Transcript: Space4U podcast, Emily Carney
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
Hello, this is Andrew de Naray with the Space Foundation, and you’re listening to the Space4U podcast. Space4U is designed to tell the stories of the people who make space exploration today more accessible to all. Our guest today is Emily Carney. Emily is a top space social media influencer, as well as a writer and public speaker, highly knowledgeable on a number of spaceflight topics.
She was formerly a nuclear propulsion mechanic for the Navy and was also a teacher for a time. In 2010, she was a freelance writer when she founded her blog, This Space Available, which is still going strong a decade later. And then in 2011, she created the hugely popular Space Hipsters Facebook group, which she still moderates.
Besides those ongoing endeavors, she is also currently a co-host of the new Space and Things podcast. Emily, thanks so much for joining us today. Well, thank you. I’m thrilled to be here. So I, I don’t ask this question every time, but it is kind of a perennial question: What sparked your interest in space? Oh, wow. Well, um, my interest in space was started when I was really young.
Uh, I grew up not very far from Kennedy Space Center. I grew up in Florida on the, uh, other side of the coast. I grew up in Pinellas County where, uh, I still live. And when I was a kid, the space shuttle program had just started. And one of my most vivid, very early memories was one day a space shuttle launch is going up and my mom was like, oh, the space shuttle is going up.
You know, let’s go outside and watch it. And sure enough, you know, from the front yard, you could see it. And that was at the end of, I was about three years old. So. Well, one day I was like, man, what launch was that? And I put it together. I’m like, that was STS-2.
That was, that was the second one. So, um, that experience and just seeing, you know, wow. A space, you know, launched into space, you know, as a kid, you know, when you’re, you know, in your front yard, just chilling, you know, I just really became obsessed from that point on. So ever since then, uh, I, I. I couldn’t get enough of space, you know?
Um, as soon as I started to read, I would try to read space books and it’s pretty much been a passion ever, uh, ever since that point. So yeah, that started very young. I can see how that’d be inspirational. I’m a space shuttle era kid too, but I didn’t live closely enough to watch any of the launches unfortunately.
It was really cool. It was a really exciting time. So yeah, I, yeah, I think it’s, I mean, I don’t know, I’m probably getting off topic, but I think it’s just as exciting now. That’s a nice point and I agree. I think it is. It’s definitely coming back around again. Prior to starting your blog and Space Hipsters, you were in the Navy for six years working as a nuclear propulsion mechanic.
Could you tell us a bit about that experience? Yeah, basically what happened was I grew up in sort of a single-parent, you know, not-very-high-income household and, uh, I really wanted to go to college. But honestly, my, my family didn’t really have any money for that. And, you know, I had ambitions, but I financially, I just did not see how I could reach them.
So, uh, when I was about 18, I always had kind of wanted to join the military. Not because I was obsessed with the idea of, you know, being in the military and all that stuff, but it was a really good platform for, you know, younger people to kind of get into a science career. I guess because there were a lot of things the military offered that civilian world just didn’t offer straight out of high school, you know?
So, um, when I was 18, uh, I talked to a Navy recruiter. I had some interest in joining a military academy, but by the time I talked to a military recruiter, it was really too late for that. So basically I was like, you know, what can I do as an enlisted person? And they were like, well, we have this nuclear program, you know?
And, um, you can go on a carrier. Cause at the time they didn’t allow women on submarines, but, um, you know, it’s really, it’s really difficult. Most people don’t make it through it, but you can take a test and, you know, we’ll see if you even make it in the program. So I was like, okay, whatever, you know, so I, uh, so I take this test and I honestly did not expect even pass it.
And you know, I was not serious. And so I passed the test. So, um, so basically what happened was I was, um, I had to wait for a little while to join, uh, the nuclear field because they only have. The limited amount of billets in the program like spots at the time for women, by the time I joined up, they just allowed women back into the program after a long period, because there was a time they did not allow women on combatant ships at all.
So really I was one of the first ones to get back in after a long period of women not being on carriers whatsoever. I joined in 1997. And back then nuclear power, a school, a nuclear power school. We’re in Orlando, now it’s in Charleston. So I went to that. It wasn’t easy, but I passed everything. And then I went to prototype, which is sort of like on the job training, which you have to qualify.
And then I went to that in New York. And after that I was stationed at the USS George Washington for a few years. And then, so that’s basically what I did. It was, it was certainly an interesting time. I can look back at it now and appreciate it. I met a lot of people who I’m really still really good friends.
And, uh, I certainly saw and experienced a lot of amazing things that I don’t think I otherwise would have done. And really, I mean, what was important to me was my education was to get a college education and between the GI bill and the Navy college fund, I was able to get my bachelor’s, which for me was really the most important thing because otherwise I don’t think I could have ever afforded college.
