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Explore space with out-of-this-world STEM careers

SpaceX

So you might have heard the news about SpaceX’s Starship rocket lifting off then, err, exploding today…

While we watched with our jaws dropped, the team at SpaceX (who design and manufacture advanced rockets and spacecraft) cheered about the massive achievement of getting the rocket off the ground and founder, Elon Musk, said the launch was exciting and that they learned a lot for the next test coming up in a few months.

But what’s all this testing about? Well, SpaceX is getting Starship ready to take people and cargo to the Moon and one day Mars. Kind of a big deal!

If you’re intrigued or inspired by today’s events and/or feel space exploration (or building epic rockets!) is in your future, start skilling up in STEM right away and getting across all the cool careers you could get into. Below, we’ve rounded up five incredible STEM pros, all who have (moon)walked different paths to build an exciting career in space.

Which space career is for you? Shout it out in the comments below.

5 space careers you need to know about

These legends have all successfully launched space careers!

1. Planetary scientist

Professor Phil Bland, planetary scientist

Professor Phil Bland is the director of a space and planetary science research centre. Phil and his team of scientists and engineers are currently working on a small spacecraft project called the Binar Space Program, which has already flown a satellite into Earth’s orbit. The program’s next big goal? Advance that capability to the point where they can fly a Moon mission in three to four years’ time.

Check out his full profile and amazing CV here!

2. Instrument scientist

Dr Helen Maynard-Casely, instrument scientist

Dr Helen Maynard-Casely is a senior instrument scientist at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (ACNS) at ANSTO, where she works with a piece of equipment called WOMBAT. Most of Helen’s job involves helping other scientists – from biologists and chemists to engineers – use WOMBAT to experiment with different materials, subjecting them to extreme conditions like pressure, temperature or a vacuum, and revealing what happens to the material as a result.

But Helen also uses WOMBAT for her own research, which is all about icy planets and moons. For example, on Titan (the largest of Saturn’s 82 moons) there are dunes, volcanoes and oceans, but they’re not made of the same materials as on Earth. Helen uses instruments like WOMBAT to recreate the conditions on moons like Titan to try and find out how these geological features are formed.

Read more about the life of an instrument scientist here!

3. Robotic mobility engineer

Will Reid, robotic mobility engineer

Ever wondered what it would be like to tow a prototype space robot into the icy wilderness of Alaska? It’s just one of the job highlights for Australian engineer Will Reid, who works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“My role is a robotic mobility engineer, and I write software and algorithms to enable robots to make decisions by themselves and traverse these really rough, gnarly terrains, and get from point A to point B,” says Will.

See what a day in the life of a NASA engineer is like here!

4. Astrobiologist

James Bevington, astrobiologist

Astrobiologist James Bevington has firsthand experience living on the Red Planet… sort of. James had just arrived from the US to Australia to kick off his PhD at UNSW Sydney when he applied to NASA to take part in a mock mission to Mars – spending eight months living on the side of a remote volcano in Hawaii, at 2500m above sea level – and he got in!

James deferred his PhD, and took up the post of commander of HI-SEAS Mission V to help NASA understand how team dynamics and human psychology fare in an extreme environment.

Find out where his astrobiology study and career path went next over here!

5. Space communicator

Emily Calandrelli, space communicator

Emily Calandrelli, STEM TV star aka @thespacegal, is a former MIT engineer turned science communicator. She speaks at places like Google, Pixar, MIT, Texas Instruments, CERN, and dozens of schools and universities around the US. She focuses her talks on science communication, space exploration, and women in STEM. Emily has also written STEM-inspired books for kids and was the host and co-executive producer of Netflix’s Emily’s Wonder Lab.

See how she got into STEM then science communication here!

And here she is explaining the significance of the SpaceX test flight this morning:

For more on space careers, launch yourself over to our STEM + Space hub. Want more space role models? Find them here.

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