This Future Astronaut Inspires Other Women to Blast Off
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Traveling to space is a dream for many aspiring astronauts. Girl Scout alumni Kellie Gerardi knows firsthand that making this dream a reality requires incredible determination, hard work, and diligent studies. Not only has she trained for spaceflight, but Gerardi is an aerospace and defense professional and popular science communicator. She is also the author of Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to Life in the Space Age.
“My career in space was indirect, but I credit that winding road with my ability to create outsized impact once I got here,” she tells CircleAround. “I was fascinated by space growing up, but I always viewed space travel as something reserved for a select group of special humans, and watching them achieve their own dreams was simply a perk of being alive in the 21st century.”
Geradi said it took years before she was able to redefine what was possible for her, but once she did, she started chasing her dreams. Now, Gerardi works with a number of commercial spaceflight companies and government agencies. She leads Special Projects for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and serves on the Defense Council for the Truman National Security Project.
“I’ve led launched rockets and led business development for a rocket company; I've served on a completely isolated crew at the Mars Desert Research Station; I've trained for suborbital spaceflight and tested spacesuits in microgravity, and I’ve had the opportunity to build a giant platform and share those experiences as an author, citizen-scientist, and science communicator,” she tells CircleAround.
Promoting Citizen-Science and STEM
This is especially important as the role of women in aeronautics is expanding at an exciting rate. Currently, NASA's Artemis project is promising to land a woman on the moon by 2024. Pop culture is also sending a message that it’s time to get more women in space. Over the Moon, for example, is a movie set to release this month (October 23, 2020) on Netflix. It’s about a girl following her dreams to explore beyond the Earth.
“Hundreds of humans have visited space in the last six decades, and yet only 65 of them have been women — just over 11 percent,” Gerardi tells CircleAround. “So you can understand why the announcement of NASA's new lunar program is so meaningful [...] When we talk about space exploration and settlement going forward, what we're really discussing is the future of the human species. It's critical that conversation includes a diversity of perspectives and stakeholders. Space needs women. Space also needs people of color. If the space industry wants the world's trust and support in the quest to open this amazing frontier for the benefit of humanity, then the space industry needs to more fully represent humanity.”
Space needs women. Space also needs people of color. If the space industry wants the world's trust and support, then the space industry needs to more fully represent humanity
Gerardi’s work is a reminder that this industry is not necessarily, well, rocket science. According to Gerardi, the next giant leap “will require the contributions of artists, engineers, and everyone in between.”
“It’ll never be lost on me that I’m enjoying a career in an industry that, until just a few decades ago, existed only in science fiction, like Star Trek,” she states. “The writers in those shows imagined a future that probed the boundaries of human progress. That progress, the hope not only to survive, but to live long and to prosper, is why we continue to go boldly. What a time to be alive!”