I was from a, a really low-income family and my mom was a single parent and stuff like that. You had to hustle. And I just, I would have not been able to have that opportunity otherwise. So I I’m really grateful for it. I think it was a good experience. I don’t think it’s for everybody. I don’t know if I would recommend it to all people because not, it’s certainly challenging, but, uh, I appreciate it though.
So that’s, um, basically what I did and I got out in 2003 and I went to school. So for me it, I, it really kind of solidified my interest in, um, I didn’t want to be a nuclear engineer per se. I, I know people who work in the nuclear field and, um, it’s really difficult, especially I think for women, uh, there not a lot of women who do that, and I’m not trying to say women shouldn’t do it.
I absolutely think women should do it, but it’s just, it’s very difficult. There’s a lot of shift work and a lot of you’re going to spend a lot of time away from home and from your family. You know, for me, it would be more difficult on a personal level because I like to, I’m sorta lazy. I like to be able to take naps.
It’s a lot of hard work is, you know, basically is what I’m saying. So I don’t know if I would be well suited to that kind of work full time anymore. Yeah. So I never really had an ambition to do that. I always wanted to be a writer, so no, that’s like I can relate. Um, so working with, you know, nuclear propulsion, working as a mechanic, working on a carrier, do you think that informed your, you know, your space background?
I do think it definitely helped, even though I wouldn’t say there are opposing fields. Even though they’re different scientific fields. I do think having sort of an engineering background and having some basic knowledge of engineering definitely helped inform my writing about spaceflight. And I, I think it definitely helped me to understand like technology and be able to visualize things better and help.
I guess others visualize things better. What I’m trying to talk about certain concepts, but I, the thing is, I I’m sure there are writers out there. Don’t have that background and they do a great job, you know, it’s just, for me, I think it helped a lot. So, uh, fast forward and, you know, in 2010 you started, uh, the space available and it’s now 10 years old.
Uh, what prompted you to start it? Was there a gap in space coverage you saw that you were responding to? Or was it just kind of a personal outlet at first? Well, yeah, at the time when I started it, I’d always had an enthusiasm for spaceflight, but, uh, at that time I was really starting to get super back into it.
I was starting to read a lot of spaceflight books. Again, I was just kind of, uh, you know, enjoying a lot of the websites from that period. You know, there were a lot of Tumblr blogs that were coming up that discussed spaceflight and kind of an irreverent way, you know, not so serious and I really enjoyed it.
So I was really starting to get back into it, you know, in a huge way again. And I was like, man, I, you know, I was doing freelance writing for, uh, some outlets at the time. And I wrote mainly about like pop culture and, um, and music. I was just kinda like, man, why can’t I just write about space? From that same sort of point of view, you know, why not?
That was sort of where This Space Available started, you know, this pop trash approach to spaceflight at the time. And, um, I do have to say the first blog posts I wrote were not very good. Uh, I look back now and I’m like, oh boy, that’s really cringe-worthy. And I wouldn’t write the same thing nowadays. But that was kind of where This Space Available started.
And at the time, honestly, I don’t think I had a magnificent vision at the time. I think I honestly did not see it really at the time, gaining any sort of longevity or followers or anything like that. I don’t think at the time I was really that serious, but, uh, I noticed within a few months I did gain a few, uh, readers and followers.
And I was like, well, I might as well just keep up with it. Um, I do think over time, my writing style definitely improved and, uh, got more serious. And I started to kind of tackle subjects that I’d always been long interested in, but I didn’t see many other people really discussing them. So I was like, well, why can’t I look a little more into this and you know, maybe discuss it a bit.
So that’s, I guess that’s how it evolved over time. But at the beginning, I don’t think it was so serious. I think it was more of sort of a pop culture version of spaceflight. And it wasn’t quite as detailed as anything I would right now. Kind of coming from a music background, I can see that. So it’s evolved and you got kind of more of a focused perspective and everything, and it was picked up by the National Space Society.
So that’s, you know, an honor, right? Oh God. Yes. Yeah. Cause I wanted to put my blog, like I wanted it to have a home. Somewhere, you know, and, um, so, uh, when they NSS, uh, put it on their site, I was just blown away. Uh, I’ve been reading the National Space Society, their website, and their magazine for years. Uh, they have a magazine called Ad Astra and they have a tremendous heritage in the space community.
They’ve been around for a really long time. And they’ve had their hand in a lot of different things, you know, as far as activism and space history is concerned. So yes, it is a massive honor for me. Great. Yeah, that’s a validation for sure. And how do you decide what you’re going to write about?
