This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Kellie Gerardi, an aerospace and defense professional, a mom, and a bioastronautics researcher who will be flying to space on a dedicated science mission with Virgin Galactic! She also is the author of children’s picture book series, Luna Muna. While most of us can’t exactly relate to being an astronaut, Kellie shares relatable parenting content on TikTok, where she has amassed more than half a million followers. We spoke to Kellie about her amazing career, family life in Jupiter, Florida, with her husband (Steven) and daughter (Delta V., age 3) and more.
What can you tell us about training for space?
It still feels incredible to say that I’m in the midst of preparing to go to space! I’ll be bringing my healthcare and fluid experiments to space and building off of the research I’ve done here on Earth. Training has been incredibly humbling — a really powerful reminder of what a feat it is to send human beings and research to space. It’s also fun. I like to joke that I’m upping my dose of Vitamin-G! I have to carefully choreograph my movements in the cabin, and I’ll be practicing that choreography on a series of aerobatic (high-g) and parabolic (zero-g) flights to make sure everything integrates and operates as intended. This will help inform ideal sensor placement on my experiments and will help validate our choreography plan. Practice makes perfect! And then, of course, I’ll be looking forward to vehicle-specific training with the Virgin Galactic team. Because this is a dedicated research mission vs a tourist flight, my flight will involve additional training and operational protocols.
Can you please tell us a bit about Luna Muna?
My children’s book series “Luna Muna”was heavily influenced by witnessing my journey to space through the eyes of my five year old daughter Delta, who is growing up knowing that flying to space isn’t a dream that’s out of her reach. Representation is so important, especially at a young age. I grew up in Jupiter FL (very on brand!) and I could see Space Shuttle launches from my bedroom window. You could say I had front row seats to the final frontier … but it still wasn’t obvious to me that I could ever hope to be a part of it myself. I wrote Luna Muna to drive home that space is for everyone… even the girliest girls (like my Delta!) We are all multitudes!
When did you join TikTok and why do you think your content has resonated?
I’ve had the privilege to build a large science communication platform, whether through building engaged communities on social media like Instagram and TikTok and then having the opportunity to take the conversation onto bookshelves as well. When I think of social media, I think about success in terms of impact. I think my journey resonates with people because the most extraordinary thing about me is that I’m an ordinary person. And representation matters. I share my life and journey on social media because it spells out a new path for a new generation of astronaut. I receive messages asking “How did you do that, I wish I could do what you do, I had no idea that existed.” Or “it’s so amazing to see someone who looks like me pursuing this.” It’s so motivating to know that my platform can be a catalyst for people adjusting the limiter on their own aptitude and imaginations. And the representation matters to me in my own family too. The most rewarding part for me has definitely been watching this through the eyes of my nearly 5yo daughter, Delta V. In Delta’s mind, flying to space is just another thing moms do! She’s going to grow up knowing that not even the sky is a limit.
How important is it to you to model STEM success for girls, including your own daughter?
Just to put things in perspective about the moment that we’re at right now. In the entirety of our history as a space-faring species, 600-something people have been to space. A few hundred. That’s it. And fewer than 100 women have been to space. To think that I’m going to be one the first 100 women in human history to have the opportunity to travel to space is mind-boggling. It’s proof that the limiter to human spaceflight has always been access, not aptitude. That’s changing. This is just the beginning. In the next 5 years alone we have the potential to double, triple, quadruple the number of human beings who have been to space. We’re standing on the doorstep to a new era of space exploration and commercial companies are leading the way, not only by enabling a new generation of scientist-astronauts like myself to conduct research in space, but also by creating access opportunities for civilians of all disciplines. The next generations of space travelers won’t all be engineers, and I want to see poets, athletes, teachers, and musicians in space. I want to see people from all backgrounds to experience spaceflight – I think humanity will be better off for it. To me, the Space Age is a broader cultural movement, and our next giant leap will require the contributions of artists, engineers, and everyone in between.
Amazing. What is next for you?
My hope for future generations of space travelers and engineers is that we continue to go boldly in pursuit of that Star Trek future… pushing the boundaries of innovation, engineering, progress. Not only to survive as the only known life in the universe, but to live long and to prosper!