New Generation Initiatives

New Gen Spotlight: Not Your Typical Space Careers

Written by: developer

This new series in Space Watch spotlights one New Generation participant and one New Gen mentor, providing insight into the success of these space professionals. The Space Foundation’s New Generation program was founded in 2008 as a forum to foster long-term peer relationships between young space professionals, aged 35 and younger, and top space leaders and mentors. To find out how to get involved in the Space Foundation’s New Generation program as a participant or mentor, please email [email protected].

New Generation Participant: Sarah Castro-Wallace, Ph.D. 

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” – Arthur C. Clarke

NASA microbiologist Sarah Castro-Wallace grew up with aspirations of becoming an astronaut. Today, instead of floating in space, she works to keep those in space healthy. Working at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, she looks for ways to reduce the risk of an astronaut getting sick from an infectious microorganism and to prevent microbes from fouling systems of the International Space Station (ISS). To do this, she monitors the levels and types of organisms in the spaceflight food, on the cargo, in vehicles launching to the ISS and those associated with the crewmembers themselves. She conducts research to understand how the spaceflight environment alters the behavior of microbes, and uses the ISS to test new technologies that may one day help us to identify microbes in-flight (such as the recent Biomolecule Sequencer experiment, which has shown that DNA sequencing in space is possible).

Sarah earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Wichita State University, Kansas, and her doctoral degree in Biomedical Research from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. She credits her sixth grade science teacher, Jim Lester, for inspiring her love of science and space exploration.

“His ability to convey the awesomeness of science and his behind-the-scenes tour at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center was the moment that my goal became being part of the successful continuation of NASA’s human spaceflight program,” she said.

She aspires to develop a program to build on the knowledge of spaceflight science in much the same way that Dr. Cheryl Nickerson and Dr. Mark Ott have transformed spaceflight microbiology. Dr. Nickerson is a pioneer in the field, and Sarah admires and respects her passion, devotion and commitment to research.

When not working, Sarah enjoys traveling and experiencing different parts of the world with her husband. Her advice for aspiring space leaders: “It is important to establish a good foundation in science, technology, math or engineering. However, you don’t have to excel in all of these areas. Pushing the boundaries of space exploration is going to take considerable expertise in all of these fields, and by exceling in one of them, you will be able to substantially contribute to the next giant leap. Also, so much of our exploration is going to involve brand new challenges and unknowns, and future leaders will need immense dedication toward finding new solutions.”

New Generation Mentor: Lt. Col. Terrill McCall 

Lt. Col. McCall always enjoyed the STEM fields, (science, technology, engineering and math), but wanted to become an engineer as a child. His father served as his role model, and taught him to be a servant leader and a professional. He attended Ball State University and is a resident of Schriever Air Force Base, just east of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Commander of the 22nd Space Operations Squadron, U.S. Air Force, Lt. Col. McCall spends his days providing assured access to space assets for the Department of Defense, National Security Organizations and Allies around the world via the Air Force Satellite Control Network. When not serving his country, he enjoys spending time with family and traveling, as time permits. He truly enjoys each and every day with his wife, kids and grandkids.

When asked what advice he has for the next generation of space leaders, he replied, “Strive to be the best at everything you do! Innovate and do not be risk averse. Many of the achievements of the 50th Space Wing can be attributed to pushing the boundary and taking acceptable risk.”

His favorite quote comes from former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt on being American: “Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities.”

He adds that future space leaders need to “realize that the mission, whether military or civilian, often cannot be accomplished without your contributions. In the military we fight multi-domain conflicts and while sitting at a computer thousands of miles from the conflict may not be as rewarding as kicking in doors or pulling triggers, it is absolutely essential to the successful defense of our nation and our allies!”

This article is part of Space Watch: November 2016 (Volume: 15, Issue: 11).