I am 17 years old and will start my senior year of high school in the fall. Like most kids, space has always been something that excited and amazed me. Even as a young child, I would stare up at the stars, wondering what was out there and how I could find it.
Unfortunately, growing up in my generation I began to face the reality that being an astronaut was not exactly a realistic career choice. People told me that it was almost impossible to work for NASA and that the space program had almost no budget so what was the point in trying anyways. This was really hard for me to take in, but I moved on and began to accept the reality that I would just have to become a doctor or lawyer when I grew up.
However, after an incredibly unexpected turn of events last year, my dream of going to space was reignited, when I was able to create a position for myself at XCOR Aerospace, a commercial space company based out of Mojave, California.
The biggest perk of working for XCOR is that every employee gets a free trip into suborbital space aboard our spacecraft, Lynx. When I found this out, I could not have been more excited: since Lynx is set to start flying within the year, that would mean that I would become the youngest person ever to visit space!
As XCOR’s Communication and Youth Outreach Associate, I have taken this excitement with me and spoken to over a thousand students and teachers about the possibilities of commercial space exploration and how they all can get involved. I have developed a presentation and classroom materials, and I have seen how inspired kids are by space and all that it holds.
Through all of this, I have thought a lot about what exploration really means to me.
Some people dismiss XCOR because we are only going to suborbital space, and that is somehow unimportant in the grand scheme of exploration since we have already gone to the Moon as a species. However, what that notion fails to take into account is that each flight will be a new experience and chance to explore for each individual. Not only will we be conducting research that has never done before, but we will also be bringing space, the most extreme environment we know of, and its beauty to thousands of people, while inspiring millions more. The commercial space market as a whole is pushing the limits of how we explore and making our universe more accessible to everyone in the process.
I want to go to space not because it will be a first for humanity but because I will get to expand the boundaries of what I have experienced and share that knowledge with as many students as I can. I truly hope that my record of being the youngest person in space does not stand for long and that space becomes something accessible for everybody on the planet, especially kids. The future of exploration relies on the youth of today. We have as a whole become more interested in looking at our phones than looking up at the sky or down into the ocean, but this can be changed. It is our job as individuals, as communities, and as a society to reignite a passion for exploration and make it exciting for future generations once again.
Blue Marble Exploration
Los Angeles, CA, USA