The news from space is exciting! There seem to be new developments all the time and it is exciting to see the success that women in space are having in particular. They are making incredible contributions and while it’s hard to choose from the many accomplished women in the field, here are a few inspirational examples.
Alyssa Carson – Space Enthusiast and Future Astronaut?
Alyssa Carson has wanted to be an astronaut since she was 3. She’s already done plenty to prepare for her dream of joining a mission to Mars. She’s the only person to have attended all seven space camps, including in Turkey and Canada, and is also a pilot, scuba certified, and has training in g-force, micro gravity, and water survival among other skills. She’s now at the Florida Institute of Technology, majoring in Astrobiology and aiming for a PhD and eventually a job at NASA, she hopes.
“Ideally, I just want to contribute in some way to the space program — whether that is the mission to Mars — being on it — or whether that’s doing work on Earth for the mission, or any other mission.”
Alyssa welcomes being a role model and frequently speaks to young girls about pursuing careers in STEM, but is also still inspired by female astronauts like Sandra Magnus, who she met at a career day as a youngster. I love Alyssa’s enthusiasm and drive. She is pursuing her dreams with passion and a plan. We can all learn from her example.
Hayley Arceneaux – Physician’s Assistant and Future SpaceX Crewmember
If everything goes according to plan, Hayley Arceneaux will be on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in October 2021. Hayley is a physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and will be aboard the rocket as the guest of billionaire Jared Isaacson who purchased the first of its kind flight. Wanting the mission to be more than a fieldtrip for the wealthy, he is using it to raise money and awareness. He is raffling two of the seats to raise money for continued research and also wanted to honor a healthcare worker of St. Jude’s choice by choosing them for the third spot.
St. Jude chose Ms. Arceneaux, who is not only a frontline worker at the hospital but a former patient and bone cancer survivor as well. Hayley was diagnosed when she was just 10 soon after earning her black belt in taekwondo. As she underwent treatment, Hayley talked about working at St. Jude one day, helping children like her. In addition to work with young patients as a PA, she is an avid traveler, well-suited to orbit the earth for 3-4 days – the first private space crew to do so. She expressed hope that St. Jude patients will be inspired by her trip.
“They’ll be able to see a cancer survivor in space, especially one that has gone through the same thing that they have. It’s going to help them visualize their future.”
I know I am inspired! Full disclosure, my family and ATR International have long been supporters of St. Jude. I’ve seen firsthand the dedication and commitment at work there and am thrilled for Hayley and the hospital!
MiMi Aung – NASA Scientist and Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Project Manager
Finally, while our young people train for the future, NASA engineer MiMi Aung and her team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory just flew a helicopter on Mars!
Aung was project manager of the Ingenuity team that developed the helicopter. I think we all held our breath as the relatively tiny helicopter rose about 10 feet above the surface of Mars, hovered, turned, and landed safely exactly as planned. Cheering erupted as Aung ripped up her contingency speech and celebrated with her coworkers. You’ve probably seen it already – but it never gets less amazing. If Alyssa or Hayley, or anyone, wants to go to Mars, Aung and her team’s accomplishment is one of many things that has to happen first. “Each world gets only one first flight,” Aung said, calling it “the ultimate dream.”
The successful flight marks the culmination of years of work as a team focused on that goal, and personally, the fruit of a long career for Aung. She joined JPL in 1990, and the team tasked with the Mars helicopter flight in 2015. She is a reminder of the dedication, incredible talent and, yes, ingenuity that are the precursors to the more glamorous manned space flights. She and her team remind us that there are so many jobs, and so many different ways that women can contribute while working in STEM related fields – space exploration is just one, although it sure is an exciting one!
These are inspiring women but it’s important to remember though, that we are all role models for the younger generation. We each have the power to inspire and help them achieve their dreams. Thanks for reminding me of that Ms. Carson, Arceneaux, and Aung!