- Kellie Gerardi will soon be one of the youngest moms ever in the space.
- Gerardi is a Palantir employee who faces the moon as an astronaut and has a background in space communication.
- She has half a million followers on TikTok and Instagram, where she posts on STEM and motherhood.
- See more stories on the Insider activity page.
Kellie Gerardi is not the first worker in the tech industry with a side injury. When not working his day job as a specialist in mission operations in sometimes-controversial Palantir data analysis firm, is also a famous star TikTok, where her videos on space, astrophysics and motherhood have garnered nearly 460,000 followers.
Just next year, however, Gerardi is set to take on a new concert at the moon that few can afford: The 32-year-old is scheduled to launch her first space flight as a payload specialist with Virgin Galactic, which the makes her one of the youngest mothers to ever leave the atmosphere, and the first woman in charge is contracted to fly on a commercial vehicle.
“Less than a thousand humans have ever been in the space – less than 100 women, just a handful of mothers, and my three-year-old daughter will see her mother become one of them,” Gerardi told Insider. “This is a really powerful framework and I think growing up, I think going into space is just another thing that moms do.”
Designed to fly on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity suborbital spacecraft, Gerardi’s flight is expected to last 60 to 75 minutes, and will take off and land at the company’s space center in New Mexico. Gerardi will conduct an experiment in fluid dynamics in microgravity and test wearable sensors that monitor the biological impact of space flight on civilians.
The experiments are being conducted by and for the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), a research and education organization that encourages private citizens to explore space, and where Gerardi is also a researcher. IIAS and Virgin Galactic will work with academic and government partners to plan the flight and “maximize the advances in science and technology obtained from research experiments,” Virgin Galactic said in a press release. IIAS also funds Gerardi’s flight and provides him with training before takeoff.
In particular, Gerardi is not herself an engineer, but rather a science communicator and a citizen scientist: As Virgin Galactic and others like Blue Origin and SpaceX racing to make tourism and space exploration more widely available in the coming years, Gerardi says future space travelers “won’t be all engineers.”
Returning from his space flight, Gerardi hopes to help ensure that the next generation of space explorers is a more diverse one, from a wide range of backgrounds and demographics.
“I’m just one of many, many researchers who will be flying in the next decade with their payloads and with their experiments,” he said. “I want to help make sure that pipeline isn’t just for me.”
From controlling the mantle of work in an exclusive New York club to space
Gerardi told the Insider that she grew up with a strong interest in space, but also an “obsolete frame” around which she was allowed to be an astronaut. The space industry, like the other STEM fields, has wide racial and gender gaps and is over-represented by white men. Women make up only 24% of the professionals in the aerospace industry, according to an Aviation Week report, and represent just that one-third of NASA’s workforce.
“It wasn’t an industry that saw me necessarily as having a future until I was a little older and discovered the commercial space flight industry,” Gerardi said.
This discovery came after studying film at Columbia University and New York University, and Gerardi began working on the film at The Explorers Club in New York City – a professional society dedicated to science and exploration that Jeff Bezos, Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and director James Cameron are among its members.. Bezos, in particular, will be quickly making its own space flight.
That’s where she met Richard Garriott, the current club president and sixth private citizen to go into space. Garriott, a video game entrepreneur, paid $ 35 million to fly to the International Space Station on a Russian missile in 2008.
“It blew me in my mind to think that someone could go around NASA’s astronaut selection process, but it also realized a dream of a lifetime. And so it was my ‘aha’ moment of ‘Wow, this industry allows to the next generation of flyers, ”he said.
Gerardi’s first role in the space industry was at the Commercial Space Federation, where he was a media specialist, and then he worked with Masten Space Systems, an aerospace manufacturing startup. But it first gained national attention in 2014 as a candidate to establish a human colony on Mars as part of the private Mars One mission, which it was aborted after being subjected to harsh criticism from the scientific community.
“More than a decade ago, I thought maybe one day I’ll have a career in scientific communication, and in telling these stories,” Gerardi told Insider. “And then I realized I had the ability to participate in myself and be an active contributor. So that part of my career really took off.”
As a Palantir employee he became an astronaut
Gerardi joined Palantir’s mission operations team in 2015. The company describes the team as a “special forces logistics unit” that performs customer service work as varied as possible. ‘and the installation of a complex hardware distribution to act as travel agents.
“We are a kind of global 24/7 operations team that works against the highest priorities in the company. So where mission operations are needed, we deploy, we go where the work is,” he said. Gerardi.
As head of technical projects for Palantir’s philanthropic efforts, Gerardi told Insider that he helped the organizations use their flagship. Gotham data analysis software, which is typically used by law enforcement and other government agencies. Gotham has been the subject of controversy in these environments, however, as and when used by ICE to examine immigrants at the border.
While she was “very pregnant” in 2017, Gerardi said she was sent to Houston, Texas to help the Rubicon team, a nonprofit disaster response group made up of military veterans, rescue wildlife from wildlife. and provides relief to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
But his fortune to go into space came from his background in scientific communication, which turned into space research and even more so.
Gerardi participated for the first time in the IIAS through the PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) Project, a nonprofit initiative that studies the Earth’s upper atmosphere and trains private citizens. for space flight and research. Gerardi is also an ambassador for the PoSSUM 13 program, which aims to “increase opportunities and representation for students – particularly young women – in space science and exploration,” she said.
Her association with the group is what led her to be exploited for this particular experiment, although she says she will probably be only the first of many in the IIAS.
“We have a bunch of talented researchers and a bunch of payloads that we’d love to fly, so I’m convinced this is just the first of many future IIAS human research flight announcements to come,” Gerardi said.
And even though she considers Palantir her priority, Gerardi said she’s “excited to put this message out of the office when I fly into space.”
Use TikTok to help send the next generation into space
Gerardi says one of her goals is to show that there is a path to the space industry, even for people like her who don’t come from traditional STEM backgrounds.
“The next giant leap for humanity will require the talents of artists, engineers, and everyone in between,” he said. “So I really wanted to share this message to everyone who was thinking,‘ Wow, what a fascinating industry, how can I get involved in helping these people? “And maybe I thought there wasn’t a role for them when there’s a lot of them.”
Seeing more people like her in aerospace could also have helped alleviate some of the early challenges Gerardi faced, where he says he had a “disproportionate sense of pressure.”
“If I put in the first race company I worked for, where I was the only non-engineer in the company, it’s like‘ It’s a reflection, not just on my performance, but for all the non-engineers in STEM or all women in STEM? he said.
One way Gerardi extends that funnel is through a heartfelt embrace of TikTok and Instagram, where he has a combined reach of more than half a million followers and posts on space, motherhood, and encourages women and young people to joins the STEM fields. If platforms existed when she grew up, Gerardi says she may have first joined the space industry.
“People who seek to reach out and help nurture their dreams live on these platforms,” he said. “There has never been a more powerful access point for scientific communication.”