Local 9-Year-Old Shoots For The Stars

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Ask a room of children what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll likely get a variety of answers. Doctor, actor, president or even a prince or princess could be popular choices. For 9-year-old Amelia Gillespie of Arnold, however, these aspirations are more than just a far-off fantasy.

After going to Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in February, Amelia’s already-present interest in the cosmos was sparked into a great passion. At the Senate aviation and space subcommittee meeting on July 9, Amelia met some of her heroes and let them know her plans to be the first woman on Mars.

“It was really cool,” Amelia reflected. “I got to meet Eugene Kranz and Senator [Ted] Cruz and listen to them talk about the new Orion missions. They want to get people on Mars by 2024.”

Kranz is a former NASA flight director most famous for his oversight of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the Apollo 13 mission, and Cruz chairs the Senate aviation and space subcommittee.

Amelia also met Dr. Christine Darden, one of the first African-American women to work for NASA. “It was really cool because she likes math, like me,” Amelia said. “She doesn’t like it when people call her a human computer, though.”

While attending Space Camp, Amelia experienced what her life would be life as an astronaut. “We got to do a simulated mission,” she explained. “I was ECOM, which is like mission control, so my job was to make sure everything went OK. All of the exercises we did were really cool, and I think being an astronaut would be really fun.” While at camp, she also experienced a multi axis trainer, where an astronaut is strapped in and spun to simulate the disorientation of a tumble spin in space. “I didn’t get dizzy, though,” Amelia assured. “Because the center of gravity stays the same, you don’t get dizzy.”

Amelia has not only learned about many astronauts but also met many of them. “I got to meet Ken Reightler, Don Thomas, Michael Collins and even Buzz Aldrin. I also met Charles Bolden, who was the head of NASA when [Barack] Obama was president.”

Space flight isn’t the only reason that Amelia admires NASA, however. “They do a lot of research to help people,” she explained. “There was a doctor there that had a bone condition and NASA worked on technologies and surgeries to make her life easier. They could help so many more people in the future, like people that have celiac disease, like me.”

Celiac disease could prevent Amelia from going into space, but she hopes that NASA finds a cure. To pursue her dream of reaching space, Amelia plans to major in aerospace engineering. “I also want to be a paleontologist,” she added, “because I like dinosaurs, but also because NASA would be trying to find things like fossilized flowers to prove that there was life there, so I think that would be useful.”

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