Is it kind of on a whim or is there a strategy? That’s a great question. Uh, I was actually thinking about this the other, the other night, cause, uh, usually it’s kind of on a whim. Like, uh, the last piece I wrote for This Space Available was about the early missions, some early United States, uh, and crewed probes to Venus.
And what happened was Arecibo. This was before it completely collapsed, uh, Arecibo, it was announced it was being decommissioned, the, uh, observatory, Puerto Rico. And I, I started thinking about it and I’m like, man, I know that observatory has done a lot of, uh, observations of Venus, you know, which using radar, because Venus is obviously it’s covered with clouds.
You can’t just look at it through a telescope and, and really see anything discernible. So I just started thinking about that and I was like, man, you know, it’d be kind of cool to write a piece about how that observatory on Earth was used in conjunction with spacecraft to get a better picture of the planet, you know, and how those things kind of work together in concert.
You know, I think when we think of space programs, we think about it like as separate entities. And it’s really not like that. A lot of space probes, observatories, and even sometimes crude missions, you know, with people on them, they kind of work together to get a bigger picture of, of something. But that basically was born from, you know, hearing that Arecibo was being decommissioned because I was like, wow.
You know that it’s done a heck of a lot during its I’m 50, I think 57 years. So I kind of, so I kind of got it from that. And, uh, I’m currently this, I just decided to do this last night. The, uh, there’s a TV show on Apple TV called for all mankind and it’s entering season two and they have a crew pack.
And many of you who know about my writing will know that I’m obsessed with Skylab and, um, and some of the, uh, season two patches had Skylab on it. So I’m like, okay, what are they doing with Skylab in the 1980s? Cause it’s supposed to be set during the eighties. So I started thinking about that and I’m like, are they going to reuse it?
And then. I started looking into Skylab reusable, reusability studies, and I’m like, okay, I fell down a rabbit hole. So I’m going to write about that because of a TV show. That’s unique that you’re kind of connecting dots and stuff there. That’s that’s great. Yeah. And I was going to try to, you know, I don’t know.
I don’t know obviously what they’re going to do on the show, but I was going to try to, you know, make some connections between, okay, if this was going to happen, this is what they would do kind of thing. So pretty much whatever comes into my head, whatever I think is interesting. Um, sometimes it’s. Me, you know, thinking, well, what about this person?
What did they do? What’s their legacy type of thing because, um, and it’s a lot of people who, you know, most people have not heard about for a while, or just don’t know about period. You know, I’m kind of interested in that. So, uh, you know, then a year later you started the Space Hipsters Facebook group, and it’s blown up, but you’re now nearing 20,000 members.
Um, what made you decide to start? Yeah. Actually, uh, what happened was one night I was sitting at home with my husband and I think I was watching TV or something. I was on my laptop and I was like, man, I want to start like a space group on Facebook, but I’m stuck. I don’t know what to call it. And he was like, why don’t you just call it Space Hipsters.
Cause you think you invented everything. And I was like, whatever. So I called it Space Hipsters and it was tongue in cheek. I did not think it would develop a following at all. It had four people in it when we started. And at the time I was like, we’re just going to have four people in this group. And it was basically a group dedicated to me, sharing stupid stuff about spaceflight and just, you know, memes, dumb stuff, nothing really too serious.
And, um, within a few months we grew a small, but kind of a dedicated following of people and it, it became something different. We would share like, you know, space news, space articles. It became sort of focused on space news and space history, which was different from the beginning.
Fast forward, about 10 years or so, and now it’s at 20,000, nearly 20,000 people. And, um, really it’s a big tent space group. Now we, uh, talk about pretty much every space topic imaginable, you know, uncrewed missions, ISS, heritage missions, uh, just everything. Uh, we, we haven’t really limited ourselves to it any particular era or a particular type of mission or anything like that.
It’s kind of an umbrella group for all sorts of stuff, which I think is suited us pretty well. You know, and we try to encourage, I guess, appropriate discussion about, you know, we do have guidelines in the group, but we try to encourage, you know, appropriate discussion about space topics. And we try to, we really would like to keep it, you know, I wouldn’t say “lay” because some topics are not unfortunately really “lay,” but we, we try to keep it, you know, positive and fun, I guess, is what I’d like to see it as of a similar trajectory to the blog, you know.
Starting out kind of like you said, pop trash, you know, and then going, you know, not so serious and then developing into like more legitimacy and whatnot. Although like you said, it’s still fun and I am a member, so I agree. So membership of the group actually has grown to include some scientists and engineers, uh, and even a few actual astronauts, I think. In your wildest dreams, did you ever think it would be so popular and attract members of the space community? No, not at, not for a second when we started, uh, jeez, I think it only honestly hit me earlier this year.
