An exclusive Q&A with Inspiration4 astronaut Sian Procter

p 3 exclusive qa introducing inspiration4 civilian astronaut sian procter

In the event you watched the Tremendous Bowl this 12 months, you’ll have seen an intriguing advert for SpaceX’s Inspiration4, deliberate to be the first-ever all-civilian area flight, which started soliciting functions for would-be area explorers through the massive recreation. The flight will put 4 nonastronauts into low earth orbit on a multiday journey utilizing SpaceX’s Dragon, the reusable spacecraft that has ferried crews to and from the Worldwide Area Station. The Inspiration4 program was based in partnership with St. Jude’s Youngsters’s Hospital to lift consciousness and cash for the youngsters’s most cancers analysis group and contains 4 seats that characterize Management, Hope, Prosperity, and Generosity. After a social media contest and rigorous analysis course of (for which Quick Firm editor-in-chief Stephanie Mehta served as a decide), Inspiration4 introduced in the present day that Sian Procter, PhD, will occupy the Prosperity chair.

Procter is an completed geoscientist and educator, and he or she’s no stranger to area exploration. She was born on Guam, the place her father labored for NASA, and Procter adopted in his footsteps: As a geoscientist, she has served as an “analog astronaut” on 4 NASA analysis tasks, wherein scientists dwell in and conduct analysis in simulated area environments on earth. Procter can also be an authorized pilot and was a finalist for NASA’s 2009 astronaut choice program. Along with her analysis, Procter has been a geoscience professor at Maricopa Neighborhood Faculties for greater than 20 years and holds a doctorate in science training. As a part of her Inspiration4 software, Procter arrange a web site, Space2Inspire Artwork, to share her unique space-themed paintings and poems on postcards and to create conversations round what she calls JEDI Area: Simply, Equitable, Numerous, and Inclusive.

Quick Firm caught up with the scientist, artist, and educator to listen to about her journey to grow to be one of many world’s first civilian astronauts, and what she hopes to perform on her mission.


So to begin with, congratulations. Are you able to inform me slightly bit about the way you ended up right here, changing into a civilian astronaut?

I really feel like I’ve been working my total life to get to this second. After I take into consideration my household’s legacy it actually performs into the storyline: I used to be born on Guam—my dad labored on the NASA monitoring station there through the Apollo period—so my household was on Guam for the Apollo 11 moon touchdown. I used to be truly born eight and a half months after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, so I contemplate myself to be a moon-celebration child. After the moon touchdown, my dad truly acquired to satisfy Neil Armstrong, and rising up we had an autograph from Armstrong to my father, thanking him for all the assistance.

My dad and mother each inspired me to be an explorer, to pursue math, science, and engineering. As a child, I actually cherished aviation and aerospace, and I needed to be an F-16 pilot. I had goals of going to the Air Power Academy, after which I acquired glasses, and within the ’80s you weren’t match to be a army aviator in the event you acquired glasses. I all the time noticed that as my street to being an astronaut, so I type of gave up on that dream. My father handed away once I was 19, from lung most cancers, and that was additionally actually arduous. So I went off and lived my life as an explorer, grew to become a geoscientist and traveled and taught world wide, and acquired my doctorate. Then I acquired my pilot’s license, as a result of I all the time needed to fly. I did all this stuff that got here naturally.

After which in my late 30s, somebody despatched me an electronic mail that NASA was searching for astronauts, and stated I ought to apply. I utilized and ended up being a finalist for the 2009 NASA astronaut choice course of. And that basically introduced aviation and aerospace again into my life.

From there, I ended up changing into an analog astronaut, which is any person who engages in analysis and coaching round human spaceflight, however they’re not related with an company like NASA. I ended up residing in 4 totally different simulations, that are habitats that simulate the moon or Mars for analysis, and I investigated meals methods for long-duration area flight. And I just about thought that my possibilities of changing into an astronaut had been getting slimmer and slimmer as I become old. I didn’t even apply to the final astronaut choice.

Although I’ll not have been notably chasing changing into an astronaut, I really feel like my total life being an explorer, and a geoscientist, and a instructor, and whilst an artist and entrepreneur, has led me to this second.

How does it really feel to attain that dream, lastly?


It’s humorous, I’m used to the “no” by now. However this time, I wish to say it was like when Harry Potter realized that he was a wizard. Like, “Wait, I can’t be a wizard.” On this case, it’s like, “I can’t be a Dragon flyer.” It’s overwhelming—it’s wonderful.

What is going to coaching and preparations be like?

The day of coaching begins proper after the announcement. Up to now it’s been getting medical clearance, ensuring that you simply’re flight prepared, after which moving into the coaching program and ensuring you’re in the most effective form you could be. We’re going to get issues like centrifuge coaching, in order that we are able to really feel what the g-forces are like. We’ll go into jet airplanes [to experience low gravity]—I’m so excited to get right into a army fighter jet. After which a number of it’s getting right into a SpaceX simulator and going by the coaching that NASA astronauts undergo with a purpose to be prepared for the Dragon capsule.

One thing fascinating and thrilling about this flight is that it’s all civilians. As a skilled scientist, and a pilot, and somebody who has lived in simulations, in some methods you have got essentially the most expertise of anybody within the group. How do you suppose that can have an effect on your function within the mission?

Every of our crew members brings one thing distinctive. However to some extent, I really feel like I’m the oldest and the wisest, proper? I’m the oldest of the crew members. And I wish to say I’m seasoned. I’m seasoned within the sense that I’ve lived in these Mars and moon simulations, so I’ve thought lots about group cohesion and the way you reside collectively in small, tight areas. However I’m additionally a instructor and a geoscientist. So after we’re earth from area, I’ll be capable of level out options and discuss our planet and why it’s such a tremendous place in our photo voltaic system. And so I’m completely satisfied to convey that perspective, not solely to my fellow crew members however all of my college students and lecturers from world wide.

