community. 

“Of course, there’s some stuff up at WSU. But I think ultimately for me, it’s a connection for our community,” he said. 

When Pullman had a chance to view an eclipse, Weller called up some people from NASA and requested solar glasses. His former boss in Virginia was able to send him some, free of charge, he said.  

Weller works closely with the library and is on the board for the Palouse Discovery Science Center, he said.  

“I told the library, here’s some glasses I got, give them out to the kids,” Weller said. “They were labeled NASA and … the kids went crazy for them.”

Councilmember Brandon Chapman said Weller has been a great person to be around since they met in 2013. Weller gets involved in the Pullman community as much as possible. 

“There are a number of facets within our community, things that we both care about that sort of align,” Chapman said. “It’s been nice to see how much he cares about making sure that people in Pullman are well fed, well read [and] cared for.”

Chapman has worked with Weller since Chapman joined the council three and half years ago. Chapman said Weller is always willing to help, and his 13 years of experience with the council comes in handy.

“Having Nathan on council for a number of years certainly gives a historical perspective that somebody like me, who is in their first term, might not have been around for things Nathan had seen,” he said.

Weller is not only a good person in the workplace, but a great person all around, Chapman said. 

“[Weller is] kind of like a giant teddy bear because he works out, he’s in great shape, [and] I feel like he dwarfs me in size and yet he’s got a big heart,” Chapman said.