Um, during the lockdown, or the pandemic, um, we started doing like Zoom meetings where we’d have like, you know, a special guest on and, you know, we do sort of a show once every two weeks on Saturdays. And it really only hit me when we did one with Fred Hayes from Apollo 13. Holy crap. This is real. Like I remember when I was a teenager, I had the Apollo 13 movie on like on VHS.
That’s how old I am, um, on VHS. And I remember that whole, like when it came out on VHS, that’s all I watched. Like that whole summer was just Apollo 13. I love that movie. And we’re doing the Zoom meeting and I’m interviewing Fred Hayes. And then it was like, you know, I was calm and professional, you know, but then.
It just hits you, like, is this real? Like, this is the dude from the film, you know, this is, I mean, he’s done a lot more than that. Of course. I want to emphasize that his career has been incredible and he’s done a lot of stuff that I don’t think people are even really publicly aware of. But, um, I don’t think it really hit me until then, like, dude, this is real now.
So yeah, I had no inkling. This would ever become as big as it has. Kind of have to pinch yourself there. That is amazing. Yes. So, uh, being the group’s grown so much, how arduous is it handling the group as far as like moderating and responding to inquiries and so forth? Is it pretty much like a full-time job?
I mean, I know you have moderators as well. It definitely takes up a lot of, a lot of our time. Right. I don’t want to speak out of turn for anybody else. Who’s a moderator. But, um, for me, it’s become like a second full-time job almost, just because, you know, we do, um, have a lot of activity between, you know, all of ourselves in the group.
We do talk about group policy. Are we doing the right thing in this situation? You know, because we have had situations where, you know, people will just, I don’t want to speak negatively, but people will break guidelines and, you know, say things that are not pleasant that we do not approve of in the group.
We don’t approve of, you know, heavy profanity or I, and I think I can speak for all the moderators in this situation. Our main thing is we just, we don’t want people treating others. Like they’re stupid because we’re all coming from different levels of expertise. Uh, when I first got into spaceflight, I definitely did not know everything and you’re not going to, um, this is such a large topic and it encompasses so many different things.
No, one’s going to know everything. And our main thing is we don’t want to make anybody feel. Okay. I just feel stupid. I don’t want to contribute. So, um, we do take that pretty seriously. So yeah, it’s kind of like a second full-time job just to make sure you know, okay. Everything’s going like clockwork and we’ve got a handle on everything and we’re in, uh, our guidelines appropriately.
And we do have, you know, some guidelines. We don’t like encourage, you know, talk about religion or politics because inevitably there’s always a fight, you know? And my attitude is if people want to talk about space policy, I don’t have a problem with that, but there’s probably other groups that would discuss that.
But ours isn’t really the group. We were more of just. Okay. Let’s try to just keep it positive. I think, you know, I mean, especially during this election year, I mean, everything. In social media has just revolved around politics. And I think it’s, I do think it’s an important topic, but we need a break from it sometimes, you know, and I’ve had jobs where, you know, there was a heavy political component to them and it’s like, I need a break.
You know, I want to just talk about something sort of frivolous for a while. So I, again, I think it’s safe. I can say this. I think we sort of envisioned Space Hipsters as a sort of a getaway from all of that. So we try to keep it positive. We try to enforce our guidelines. Our main thing is we don’t want anybody to feel not included because I mean, we’re all coming from different places all over the world.
You know, a lot of our members aren’t even from the United States, you know, and, um, we don’t want anybody to feel, you know, excluded because, you know, we care about European space. We care about what the Russians are doing. We care about Chinese, Japanese, whatever, you know, we don’t leave that out or, um, criticize it.
I think it’s very important to talk about all countries input into spaceflight, whether you like them or not. Um, my personal vision of space is something universal and it should be absolutely. I think that’s a great way to put it. Yeah. No that everyone welcomed that mentality. And if I found that too through the election, it was just kind of, I actually appreciated those groups that were really avoiding that, because like you said, it’s kind of in a way, you’re looking for an escape from that kind of, it’s getting pounded into your head all day long, you know?
Yeah. And it’s, and the thing is I’ve been, I mean, I think it’s fair to say, you know, I have been criticized for that from some people, and I think it’s a valid criticism because these are important topics, you know, I do think this year there have been many moments where, you know, things are changing.
There have been many moments where I feel that, okay, there are things, you know, social justice-related that we have to discuss, but I don’t think Space Hipsters is the place now, do I discuss it in other places? Absolutely. But I just think Space Hipsters is kind of like my escape group, I guess, is how I look at it.
