Like many, my obsession for space began at a young age. There was something about the thrill of exploring the cosmos and the mighty roar of a rocket which consumed me. I could only imagine myself becoming an astronaut. That is, until I realized that due to my severe food allergies, my chances of being selected were thin. Slowly, this dream began to fade.
Then, in February of 2018 a close friend invited me to attended a local Go For Launch! camp hosted by Higher Orbits. During the camp we listened to talks from astronauts and developed our teamwork and presentation skills through entertaining group exercises. Engineering activities forced us to think outside the box, literally, as we built structures with limited supplies.
Additionally, four other local students and I formed “Team Waffle,” and were tasked with designing an experiment to possibly be performed in space. That experiment, “The Effect of Microgravity on Self-healing Concrete” was eventually selected by a panel of astronauts and aerospace professionals as the winner of the 2018 Go For Launch! Cygnus Series. Over the next few months, we worked with aerospace professionals at Space Tango to build and refine the experimental apparatus. On November 17, 2018, our experiment was launched onboard NG-10 to the International Space Station. The week of the launch, which included an appearance on a NASA TV press conference, and a close-up view of the 4am launch, will forever be etched into my memory.
The Go For Launch! experience gave me a lot of things. It facilitated close friendships between my teammates and I. It developed essential skills, such as leadership and collaboration. Go For Launch! forced me out of my comfort zone and made me grow.
Most of all, Go For Launch! reignited my passion for space, this time with a new direction: to become an aerospace engineer. Today I am following that dream as I study aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia.