Citizen Astronaut to Pave the Way for Increased Access to Space
On board Blue Origin’s NS-21 mission is Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and influential online science educator. Katya will become the first Mexican-born woman to go to space. She will also be the first person to fly as part of Space for Humanity’s sponsored Citizen Astronaut Program, a philanthropic initiative to send purpose-driven leaders to space to experience the Overview Effect and the sense of humanity as a whole here on Earth.
Katya will amplify her mission of increasing the representation of women and minorities in STEM.
“Katya already has an incredible story and message to share with people,” said Rachel Lyons, Executive Director of Space for Humanity. “This mission of Space for Humanity and the perspective the Overview Effect brings will reinforce the impact of her story, informed by the interconnected nature of our existence.”
Space for Humanity plans to send more citizens to space in the coming years. According to Lyons, “This is just the beginning for us. Once you're 18, anyone can apply to this program. What you can do to stand out is show us your passions and what challenges you want to address in our world. Show us how the Overview Effect might impact you and how you would use the experience to forward important efforts in your community. We want people who will use this perspective as a guiding principle in their lives and to address important causes.”
Along with our other partners, Space for Humanity enhances Club for the Future’s mission to connect students, teachers, and communities with the exhilaration of innovation and space exploration. Other Club for the Future partners also create unique student and teacher engagement initiatives. Here are a few examples that might inspire other organizations to reach out to us to discuss a collaboration.
STEM2 Hub partners with Club on a Postcards to Space campaign across Florida. A particular highlight are the school district Space Day events where we bring space into a community for all students to participate. Space Day Duval was a huge success with Blue Origin Astronaut Laura Shepard Churchley and Engineer Caroline Weeks sharing their career pathways and engaging with students to create their postcards that will fly in space. We look forward to hosting events in more districts in the coming school year.
Club’s collaboration with the AIAA Foundation led us to 17-year-old Bryce Hillard, a student volunteer who has visited schools and children of all ages to create more than 12,000 postcards over the last six months. Bryce is passionate about space and STEM and has created his own nonprofit foundation, Space Dreamers. We’re pleased to be hosting Bryce and his mom at the NS-21 launch on Friday in West Texas.
Earlier this year, Club joined Space Center Houston for the 28th Annual Space Exploration Educators Conference or SEEC. Astronaut Audrey Powers spoke to teachers about her career pathway to becoming the first Blue Origin employee to fly on New Shepard. Club hosted a virtual tour of Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Wash., as well as a virtual panel featuring early career professionals who shared what inspired them to study STEM and chose to work in the space industry.
Challenger Center’s Destination Moon mission continues to transform seventh and eighth grade students into researchers ready to head to the lunar surface to build a habitat where astronauts will live and work. Through Club, Blue Origin subject matter experts worked closely with the Challenger Center education team to create the popular virtual mission in the height of the pandemic.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has hosted events featuring the Postcards to Space program for nearly a year now. Just last week, Club worked with the USS&RC team to install a 6-foot postbox for visitors to drop their postcards. The space-themed postbox was designed and built by local students from Bob Jones High School through the mentoring of Club Ambassadors Larry Powell and Armando Gonzalez-Feuchter, engineers at Blue Origin’s engine factory in Huntsville.
“We've now entered a new era of spaceflight, and Space for Humanity is helping achieve a profound shift in perspective,” said Lyons. “It's important that teachers all over the world have the opportunity to develop a global outlook to impart to the children they teach."
Tune in to the live webcast of NS-21 on Saturday, June 4, at 7:00 a.m. CDT / 12:00 UTC on BlueOrigin.com.
Photo: Katya Echazarreta (above) holds up a bear from NASA’s Kenney Space Center Visitor Complex that she has had since she was 16 and will be taking to space with her. She says, “Back then, all I had were dreams of one day working in the space industry and going to space! It’s always been a big comfort for me because it symbolizes both a child’s dream and the reality I’ve been able to live.”