On Tuesday, March 29th, Cunningham Collective, GSVlabs and First Republic Bank will host a panel discussion that brings together six female leaders in the space industry: "Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women in Space," at GSVlabs in Redwood City, CA from 6:00 to 8:30pm. You can learn more about the panel and RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/where-no-man-has-gone-before-women-in-space-tickets-22863429132
With so much exciting activity going on in the space industry – from technological advancements like reusable rockets and commercial opportunities to travel to space – to a surge in public interest (and tech investment!), space exploration is once again at the forefront of our minds and imaginations.
And with all of these new developments, more women than ever are playing crucial roles in the advancement of the space industry. In fact, the latest class of NASA astronauts is half women! At this event, we’ll hear from some successful women – including a former astronaut and leaders from Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Planet Blue and NASA Ames Research Center who have helped to break new ground in the industry. Below are the stories behind each of the talented women who will be sharing their perspectives with us on Tuesday:
Dr. Ioana Cozmuta, PhD
MICROGRAVITY LEAD, SPACE PORTAL
AT NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER
Dr. Ioana Cozmuta is the Industry Innovation and Microgravity Lead at the Space Portal, NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Through her skill set she provides fair broker vetting of a wide portfolio of technologies. She informs, connects and advocates in support of the commercial success of space technologies to help build a robust economy in Earth’s orbits and create meaningful partnerships for success of NASA missions. Some say that Ioana is one of the most knowledgeable experts on microgravity research and applications in the world today. Ioana grew up in Communist Romania, an upbringing that has led her to be an intrinsically curious person; she always wondered what was happening on the other side of the curtain. This curiosity ultimately led her to leave Romania, earn a PhD in Physics at Groningen University, the Netherlands and eventually move to the United States to study Computational Chemistry at California Institute of Technology turning from an experimentalist into a “computationalist”. Through her work at Stanford Genome Technology Center she joined NASA Ames Research Center for Nanotechnology entering, without realizing, the aerospace industry. She was the first to bring computational chemistry methods in the field of Reentry Systems (first chair of the prestigious Gordon Research Conferences on Atmospheric Reentry Physics), developed and implemented fundamental models for gas-surface interactions and material response providing technical leadership to missions such as Stardust and Mars Science Laboratory. Ioana is a featured TedEx "Future Spoiler” speaker (Our Kind Future Through the Eyes of Space), has over 70 publications and numerous talks in the US and abroad. She enjoys mentoring students, writing poetry and raising her two daughters, Amelia (11 yr) and Alexandra (8 yr).
FUN FACT: Dr. Cozmuta’s describes her path to a career in space as serendipitous. She realized she wanted to be in the aerospace industry after taking her first plane flight. She thought that the flight attendant’s job was too difficult and became a physicist instead.
Ali Guarneros Luna
AT NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER
Ali Guarneros Luna is an Aerospace and Systems Engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. Ali’s fascination with space began early on. As a young girl growing up in Mexico City, Ali read about the space shuttle missions in her mother’s encyclopedias and knew she wanted to study Aerospace Engineering. At the age of 14, Ali and her family immigrated to California. After graduating from high school still mastering the English language, she attended San Jose City College where she obtained an A.S. degree and then transferred to San Jose State University (SJSU), Department of Engineering. Throughout this time, Ali worked two jobs to support her family (including her four children and two younger brothers and one sister) and her tuition. Ali graduated from SJSU with a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and began her career as an intern with NASA with the Center's Chief of Technology. Now, six years after joining NASA as an intern, Ali is one of the few engineers to be considered an expert on the International Space Station (ISS) and is working to develop hardware for a mission to Mars. Ali admires Jodie Foster’s character in Contact for her fearlessness breaking through gender barriers and considers the women in her family and her professors to be her role models.
FUN FACT: In addition to her full-time role at NASA Ames Research Center, Ali retains a part-time position at Pottery Barn Kids because she enjoys the balance of perspectives it brings to her life.
Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger is a retired space shuttle astronaut for NASA. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Whitman College, Dottie received her teaching certification from Central Washington University and went on to teach for five years at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, WA. Her dreams of going to space began in 1990 at Space Camp and were activated one afternoon in the classroom when one of her students asked how astronauts use the bathroom in space. While researching the answer, Dottie discovered there was a program at NASA for teachers who want to become astronauts. She was selected by NASA as a mission specialist in May 2004 and underwent astronaut training while pregnant, finishing the program as a new mother. After completing this initial training, Dottie qualified for technical assignments within the Astronaut Office and future flight assignment. After several years of training, she was assigned to the STS-131 crew, an International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission, and flew as Mission Specialist 2 (also known as the flight engineer). She also served as a robotic arm operator, the Intra-vehicular crew member (the inside coordinator of the spacewalks), and a transfer crew member (helping move six tons of hardware and equipment). The mission lasted fifteen days. After her space flight, Dottie commanded the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO) in the Aquarius Reef Habitat off the Florida coast. The underwater mission sought to develop techniques for working at an asteroid, while working under a 100-second time delay. Today, Dottie is pursuing her Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Washington and lives in the Seattle area with her family.
FUN FACT: Dottie has logged more than 362 hours in space and in April 2010, Dottie made history for being part of a crew with the most female astronauts ever to fly into space at the same time.
DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT ENGINEERING
Erika Reinhardt is the Director of Product Engineering at Planet Labs, where she leads the data pipeline and platform teams. Erika is a self-described “engineering and data nerd.” The daughter of an astrophysicist and an architect, she grew up moving between college towns and having scientists over for dinner. While she enjoyed learning physics and other sciences, she felt she could have a more immediate impact in the engineering world. She found that projects that combined software and hardware — from medical devices to robots — were particularly engaging, and that satellites and space-related systems fit right in. Erika joined Planet Labs in 2012 and was one of the first 15 employees at the company. Today the company is made up of more than 330 people and of these, Erika oversees a team of 40. Prior to taking on her role as Director of Product Engineering, Erika worked on the mission control, manufacturing tools, data processing, and platform teams at Planet. Erika earned her undergraduate degree from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering.
FUN FACT: Erika's husband is the one in the family who studied aerospace in school, and is a huge space geek, but is not currently working in the space industry.
CONFIGURATION DESIGN ENGINEER
Growing up, Tamaira Ross loved playing with Legos; she was always building things. She never paid attention to the picture on the package and everything she developed inevitably became a spaceship. Today, she designs and configures real-life spaceships. She is a configuration design engineer at Blue Origin, a commercial launch company dedicated to opening human access to space. Prior to joining Blue Origin, she was a Technical Fellow in Boeing Defense, Space & Security where she led the preliminary vehicle design and rapid development of several aircraft and spacecraft programs. Tamaira holds a B.S. and a M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University. She also attended the University of Washington where she obtained a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Technology Management MBA. She has ten patents, two of which have been built and tested as working prototypes. Tamaira has taught classes on multi-disciplinary design, wireless power transmission, and engineering design methodology. She is also an affiliate instructor in the Industrial & Systems Engineering department at the University of Washington where she teaches graduate classes in technical leadership. She is the recipient of the Purdue University Outstanding Aerospace Engineer award, the Purdue Alumnus 2010 "40 under 40" award, and the Society of Women Engineers 2010 Emerging Leader in Product Research, Design & Engineering award.
FUN FACT: Tamaira says one of the things she loves about working with people in the space industry is that they are really aspirational. She and her colleagues are able to look at the big picture, which is good because putting people in space is not a small undertaking.
Loretta Whitesides is a Founder Astronaut and Consultant at Virgin Galactic. As a child, Loretta always dreamed of being Princess Leia when she grew up. Today, she has more than five hours of weightless time in a 727 aircraft as a Flight Director for Zero-G Corporation and she and her husband George T. Whitesides are slated to be among the first to take a sub-orbital spaceflight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Loretta was trained as an astrobiologist at Stanford and Caltech and she has journeyed to the Canadian Arctic to study plant life in extreme environments and to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean with “Titanic” director James Cameron to film a 3D IMAX documentary, “Aliens of the Deep.” Loretta loves connecting people, translating between scientists, engineers and non-technical people, and reminding people that the impossible is just something that hasn't happened yet. She has two children (aged 3 and 5) and continues her work in the space community training the next generation of leaders, blogging and speaking about space, and working on her book on the impact of human space exploration on societal evolution.
FUN FACT: Loretta decided to pursue a career in space because she wanted to make the Earth better. Her dream is to make a model city in space that the whole world could look to it to see what was possible for humanity.