JUPITER, Fla. — Kellie Gerardi, a payload specialist flying on the Galactic 5 research mission, is preparing to embark on a science mission with Virgin Galactic in less than two weeks’ time. Born and raised in Jupiter, Florida, Gerardi has received special training to operate scientific instruments in space. She will be conducting research related to human health care and fluid dynamics on behalf of her research institute, the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences.
Gerardi emphasized that this is a same-day science flight, and the timeline to conduct the research is short. Every single second counts, and the team has meticulously choreographed their activities to maximize the scientific return. As a child growing up in the area, Gerardi recalled dreaming of this moment. She used to gaze out of her bedroom window, which perfectly framed the stretch of sky facing Cape Canaveral, wondering if she could be a part of the space industry.
Despite the magnitude of the opportunity, Gerardi expressed that she is not nervous or scared. Instead, she feels a floating anxiety about the preciousness of this opportunity. Her goal extends beyond her personal aspirations; she hopes to pave the way for future women in space. Gerardi believes in embracing the multitudes and challenging the predefined boxes that society often places on individuals, whether it be in science, STEM, motherhood, or any other aspect of life.
On November 2, Gerardi’s flight window opens in New Mexico. This raises the question: does her mission make her an astronaut? Gerardi confirmed that she will be considered an astronaut after her return to Earth. This achievement is no small feat, as fewer than 100 women in history have ever flown to space. The barrier has always been access, not aptitude, and Gerardi takes pride in the fact that future generations can dream big.
The significance of this journey is not lost on Gerardi. She sees it through the eyes of her daughter and her mother. When her mother was born, humans had not yet ventured into space, and when she was growing up, women were not eligible to be astronauts. Now, just one generation later, Gerardi’s daughter is witnessing her mother prepare for her own spaceflight. This progress serves as a reminder that there are no limits to dreams, not even the sky.