Nicole Stott: Earthlings Traveling Through Space Together
Throughout the history of the space industry, more than 560 people have been trained as astronauts. Only 64 of them were women. However, the gender statistics change over time. The number of women space travelers is increasing. Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut, believes that this field is equally difficult for men and women but at the same time fascinating and interesting for representatives of both sexes. Our agency was lucky enough to have a unique interview with this truly ‘cosmic’ woman. Nicole Stott told our journalists about the preparations for spaceflights and the feelings of the crew members at the distance of thousands kilometers from Earth. She shared how borders among people are erased thanks to understanding one simple truth.
American engineer and NASA astronaut
A ‘cosmic’ woman is a metaphor that can be applied to Nicole Stott not only because she is an astronaut. She is a person who knows about inspiring, motivating, and dream-fulfilling power of space from her own experience. Ms. Stott is not only a professional but also a woman with a kind heart. Spaceflights and exploration of the Universe in her live are closely intertwined with her social activities. Nicole Stott is the Director of Space for Art Foundation. The organisation brings together artists, astronauts, and medical workers who carry out creative projects to support children in hospitals and refugee camps throughout the world.
Ms. Stott fascinates people at first sight with her sincerity, openness, and non-indifference to all those around. She has unique knowledge and experience that she is willing to share with all those interested. After getting to know Nicole Stott, we couldn’t help interviewing her.
– When did you understand that you wanted to be an astronaut? What inspired your love of space?
– My love of space was inspired as a child from my parents who shared what they loved with me. Space is one of those things. My mom is a very creative person. Many hobbies appeared in my life thanks to her. My dad loved small airplanes. Together with him, I first experienced an unforgettable feeling of flight and saw our house, street, and city from a great height. That changed my life radically.
Immersed in creativity and the world of flights, I became interested in learning about aviation technology, how it is arranged and what makes it fly. After a while, I expanded the scope of my interests. I became interested in rockets. That's how I started out as a NASA engineer at the Kennedy Space Center. I took part in the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station programmes.
Over 10 years of working at the Kennedy Space Center, I learned a lot about spacecraft and the process of flights. My love of the sky grew every day. One day I seriously thought about the possibility of the astronaut job.
The astronaut job has always seemed incredibly fascinating to me. However, I believed that it was too complicated and that I couldn’t go in for it. I thought I didn’t suit that profession.
There are several people I consider to be my mentors and it is they who encouraged me to apply. Thanks to their encouragement and support, I decided to take that great step. It was like a wonder and my dream came true! I put many efforts to become a real astronaut.
My real desire to go to space myself came down to wanting to be part of something that’s much bigger than myself.
I was fascinated by the idea that I could improve life on Earth and make it more interesting by exploring the expanses of the Universe.
– What does space mean to you? They say that space has no boundaries. How do you understand that expression?
– I think about space as a place of opportunity – it allows us to dream big and challenge ourselves and to think about our future.
Space is the place we are all traveling through together on our home planet Earth. That unites all of us very much.
That perspective gives us the understanding of our interconnectivity. We all share much in common. People from different countries look at the same sky and they all travel around the Sun on Earth. I believe, we should think more about that to have greater solidarity and work together to preserve and develop our planet.
All borders among counties are absolutely erased in space. When astronauts look at Earth from space they see many things from a completely different perspective. They discover that the only border that matters is the thin blue line of atmosphere that doesn’t separate people but blankets and protects the whole planet.
– Being an astronaut is hard work. Most astronauts are men. Is it more difficult for women to fulfil themselves in this profession?
– The thing I always tell young people when they ask me this question is “The rocket ship doesn’t care if you’re a boy or girl”.
Being an astronaut is hard work, but not any harder for a woman than a man. It is both an accessible and inaccessible sphere for any person.
Gender statistic indicators within the NASA astronaut office are gradually changing. That pleases me very much. Right now there are at least 35% women in the astronaut corps. I believe this will continue to grow as it has also done across all areas of NASA human spaceflight. It is important that women become more confident and are not afraid of pursuing their dreams.
– What do preparations for flights look like? What should an astronaut be able to do, what skills must he or she have?
– The training lasts about 2 years and involves training in all of the ISS partner countries. When I was training for my first flight I spent much time away from home training with my crew mates in Russia (RSA), Germany (ESA), Montreal (CSA), and Tsukuba (JAXA).
Astronauts must be able to do many things because they are expected to spend much time in isolation. In the process of training, they master engineering skills, science activities, and basic healthcare skills. They must clearly understand the organisation of the crew’s work, flights to open space, and spacecraft launch and landing.
The most important skills are to establish effective communication with other crew members, professionalism, the ability to master new skills quickly, and mobility.
It is important for an astronaut to understand and accept the fact that he or she will not only ‘do great things’ during the flight, but also perform routine duties like cleaning up and other daily chores.
Another key moment is that one needs to enjoy that complex profession sincerely. Only this can give you enough energy and strength to do the job. It is important that the astronaut knows how to appreciate all the unique experience that he or she gets in the process of exhausting work and understands that he or she is doing a great job for the benefit of all humanity: exploring the unexplored expanses of space.
– How would you formulate your social mission? Why is it important for you to do what you do?
– I feel an obligation to not only contribute to exploring the Universe but also share the very special experience of spaceflight with other people who are not related to this field of activity. It inspires people around me. I tell them how amazing and limitless the world is.
It is important for me to encourage everyone’s appreciation of our planet as their home that needs to be cherished and treasured.
In general, the work of space crews is aimed at improving life on Earth. I like that I can help humanity take a step into the future to some extent.
– You cooperate a lot with social organisations, communicate with children, and lead the Space for Art Foundation. Tell us about this part of your life.
– We bring space and art together to inspire children who are experiencing really challenging things in their lives. The inspiration of space exploration and the healing power of art allow them to transcend those experiences and to think about their own futures.
We meet those children regularly and host festivals, actions, and art therapy workshops for them. For example, we draw our dreams on a special space suit then launched into space.
I want to share the experiences I’ve already been blessed to have in my life. I know that space inspires people and makes their dreams come true.
– Which of your achievements do you consider to be the most important ones?
– I’m really thankful to NASA for all experience that I have gained and continue to gain today. Being involved in space exploration is a great happiness and a truly amazing opportunity.
Throughout my work, I’ve made life-long friends from all over the world. Today, I carry out social projects with some of them.
I also learned one of the main lessons in my life thanks to space and my wonderful mentors: “Here’s how we can, not why we can’t”.
I’m blessed with a wonderful family and friends. I’m thankful for their support and belief in me. I wouldn't have achieved what I have without them.
I believe, my son is my greatest achievement. Bringing him up was an important mission for me. Today, I’m thankful to my life for such a child. He inspires me every day with his thoughtfulness, intelligence, and personal strength. I’m in awe of watching him discover what he is passionate about in life. I believe, he will once make his positive mark on the world. Remember that every one of us can do that.
– What wish would you like to share with women from all over the world?
– I’d ask them to believe in themselves and know that they each have something special to share with the world. I wish women to always use opportunities to fulfil themselves. They naturally always focus their energies on helping people around. I think women are the creators of comfort, well-being, and harmony on Spaceship Earth.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov
for Global Growth
and Information Technologies. All rights reserved
Global Women Media news agency