Think Like An Astronaut: Women at NASA was excited and geeked out to organize three events highlighted by a Q&A with NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott for the Wonder Women in Technology Conference founded by Lisa Mae Brunson.

Each event brought together the many different pieces of the aerospace industry for women:
  • Think Like An Astronaut
  • Be An Astronaut
  • We Are All Astronauts
NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott at Think Like An Astronaut Q&A hosted by Kaki Flynn. SpaceX engineer and total badass Joy Donn in front row in astronaut suit. PicturedAylin Atay, Miranda Lee (Founder, LX Labs), Tammy Gottschalk (Two Roads Professional Resources), Sunnya Hoffmann, Valerie Little (The Global Maven Group), Shih-Hua Yu, Anisha Jain, Myra Maravilla (Myra Maravilla (City of Hawaiian Gardens Councilwoman), Silvia Varas, Lisa Jacob, Diode de Dios, Holly Berkley (BlissSmart), Tania Katan. Photo by

Think Like an Astronaut

Collaborated with NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott for this Q&A focused on performing at a high level under all conditions. Stott, who has lived over 100 days in space on International Space Station and as a crew member of the Space Shuttle, is also a world-record holder for her saturation dives with NEEMO, the NASA ocean program.

For extreme environments like space and the ocean, that means taking a hard, fearless look at dangerous situations to be able to handle the pressures that are a part of being an astronaut, as well as an experimental pilot like Stott.

On the other end of the spectrum, we talked about the joys of being a part of a high-operating team, and the lifelong friends that you build from being together in those unique environments.

A key lesson that Stott brought home from space is the shared experience that many astronauts express; known as the "Overview Effect" - it's the altered perception of our tiny planet that comes from being able to see it spin below you from the ISS every 90 minutes.

Learning how to think like an astronaut from @Astro_Nicole & @NASA's @KakiFlynn#WWT2016 @wonderwomentech πŸš€πŸ˜€ — Joy Dunn (@RocketJoy
That's Dunn  of SpaceX in the front-row and center in the NASA astronaut suit we brought, because she's the only one in the room that was one of the current 18,000 NASA astronaut applicants waiting to see if she has a spot for the upcoming class.

While I'm no astronaut, as a professional wilderness instructor, I deeply value people like Dunn that do that hard, hard work figuring out the logistics behind equipment to both keep us all safe and allow us to enjoy the view along the way.

A woman in the audience had a question about being able to be a deaf astronaut, and another woman brought up size as an issue.

It was a great question, but there is no reason - just like with Lasik surgery now removing prior problems with vision limitations - for space suits as well as the vehicles to become more customizable, as well as other medical advances even giving the deaf an advantage similar to what is happening in the world of prosthetics and bionics to replace lost limbs.

To be very clear, just as I would have rather been born with a full capacity for hearing, I'm sure those people missing limbs would rather have the ones they were born with and have not had that experience - it's a much larger conversation than a few paragraphs in a blog - but it's meant to be inspiration for those who think they might not be able to ever be an astronaut because they might have some minor or even major disability.

A big source of inspiration for the people that attended the workshop was being able to interact with Stott.

"The biggest thing my daughter and I came away with is that you can actually be an astronaut if you want to, and of course we want our kids to think they can do that," said Tammy Gottschalk, owner of Two Roads Professional Resources.

Gottschalk and her daughter were inspired by Stott's background as a pilot, and being able to spend time with Dunn before the workshop started.

The greatest message of the Think Like An Astronaut session? It's one of a search for peace.

As Astronaut Anoushi Ansari told me when we had a conversation at NASA Ames about her visit to the International Space Station  - "The biggest thing you want to do after traveling to space is to come back here to Earth and shake everyone awake."

A desire for peace, but a lack of a way to express that to people who haven't experienced Earth from the ISS viewpoint.

Ansari is the first Muslim woman in space, as well as one of the most successful business women on the planet.

Accomplished New York based film producer Dasha Chase-Snyder, San Francisco, Calif., based Rooftop Elementary School teacher Andi Wong, Jacksonville, Fla. filmmaker and award-winning producer Kim Murray and artist Lauri Keener from Denver, Colo., sent in questions remotely; all three wanted to hear about how Stott communicates that message using her art work.

Stott was the first astronaut to pack a mini watercolor kit with her and paint on the ISS, and recently collaborated on an artist's rendition of astronaut suit that is a patchwork of different artists.

At the end of Think Like An Astronaut, Nicole told us about a photo she has with her astronaut class.

"We are all still so close, because of that tight bond," said Stott, something she's reminded of every time she looks at the photo.

Everyone that came to the panel then rushed to the front of the room to get an Epic Astronaut Selfie with Stott.

We have you, Stott. Just put up your astronaut signal, and we will totally be there.