But do I discuss these issues elsewhere? Absolutely. So it’s not that I’m against discussing them period because I’ve heard people say that like, oh, you just don’t want to discuss that. And it’s like, no, it’s just, this isn’t the place for it. Trust me, I’ll discuss it anywhere else. Yeah, that makes sense.
And speaking of guidelines, you have a sort of an alien ban in Space Hipsters. I mean, uh, we have a similar the view at Space Foundation, but could you discuss the group guidelines, banning alien content and your personal reasons for making that decision? Well, um, we basically, as far as that particular guideline is concerned, we’re not into like the paranormal stuff, you know, there’s a certain, um, subset of thinking, you know, I don’t know if it’s the space community or what, I don’t even think it’s a space community, but there’s a certain subset of people who are interested in, you know, astrology and, you know, UFOs and, you know, free energy and stuff like that.
We’re not really that kind of space. Um, we, we, you know, and a lot of the same people, oh God, I’m going to get canceled for saying this. A lot of the people who are into that stuff. It kind of crosses into conspiracies and we don’t, um, you know, yeah, yeah. And you know, they didn’t land on the Moon type of stuff and it’s like, okay, we don’t want a part of that.
That we’re not interested in that, we’re, uh, we’re interested in science and not conspiracy. We deal with a lot of that, you know, fake Moon landing stuff too, so I can totally relate. Yeah. And, um, I don’t know there, I mean, there’s sort of the debate, like UFOs versus aliens and stuff, but it’s just, we’re just not interested in disseminating, you know, misinformation or anything like that.
The scientific, or, you know, at least, you know, verifiable, factual, yeah. As factual as possible, you know, and there’s some stuff that’s more theoretical out there as far as spaceflight is concerned. I guess sort of, I wouldn’t say blurred the lines, but when you talk about things that don’t exist yet. Okay.
You know, but it’s still based, some of the stuff is still based in science, but we’re yeah. We’re not interested in sort of like the, you know, Area 51 UFOs type stuff. And it’s like, oh God, no. Yeah. We’re not, we’re not into that. So yeah, we’re into actual spaceflight, not, you know, conspiracies and stuff.
Gotcha. And so possibly lesser known is that Space Hipsters also has a bit of a philanthropic aspect. Could you speak to some of the successes you’ve had in that regard? Yeah. Um, we’ve done a lot of stuff probably in the last two or three years to contribute to the greater space community.
We started working, I think it was in around 2017. There is a nonprofit and we don’t run this nonprofit. It’s run by, uh, Zorina Sullivan. Uh, that’s her name and the nonprofit is called Girls Taking Up Space. And it’s really an awesome idea. Um, basically it’s it, um, helps Native American girls go to space camp and we think it’s a really awesome endeavor just because that group is really underrepresented in sciences and STEAM and so we’re really interested in, you know, helping the younger population, especially, you know, an underrepresented population go to space camp and have that experience and get that spark of inspiration where they could maybe become a scientist or maybe go into aerospace, who knows, you know, you never know.
Or even if they don’t go into aerospace, you know, that the whole experience in itself is just, it’s a once in a lifetime thing. So, uh, we started working with them, I think in 2017 and I forgot the actual monetary amount, but we’ve raised several thousand dollars for them in a fundraisers. And we’ve sent several girls to space camp.
So that’s really, uh, been wonderful and. Basically because, you know, I mean, I never went to space camp as a kid, you know, and I’m not upset about it, but it was just like, you know, I came from a really, like I said, a, a single-parent household, we just did not have that kind of money. And, um, I just think it’s.
Okay. I could go around the rest of my life being sad about that. Or you give that experience to somebody else. To me, it’s better to, you know, okay. Let’s give this experience to somebody else who could really, who knows, maybe they’re the next Kate Rubins or something may be, they’ll go to space. You know, you just never know.
Um, earlier this year, we did have a Zoom meeting and we did sort of a, a fundraiser go with it. And, uh, I did not set up this fundraiser. We had a member, uh, Dale Kenyan, who set up the fundraiser and, but it was for the National Ataxia Foundation. Let me explain this there’s an event that usually happens every year.
It did not happen this year due to COVID unfortunately, but there’s an event called Space Fest every year. And I’m the founder of the event was a gentleman named Kim Poor and he was a really famous space artist. And, um, unfortunately he passed away from Ataxia a few years ago. And his daughter unfortunately has the same disease.
So that’s kind of a cause that’s really near and dear to our hearts because we want to fight it carefully. So, um, we did a fundraiser and Dale set it up. I did not, I do not take credit for this, but, um, we, uh, we did set it up and, or she set it up and, uh, I want to say we, we donated altogether over six grand to, uh, attack the research.
