Writing here at the Geekiary has given me many opportunities, but the chance to chat with an astronaut has got to be one of the biggest highlights of all time. When I was in pre-school, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be an astronaut or a paleontologist. By kindergarten I decided I’d do both. I’d go on trips to space, then come home and ‘dig up dino bones’ in my spare time. As I grew up, my natural talents drifted more towards the humanities and arts, but I’ve always had a profound respect for all STEM fields, even if my skills are elsewhere. When the Uniphi Space Agency offered me the chance to speak with Pam Melroy, the second woman to command the International Space Station, as part of their #WeBelieveInAstronauts campaign, I was thrilled.
It’s an honor to have a chance to talk with you. To me you’re a NASA rock star. You’ve been involved with NASA since 1994 and were the second woman to command the ISS. Lately there has been a huge emphasis on getting women involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Do you feel things have changed over the years since you first started your career as an astronaut?
I definitely feel that things have changed – there are a lot more women doing all kinds of things and now we can see them, and listen to them, and read about them on the internet.
How old were you when you first dreamed of becoming an astronaut?
I was a few months short of turning 8 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It inspired me completely, and within a couple of years I was telling everyone I was going to be an astronaut.
The opportunity to speak with you came through the Uniphi Space Agency, which is promoting their #WeBelieveInAstronauts campaign. What can you tell us about the project?
It’s really meant to inspire people by thinking about space and about humans in space – we are all crewmembers on planet Earth, and every one of us who has been to space brings space to the people we talk to, and we take them with us when we go to space.
Did you ever spend any holidays in space?
I did! Halloween in 2007. We actually were more focused on bringing goodies to the crew on ISS – we brought a fold-up paper turkey for them to celebrate Thanksgiving. But we also brought costumes from families to the ISS crew.
Science fiction is seeing a big comeback in recent years, especially semi-realistic portrayals of space travel. Personally, Interstellar had a huge impact on me and revitalized my interest in space exploration. The message resonated with me. Do you have an interest in science fiction as a genre? What are some of your favorites?
I love science fiction and I always have! I have a ridiculous number of books that I cherish. My favorite author of all time is Anne McCaffrey, but I also love anything by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (the Liaden Universe). Also a big fan of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. I love military sci-fi (go figure!). Anything by Orson Scott Card. Major Star Trek fan and also Star Wars.
Our slogan here at The Geekiary is “We’re fans. We have a lot of FEELINGS. This is where we talk about them.” So I have to ask, what gives you feelings? What are you a fan of?
Well, I am definitely a science fiction fan…but I am passionate about a lot of things. I care a lot about women’s leadership issues and mentoring young and mid-career women. I really feel strongly about getting as many people into space to see the world as we can. I’m also a big fan of being a big fan – caring a lot about anything and wanting to make a difference.
Thanks for the conversation, and thank you Uniphi Space Agenchy for providing the opportunity.
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.