Be An Astronaut Experience
For the Innovation Camp kids that took part in the free STEAM programming held during the Wonder Women in Technology Conference, we set up a pop-up astronaut experience that gave the camp attendees a chance to try on a NASA Astronaut suit, play with other NASA gear we brought along and ask questions about how to become involved with NASA programs.

Everyone loves astronauts, right? Almas Jiwani of the United Nations Canada was the keynote speaker for the conference.  When she heard what I was doing for the kids at the conference, she jumped in and joined me.

Having her talk about her work at the United Nations was perfect, she was so engaged with all of the kids and answering their questions with enthusiasm, leaving each kid inspired by having a global view for peace from the view of NASA and the UN was perfect.

Thanks Jiwani!

BEEP-BOOP-BWAP-BEEP. Be An Astronaut Experience. Astronaut on deck; suit needs some adjustments. Patrick Walker from Noble High School took part in the Innovation STEAM Camp held in conjunction with the Wonder Women in Tech Conference.

Kaki Flynn with Almas Jiwani from the United Nations Canada along with Sierra Irby and her brother Jordan Irby. The Irby siblings attend Narbonne Stern Magnet High School in Harbor City, Calif., and took part in the STEAM Innovation Camp held in conjunction with the conference. Photo: Stacey Irby

Lan Dang, an operations engineer from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that also does outreach for Girls Who Code and is a mentor for the NASA Space Apps Challenge, was glad to see students have the chance to take part in the Innovation Camp while also having access to the women from the space industry. 

As Tania Katan of It Was Never a Dress, the movement that went viral on Twitter and other social media and I joked, "It was never a dress for women - it was an astronaut suit."

We Are All Astronauts: Spaceship Earth

A bit of red carpet fun with future astronaut and panelist Fuji Lai, a brilliant
friend and kind soul that is an expert in many things, including telepresence and telesurgery.

This panel was a mix that represented the way you can be a part of NASA, whether it's organizing STEAMD workshops and panels like me, or partnering with NASA for grants like the X-Prize Foundation's Fuji Lai (telepresence, telesurgery, virtual reality expert).

A pack of Smith College interns from different NASA disciplines also joined us.

Jessica Feinberg, Su Wei Heng, Alexandra Ruiz and Lucia Simova all drove 12 hours round-trip with a van full of astronaut gear from the NASA to take part in the conference.

If you are a CEO of a space-industry company, please hire them, so that they can hire me later.

People often ask, "How do I get a job at NASA?" then comment, "I looked at the NASA website, and scrolled through the listings, but didn't see anything that fit me."

Guess what?

None of those those jobs fit me either, so I found that if I want to work with NASA my only choice is to build boxes that NASA astronauts and other senior executives want to come play in.

If It Sounds Impossible, We Are In
 Dava Newman
Deputy Administrator 

When I heard Dava Newman say that at a Women at NASA panel, it was a great reminder that NASA would be pretty happy for you to develop your own programs in addition to just looking at the standard jobs that are already in existence.

For example, NASA recently put a listing of the NASA patents online that are open for people to collaborate with NASA. 

There is the NASA Space Apps Challenge, a global hackathon that anyone can either join or go ahead and launch your own satellite location. The Space Apps Challenge was not started by NASA, but a NASA fan, and is now supported by top NASA executives.

Maybe you have a 3-D printer you want placed on the International Space Station, or have an idea for how to use the reflective surface of the NASA astronaut helmet for sunglasses. 

There is a fit at NASA for people who truly want one. 

At the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. earlier this year, the over 12,000 people present and almost a 1,000 vendors - with NASA just one of many people on the Expo floor - made it clear that this is an exciting time to be in the space industry, with more opportunities than ever for women.

Virgin Galactic sent propulsion test engineer Hannah McCallum to this conference, along with advanced manufacturing and integration engineer Nicole Lewis and associate mechanical engineer Whitney Hopple.

The trio are a great example of opportunities in the commercial space industry right out of college.

For space couple Diana Trujillio and William Pomerantz  - she is the Mission Lead for the Curiosity Mars Rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and he works with Virgin Galactic - the new space frontier that is opening up exploration to everyone is exciting.

Pomerantz said during an interview he and Trujillio did live at the conference with that he loves that while there are currently only a little over 500 people that have been into space, over 700 have bought tickets to go there with Virgin Galactic. 

Of all the astronauts that have been to space, only about 60 have been women, but private space flight will open those doors. 

Ansari, a business woman, was the first citizen to buy a ticket to the International Space Station.

Trujillio pointed out that even launching satellites has become democratized, with cube satellites (can be about the size of a shoe box) already available to almost everyone. 
The Astronaut Agreement: We Have Each Other At All Times 

With team. Q&A that highlights the many lessons learned from hosting these three NASA experiences, and the lessons from extreme environments that would be great to see all of us right here on Earth follow: Looking out for the physical and emotional safety of each other.

It would be a different world. Interview
On Belay, Belays On: Expedition Behavior in the Wilderness & In the Office

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