I am frequently asked why I chose to become a space engineer. Normally I conjure up a romanticized (and only slightly exaggerated) tale of star-gazing in my childhood, coupled with days tagging along after my father as he explained to me how universal joints and two-stroke engines worked. These were factors, especially considering the gloriously-clear night skies of my home town, but the real answer is somewhat more menial.
During high school, I had a bubbly, sarcastic, and cynical physics teacher. Tired of the course material, he regaled us with anecdotes and stories that, while not contributing to our understanding of relativity, both disturbed us and seduced us into pursuing careers in science:
The most beautiful sight in space, according to some Apollo astronauts, is a urine dump. As the urine hits the exit nozzle, it instantly flashes into 10 million little ice crystals which go out almost in a hemisphere…a spray of sparklers…
Disgusted, intrigued and fascinated, I realized that the wonderful realm of space engineering was for me.
So, already with a slightly-unconventional grounding as a space engineer, it gets even more unconventional. I am a woman.
Yet this should not be unusual. Now we are in an age where technology is mandatory, and yet STEM subjects are still typically seen as a male arena. Why are all of the talented women being drawn into commerce and social sciences? Where are all of the female space-geeks?
Our industry is diverse. It is challenging. It is rewarding. It is intimidating. We are enabling scientists to (no hyperbole intended) investigate the most fundamental questions surrounding our existence and evolution – through investigating the origins of our planet and beyond, space science goes hand-in-hand with our deepest philosophical and psychological questioning. We are sending explorers beyond our sphere of nurture and comfort. We are creating massive, intricate machines that can break the bounds of our planet’s gravity. We are collaborating with people from every background possible, from all across the globe.
To work as a researcher in the space sector, I have had to use my people skills, my management skills, my negotiation skills, my creativity, my design skills. I am not just a geek who sits at my desk programming all day (admittedly I do spend some time doing this, and unashamedly love it). This is truly a remarkable field to be in, and now at the most remarkable of times.
Don’t you want to be part of this!? Don’t you want to know more!?
So go on, satisfy your curiosity. This isn’t a man’s realm. It’s a realm for the inquisitive, the creative and the adventurous!