So. Yeah, and I’m sure we’ve done some other things too, but, um, other than the philanthropic, really the charity stuff we do try to promote. There’s a lot of different aerospace related charities. There’s one called higher orbits. Uh, that’s really cool. And it basically helps fund kids, uh, put experiments, student run experiments on the ISS, which is really cool.
I don’t think we’ve done a fundraiser for them, but we definitely support them and we encourage, you know, we want the word for them to get out. There’s a lot of really good aerospace related charities out there, but I think it’s important for people to look outside of themselves and sort of their own personal interests.
You know, um, a few years ago I used to work at a newspaper and I interviewed this gentleman who, who ran his own charity and he was. You know, you could have a million dollars for yourself, right. Or you could give a million dollars away to the community, you know, and I thought about that and I’m like, man, imagine how many people you could like help with that.
You could send somebody to college. You know, I mean, I’ve already been to college. I don’t need a million. It’s like, I’ve already done that. So, you know, imagine giving that experience to somebody else. So they have that opportunity. And I just, I try to look at it that way. And I think our moderators have also, um, encouraged this, look at it the same way too.
Yeah, we’ve definitely gotten to the philanthropic side of things. Um, I’m hoping once this COVID abates we can, uh, get more into doing that as well. And, but we’ve done some online fundraising as well. So I hope that I hope that makes sense. It’s not really a linear answer. I think it’s great. I think it’s great.
Uh, switching gears a bit, you kind of mentioned Skylab as your favorite historic space program. Uh, could you just kind of give us some details on. Yes, that’s a great question. When I was a kid, uh, I was born the year before Skylab deorbited. So I don’t remember much if anything, really about Skylab while it was still up, which is pretty funny because I I’ve become sort of an expert about it.
I remember as a kid, you know, uh, of course I was a huge space nerd and I would look at, you know, I would have my space books and it would have pictures of Skylab. And even though the shuttle was around and the shuttle was a lot more, you know, technologically, I guess, hip than Skylab. I just, I loved looking at pictures of Skylab.
I loved the big internal volume. It was, uh, it was, it had, it was about the size of a box car and it was just seeing the films of it on, you know, NASA select or just, you know, regular TV. They’d be tumbling around in there. I just thought that was really cool, you know? I love that. So, um, I really always had a soft spot for Skylab.
And, um, in the last, probably 15 years or so, Skylab sort of had a renaissance. There was a really good book by David Shayler that came out about it. And there was a really good book by David Hitt and Owen Garrett and Joe Kerwin. And the latter two are Skylab astronauts called Homesteading Space that came out.
And, um, so I really got back into it and I was like, man, why is nobody talking about this? Like Skylab is like, you know, really, it’s a lot of fun, you know? And I mean, they did so much in such a small amount of time. The program was only around for only about eight months or so. But they, uh, they gathered an incredible of data about how to live in space for really long periods during that time.
So, um, I just was like, man, why aren’t we talking about this and how for its time, what a marvel it was. So, um, then I started going to like space events. In 2013, I went to the Skylab 40th anniversary gala put together by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. And it was just incredible. Uh, I got to meet a lot of the guys and it was just amazing.
And, um, all the guys are really there’s sadly, there’s only three of them around now, but, uh, they’re all just marvelously friendly and just a lot of fun and their stories were so incredible. And I was like, why is nobody talking about this? You know, these guys had all the fun. I think Skylab kind of got overshadowed by the, you know, the Apollo lunar program, which, which is awesome.
Nobody’s taking credit from that and, you know, sort of on the opposite end, there’s the space shuttle, which was really, you know, for its time was really wow. You know, this is really cool. So I think it sort of got stuck in the middle and it didn’t really get appreciated like it deserved. So I’ve kind of made it my life’s mission now to make it as popular as it deserves to be.
Um, and you also mentioned your affection for unsung or kind of perhaps more esoteric figures in the history of the space program. Who’s used your favorite? My favorite, well, this year, oh God, this is hard. One of my favorite people that I’ve interviewed this year actually is a gentleman. Not many people may know his name, but, uh, he certainly, uh, pretty awesome.
And he was really fun to interview, uh, Dr. Phillip Chapman. He is the, the first Australian astronaut he’s Australian-American. He was a naturalized citizen. And he became the first Australian astronaut in 1967. And he joined NASA as a, uh, astronaut scientist. And he resigned NASA five years later because he realized, okay, you know, we’re not going anywhere, you know, Apollo.
