Philanthropist and SpaceKids Global (spacekids.global) founder Sharon Hagle recently returned to earth after a flight with her husband Marc aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard. She was the only female crew member, and they are the first married couple to experience space together. Sharon plans to use her experience to continue mentoring youths on the boundless possibilities in the industry and the importance of STEAM+ education. The flight took off at 8:57 am CDT, March 31 and arrived safely back to earth at 9:07 am CDT. The 10-minute journey traveled 62 miles above earth.
How and when did you get interested in space?
Her passion for space started when she was a child having been introduced to it in her 6th grade classroom in West Virginia. “We listened as Alan Shepard became the first American to go to space in 1961. At the time – and I think this is important for kids – you don’t realize what you’re experiencing in history. For elementary school kids today launches are going up so frequently they are becoming normal. Back then it was new. I remember thinking, ‘this is really exciting, but what does it have to do with me?’
How long had you been planning for this extraordinary mission?
We signed on for the first flight with Virgin Galactic back in 2007. Through the years we have done zero-gravity training at Kennedy Space Center. And then we did the centrifuge training where NASA trains their astronauts in Philadelphia called NASTAR. We also had an opportunity to train in Russia and went to Star City where the cosmonauts train. It’s exciting for Marc and me to be part of the early launches and be able to get data back to help prepare future generations who may possibly live on another planet.
How did all the training kick in for the launch?
We’ve had a lot of different types of training for a sub-orbital flight with Blue Origin. They do an absolutely fantastic job of training us and making us feel comfortable to the point that we were entering the capsule on launch day. One of the crew mates said, ‘Look we’re home.’ Everything was so well imprinted on our brains it became a natural response to what we were supposed to do.
Where there an anxiety-inducing moments?
When we went on the [launch] hold everyone was kind of holding their breath. We were afraid as time started ticking by that they were going to scrub us for the day. Any no one wanted that. When it was really obvious we were going to launch we were yelling GO, GO, GO and we started counting down at T-10. Then at liftoff everyone was whooping and hollering. We made history on the flight for several reasons, including the longest holding pattern and as of today, reached the highest point of the height window.
How will this impact SpaceKids Global?
I can’t wait to get back in front of the kids. Up to this point our presentation has always been about training for space and what it takes to go to space. Now having gone to space it changes the whole perspective. We tell the kids we have a front row seat to all this because these companies want to hire in Florida before they do further outreach. The kids do not realize there are other jobs in the industry beside astronaut. It’s important to let them know there are whole teams behind each mission – drivers, doctors, chefs. Space is big enough it’s available for everyone. We need to reach kids by the age of six or seven or we’ve lost them. What SpaceKids Global is trying to do is help fulfill the 3.5 million job vacancies in the STEAM field predicted by 2025. If kids can be participators and not just spectators, we can make learning fun.
Stay tuned… Sharon hopes to fly with all three space companies and go on a 5–7-day orbit around the moon or the earth.