Vanessa E. Wyche is the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. She oversees programs that will send astronauts to the moon and Mars. TFK Kid Reporter Shaivi Moparthi spoke with Wyche at the space center.
1. What roles did you have at the Johnson Space Center before becoming director, in 2021?
I started as a project engineer. I helped scientists study how space travel affects the body. I went on to manage the space-shuttle missions that built the International Space Station (ISS). Then I moved to exploration. We plan missions to Mars.
2. What made you pursue a career in science?
I was always curious about how things work. In high school, a teacher said, “You know, you can have a career in science.” I was like, “Really?”
3. Who inspired you?
Probably my dad. When he rewired our house, I had to help. All of the things he taught my brother, he also taught me. That gave me the confidence that I could pursue a career.
4. What are the aims of the Artemis missions?
The first mission will test the spacecraft, to make sure astronauts can go to the moon and come back. Then we’ll put humans on board and test out the system with them integrated into the loop. Then the landing mission. We’re going to be landing in locations where we can find ice. We’ll figure out how to use it to make oxygen. Then we can actually live on the moon’s surface. 5. How does research in space help us on Earth? There are many places on Earth with water scarcity . On the ISS, we’re learning how to recycle water. We’re also experimenting with growing heart cells, and figuring out ways to treat cancer.
6. What do you look for in an astronaut recruit?
People who can work well with others. And we’re looking for people who want to learn.
7. Do astronauts train here, at the space center?
They train in this facility. They learn how all of the systems work. They learn how to make repairs on the space station, and how to do research. Astronauts have to be multitalented.
8. What’s your advice for young people who are interested in pursuing a career in science?
Be curious. Join a science camp. Go to college and learn as much as you can, so you can come be a part of the Artemis generation. We need you guys.