Kellie Gerardi shoots for the stars.
The researcher, author and influence on social media recently learned that she will travel to space on a flight with Virgin Galactic.
“I think it would be very appropriate for me to say that I could never have dreamed of this, but it would not be true,” she told The Post. “The reality is that I have dreamed about this. . . every single day in detail for the last decade. ”
Although she is not a professional astronaut engineer, the 32-year-old civilian space enthusiast is heavily involved in commercial space travel. For her, the new space race is about more than getting billionaires like Virgin Galactic̵
“I am so grateful for Richard Branson’s vision of democratizing access to space,” she said of the billionaire, who is said to have fired a rocket himself on Sunday (July 11th). “[Humanity] should not just send engineers to space; we must send poets and journalists and communicators and artists and athletes. This is a watershed moment for more people to experience. ”
The three companies, she added, “took action to disrupt the old way of doing business, with an eye towards flexibility and innovation, and reduce costs dramatically.”
Gerardi will take what is called a suborbital spaceflight, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her seat is funded by her employer, the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS). “You get up, you enjoy five minutes of microgravity, and you come right down again,” she explained. The whole trip takes about two hours, and she can not reveal when it will take place.
When she blows off, Gerardi will wear a bio-surveillance suit called Astroskin under the equipment to monitor how the body reacts to the journey. “This will be the first time we collect data where someone uses it during launch, re-entry and landing,” she explained. She will also conduct an experiment on how liquids react to a limited environment in microgravity – and the results may affect how medicine in syringes is administered in space.
It seems that Gerardi’s interest in space was written in the stars. “I grew up in Jupiter,” she said with a laugh in Florida City less than two hours from NASA snipers. “My window framed this sky over Cape Canaveral, and from there I saw so many space shuttle routes. It did not occur to me at the time that I could be a part of it. ”
For college, Gerardi went to New York City, where she first attended Barnard, and then graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2011 with a degree in film. “I thought when I graduated, I would work for NatGeo or the Science Channel,” she said. “Then I realized that the entertainment industry was not for me.”
Instead, she decided to pursue something more adventurous.
She began working on a coat check at Manhattan’s headquarters in the Explorers Club, a community dedicated to land, sea and air discovery. (Now she’s on the club’s board.) That’s where she met mentors Richard and Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux. Richard was a private astronaut and a civilian video game developer who self-financed his mission to the International Space Station – he was one of the first [civilians] to do it, ”said Gerardi.
She wanted to do the same. But “I felt there was no way I could catch up through a natural NASA election process,” Gerardi admitted of her astronaut dreams. “[Meeting Richard] was the breakthrough moment for me. ”
After that she worked in communication and business development for a rocket company. As a DC-based crew member and bioastronautics researcher with IIAS, Gerardi has tested spacecraft, evaluated aircraft, studied biometrics and even flown in simulated micro- and zero-gravity conditions – all to optimize the human experience in space.
Still, Gerardi admitted, not coming from a traditional scientific background has sometimes made her feel self-conscious about her place in space.
“I have felt a tremendous sense of fraud syndrome in the past,” she said. “I will never be a stereotype [professional astronaut] who travels to space, but I plan to change the stereotype. “
“Flying out of this world” is the only goal in my life, “Gerardi said. “Every decision I have made – career, family – in recent years has been very explicitly oriented around making this goal happen.”
Her husband, Steven, is also up in the air: he works in aviation and defense. At the wedding, astronaut Scott Kelly sent them a video toast from the International Space Station. “My daughter has seen all these pictures of mom in a spacesuit, and she thinks that’s exactly what the mothers do,” Gerardi said of 3-year-old Delta V. (V is for Victoria).
Gerardi wants to take his family into space in the form of happiness charm.
“I come with a few. . . personal memorials in my pockets, ”she said. “I want to focus on things that are meaningful to my family, maybe a picture and memorial for memorials that were created for my wedding and for my daughter was born.”
Her social media followers will track her trip – Gerardi has 137,000 on Instagram and 525,000 on TikTok. “Over the years, [my accounts] completely transformed, from ambitious to inspiring, ”she said, noting that she often shares her research in an effort to be more inclusive. Before, “It was a feeling that I was inside instead of outside. I’m trying to get more people involved. ”
Last fall, she published her memoir “Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to Life in the Space Age,” and in February signed an agreement to write children’s books, the first to be published later this year. Her main goal, Gerardi said, is to inspire people like her who do not fit the traditional astronaut shape.
“I’m making my own way to space,” she said. “I am very motivated to expand the access to space for people who come from different skill sets, like me. This is not a path that is closed to you. ”
Further reporting by Kirsten Fleming
Photos: John Olive and Tolga Kavut; Hair: Steven Hoeppner; Makeup: Paolo Orlando