Yeah. There weren’t, he wasn’t going to be on Skylab. And, um, he was probably going to have to wait, you know, another 10, 15 years to fly on the space shuttle. So, you know, not a lot of opportunities, unfortunately at the time for that astronaut group. But honestly, I was less interested in his space career and I was more interested about his time, uh, in Antartica he went, um, he was an, an early Antarctica Explorer.
Went there in the fifties, which is like, really, I mean, that’s like, wow. I, I knew there were, are Antarctic explorers, but I was just like, this is really cool. Like, I want to hear more about this. He was awesome. He, I loved hearing about, you know, explorations in Antarctica. And he was really funny, had a dry sense of humor.
And I just, everybody needs to know who this guy was considering that he did not fly in space. He was remarkably like magnanimous about it. Like people I think would expect him to be kind of bitter and like, yeah. You know, I wasn’t able to flight, but he, I think his attitude was, you know, it’s unfortunate I didn’t go to space, but I still had an amazing career and I got to do a lot of other things.
I really admire that about him. And I think he was definitely one of my favorite people that I talked to this year. Yeah, that’s a cool story. So, uh, you know, fast forward to present time, uh, 2020 has been a rough year on Earth, but there’ve been a lot of successes in space, you know, Mars Perseverance, you know, on its way and going well.
And SpaceX’s Dragon both, uh, Demo One and Crew One. Uh, what do you find currently the most exciting. Oh, gosh, um, I’m really happy. Oh my God. That’s like asking me who my favorite kid is. Um, I am really excited honestly about, um, what’s SpaceX has been doing the last year, um, another here’s where people roll their eyes, another space figure that I’ve kind of become interested in the last couple of years.
Dr. Gerard K O’Neil who wrote the High Frontier. And it’s basically his treatise about, um, space settlement, you know, and sort of like the future of space. And I really think, um, SpaceX is finally starting to establish that. They’re flying Falcons very frequently now. I mean, it seems like a new one goes up every week.
They’re reusing them. They’re reusing the fairings. I mean, it’s just, to me, it’s just incredible. The turnaround that they’re doing and the hard work that they’re doing. And, um, I’m really impressed with Crew Dragon. It looks like they’re doing a remarkable job with it. I’m just really excited with what they’ve been doing.
And I really think what they’re doing is getting us closer to that future that O’Neil was talking about back in the seventies where, okay, we’re going to have, you know, space infrastructure, and we’re going to. The sort of, I wouldn’t say an escape from Earth, but sort of, we’re going to be able to build, you know, maybe a civilization off the planet eventually, you know, and I am sort of interested in that, you know, I, I try to look really far ahead into the future, you know, and I think that vision, that SpaceX has his, is getting us closer.
So I’m definitely excited about that. Yeah. It’s been a lot of progress in a short period of time and just watch the launch last week. You know, the SN-8 obviously was, you know, had a little bit of a rough landing there, but there’s been a lot of progress in a short period of time. It doesn’t mean that alternate society out there, you know, possibly look a little more realistic.
Yeah. Yeah. And I honestly think, you know, the next time they’ll probably nail it, you know, I really do. They’ve come a long way. I remember when they couldn’t land on a barge and now they can. I mean, now they, I know that’s not easy and they make it look effortless and I know that’s not effortless. So I feel like it’s getting us closer to that future that we kind of, that science fiction almost future that we sort of have dreamed about.
Speaking of passenger spaceflight, when that becomes available, you know, say you have the money or someone has granted you access to a flight, are you pretty much first? Yeah, I would do it. I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t, I don’t know how long the flight would be, but, uh, I would take the risk definitely.
Not a, not a question about it. I would do it. And I’m sure my husband would, he’d probably be like, oh my God. And then he’d get over it. So as an influencer and a space communicator, how would you personally like to document the achievements to come in space in the future? Well, I, I do have a podcast now
I’m sort of interested, uh, I, I mean, I, obviously, I’m not going to stop writing about spaceflight, but, uh, I do host a podcast, as you mentioned earlier, it’s called Space and Things. And, uh, I do have a co-host Dave Giles. He’s pretty awesome. And it’s funny because we kind of come from different worlds. You know, one being that I’m American and my language is very American.
He’s British. So people hear us and it’s like, man, that sounds, sounds kind of different. So we come from different worlds and, you know, sort of different fields and stuff. But, uh, we vibe really well together. We have a lot of fun on the show and we laugh a lot, but, uh, I’m really interested in chronicling it, I guess, through podcasts.
I, I really think, you know, obviously podcasts have been around for a while. It’s not a brand-new thing, but I think a lot of people, uh, especially nowadays with, but in the last year, you can’t just go and listen to lectures anymore. You can’t go out and say, go see somebody talk somewhere. So I think a lot of people are turning towards, you know, podcasts because it’s convenient.