A part of your function, because the Prosperity seat, is your web site Space2Inspire, the place you have got stunning paintings you’ve created that includes Black girls in area. How do you hope this journey will encourage younger girls and other people of coloration?

I’m so excited to be a task mannequin for folks of coloration generally. I believe again to watching Apollo-era human area flight and all the time occupied with “How come I don’t see my dad? There’s no folks of coloration in all of this archive footage.” After which the film Hidden Figures got here out, and also you notice, “Oh, that is what the time was like.” By that point my dad was already gone, and I couldn’t have these conversations with my mother and father. I’ve the chance to go to area now and have conversations about why a Simply, Equitable, Numerous, and Inclusive (JEDI) Area is so vital. And Inspiration4 is opening the door for that.

What are you most trying ahead to in your journey to area? If you think about your self up there, what’s the scene taking part in in your head?

As a geoscientist, there may be nothing that I’m trying ahead to greater than seeing the earth from area. There may be nothing extra stunning than our planet. So for me, that’s going to be wonderful, to see all of the land options and the oceans and our ambiance. I take into consideration that sense of awe. After which as an area artist, as a poet . . . Contact is my favourite film. And when Jodie Foster says, “They need to have despatched a poet,” that second when she’s simply overwhelmed—that’s how I envision my expertise to be.

Inform me slightly bit about your artwork and your poetry. How do you marry your love of science with your artwork?

For many of my life, I’ve expressed my voice by science, and creating curriculum for my college students and interesting methods for them to be taught, and doing science communication. For me to now have this different lens open up for myself, the place it’s creating paintings, whether or not it’s collage artwork or work and watercolor, it’s a type of exploration and discovery. Offering my phrases is giving me a option to categorical myself that I haven’t explored in most of my life. So it’s actually opening up a brand new chapter for me, and I’m so completely satisfied to have the Prosperity seat as a result of to me, you get prosperity by creativity. And once I take into consideration my Space2Inspire message, it truly is getting folks to unleash their creativity, as a result of if they’ll, they’ll prosper by that. If you discover your individual inventive lens and share that with the world, that may result in all types of unimaginable alternatives.


I really feel like I’ve been handed the keys to the Chocolate Manufacturing unit in Willy Wonka. This chance to be taught, to develop, to share, to create and encourage others. And there’s additionally this generosity component, with St. Jude and the lifesaving analysis that occurs there. My father handed away from most cancers once I was 19. That threw my world the wrong way up, and I used to be in highschool when he acquired sick. To undergo that have, I can’t even think about if I used to be a mother or father having to undergo that with a toddler.

I’ve learn that you simply’re going to be performing some experiments whilst you’re up there. Have you learnt what you’ll be doing, or what sort of work you’d love to do?

I don’t have the small print of the bigger experiments, however for me personally, I’ve some targets, and one is to characterize the instructor in area. So how can I convey a lesson that can assist me encourage college students world wide? Significantly my college students on the group faculty. I like being a group faculty professor. I believe it’s the hidden gem of training as a result of we are actually open-access. I’ve had the 16-year-old subsequent to the 70-year-old in my class. And now we have to have the ability to communicate to and attain and encourage each of them, wherever they’re of their studying. There’s no different training system that has to do this.

After which my different purpose is to create artwork in area, artwork and poetry. And I need to do some watercolor and paint and write and take images of our planet.

Will you be capable of use watercolors in low gravity?

I’m tremendous excited to see. Now they’ve these pens that get crammed with water that goes out onto the comb. So I believe it’s going to be enjoyable to see the way it works, and to share that with college students and artists and other people world wide, to see the way it seems. It’s an experiment, too. And that’s why I like science, too, as a result of science is in all the things. And so I look ahead to having the ability to discuss in regards to the science within the artwork that I’ll be doing.

What do you suppose it will imply to your group faculty college students and colleagues?

I believe they’re going to be blown away. I’ve all the time had this motto to guide by instance, and that’s one of many issues once I go off and do these expeditions, I all the time convey it again to my college students within the classroom, so I can encourage them to exit and be geo explorers. I need to give them the arrogance that “yeah, I used to be identical to you, you may exit and do that too.” For them to have the ability to see me, a group faculty professor, in area, to see that my arduous work and perseverance has paid off, I believe they are going to be impressed to exit and chase their goals. And I’m trying ahead to the world figuring out, and presenting this wonderful crew.

As a scientist who’s been occupied with this for a lot of your life, how do you suppose this journey will change the area business?

This can be a historic second in human area flight, the place 4 civilians are coming collectively and representing the pillars of management, hope, generosity, and prosperity. This can be a new period of area exploration, the business aspect. And we’re actually attempting to point out what you are able to do in the case of entry to area. Who will get to go is all based mostly on who has entry, and if you discuss giving civilians and on a regular basis folks entry, that may be a recreation changer.

As an everyday individual, going to area appears, actually, fairly scary and intimidating to me. Is there something you’re frightened about?

You recognize, for me, my biggest worry was that this second would by no means manifest for me. I’ve had these goals and aspirations my total life. So now that it has, it’s like, “I did it, I made it. It’s going to occur.” So now, it’s extra about pleasure. I’m an explorer, and I perceive threat and threat administration, and the way we do the most effective to mitigate these issues. When that is the dream you’ve been chasing your entire life, you’re identical to, “Strap me in—I’m able to go.”