You can take, you know, it’s on your phone. You can listen to them at work and stuff like that. I listen to them when I’m working. So I I’m really interested in chronicling things, uh, via podcast. I’m still hopeful that, um, NASA’s Artemis program will, I don’t know if it’s going to fly in 2024, but I’d like to think it’s going to fly in the future.
And, um, my hope is that we’ll be, uh, at Kennedy Space Center when, uh, Artemis 1 or Artemis 2 uh, lifts off. We’ll see people land on the Moon. So. I do still enjoy writing and I planned to write as long as I can still use my hands, but, um, I I’m really starting to enjoy. And I think I’m starting to get okay at doing podcasts.
How did you, uh, meet your co-host he’s a musician, correct? Yeah, it’s actually funny. He contacted me out of the blue earlier this year and, um, he already had a podcast called Whiskey and Things, which is kind of self-explanatory and he was like, look, you know, I’m a really big space enthusiast and, um, I’ve always wanted to do a podcast about spaceflight.
I’d like to do the podcast with you. How do you feel about it? And I was like, let’s do it. You know, it’s funny because we didn’t really know each other that, well, at all, like we’ve only really talked this year, but, um, we really vibe together very well. He’s got a good sense of humor, but I think we play off each other pretty well and stuff like that.
So, yeah, that’s how we met and I’d like to think I get along with people pretty well. So, um, we didn’t really have a problem getting along or anything like that. We pretty much just hit it off. We’ve only got 15 episodes, but we’re definitely looking forward to more. I think it’s going pretty well. He’s more experienced at podcasting than I am.
So I think he sounds a little more polished than I do, but, uh, I think I’m getting better. I’ve listened to some of that. I think it’s, I think you guys sound good. I agree. You have a chemistry there. And just one more question. Are you content with being a writer and an influencer? Do you feel like, yeah, this is my niche, or have you ever pondered any other roles in the space community?
Oh my God. Uh, I’ll be honest. I I’ve gotten more ambitious since I’ve gotten a little more successful in the last few years. When I first started I’ll, I’ll be honest. I was not really ambitious or serious at all. And eventually, you know, when I started to write more seriously, Yeah, I started publishing for more publications and I kind of realized I did want more, you know, I wanted a little more out of it.
I don’t know. It’s hard for me to put it in words. Um, I’m definitely interested in sort of more of a leadership role. I don’t know where. But, um, I’ve definitely learned a lot. I mean, even though Space Hipsters, people are gonna say, well, it’s just a Facebook group, you know, but it’s, I’ve learned a lot about how to, um, I think lead, you know, large groups in the last few years and, um, I hope I’ve learned a lot how to lead something in a positive direction.
Because that’s really, my thing is I don’t view spaceflight as like an escape from Earth. I try to view it as an opportunity. And it’s something that gives us hope too. I think humans have to reach out to something else, especially during this year. And during some of the hard times we’ve been in. You know, I think it does give us sort of a sense of hope.
It’s not really an escape as much as something to look forward to I guess. I’m really interested in sort of being a leader in that, I don’t know, leading what, but I, I like being a leader in sort of a positive vein, you know, and, um, I view myself as a futurist. Like I try to look really far into the future, like, okay, what are we doing a hundred years from now?
I don’t know, I’m sort of interested in that role, if that makes any sense. Just want to support that movement and the positive force that it has with it. Yeah. I think it’s important for us to go forward, you know, and to be future thinking and to think, okay, what are, what are we going to do be doing in space, you know, 50 to 100 years from now, how are we going to expand our civilization?
You know, in this, are we going to expand it in this space? You know, and, how are we going to use this technology in a positive way? If that even makes any sense? I try to look at things in a really big picture. That’s excellent. Um, well I think that covers all the questions I had. Uh, any final word from you or anything else you’d like to add?
No, I think that’s pretty much it. I do have to say, uh, thank you guys very much, and I really enjoy everything you guys do in the Space Foundation. I do follow what you guys do and I really am a big supporter. So thank you. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been really fun and, uh, enjoyed learning about your many ventures and we wish you ongoing success with all of those.
Awesome. Well, thank you. I appreciate it. That concludes this episode of the Space Foundation’s Space4U podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast and leave us a review on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And of course our website spacefoundation.org, where you can also learn about the various ways you can support the Space Foundation.
On all of these outlets and more, it’s our goal to inspire, educate, connect, and advocate for the space community. Because at the Space Foundation, we will always have space for you. Thanks for listening.
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