How do we responsibly and sustainability explore space? How does space exploration improve life on Earth?
Watch our panel discussion with Michelle Hanlon, Co-Founder and President of For All Moonkind, Inc., Verania Echaide Navarro, Mexican Space Agency, Alyssa Saenz, Robotics Flight Controller for the International Space Station at Nasa, Dr Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, Project Manager for Mars Spring Tires, Sample Retrieval Lander Mission at NASA. (We did lose Verania due to connectivity problems in Mexico, apologies for that!)
Co-Director of the Air and Space Law Program, University of Mississippi
Michelle is Co-Director of the Air and Space Law Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law and its Center for Air and Space Law. She is also a Co-Founder and President of For All Moonkind, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that is the only organization in the world focused on protecting human cultural heritage in outer space. For All Moonkind has been recognized by the United Nations as a Permanent Observer to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Michelle Chairs the International Committee of the National Space Society and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Space Law, the world’s oldest law journal dedicated to the legal problems arising out of human activities in outer space.
Verania Echaide Navarro
Mexican Space Agency
Verania has two bachelor’s degrees, one in communication (B. Social Studies) and other in physics (BS), and is currently studying for a masters degree in physics with a project in particle physics in collaboration with Alice experiment team at CERN.
Since 2015, she has worked at the Mexican Space Agency in the Industrial Development area, which has given her the opportunity to participate in fascinating projects and events such as the UN/Romania International Conference on Space Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture and Precision Farming Congress, in Cluj Napoca, Romania in 2019.
She is a mentor of the United Nation Space 4 Women project, and collaborates with several Institutions such as the Mexican Space Agency and the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics of Mexico in order to promote the inclusion of women and girls in STEAM.
When she’s not studying or working, she loves to exercise with ballet, yoga and muay thai. She likes botanical illustration, is learning Russian, and loves scifi movies!
Robotics Flight Controller for the International Space Station, NASA
Alyssa Saenz, as a child, was fascinated with the vastness and mystery of the universe. This captivation and interest would eventually lead her to set her sights on NASA. Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Saenz was not exposed to science or engineering outside the classroom. It was not until her senior year of high school that she discovered the field of Aerospace Engineering. Saenz immediately realized that was what she wanted to do, and this ultimately propelled her towards a career at NASA.
In December of 2017, Saenz graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and a Minor in Astrophysics from Texas A&M University. After completing a summer internship at the Johnson Space Center prior to graduation, Saenz knew that she wanted to return full-time as a Flight Controller in Mission Control.
In January of 2018, Saenz started her journey at NASA in the Flight Operation Directorate’s ROBO group. Saenz is now a certified Flight Controller for International Space Station’s Mobile Servicing System, which includes the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (also known as Canadarm2 and Dextre, respectively). Some of Saenz’ responsibilities consist of developing the trajectories and procedures that ensure these space robots maneuver safely and efficiently around the International Space Station and also supporting real-time operations in Mission Control Houston.
Saenz has served as Mission Design Lead for Increment 59, Cargo Dragon 19 payload operations, the Materials International Space Station Experiment payload operations, and is currently the ROBO Increment 63 Lead. In addition to her technical duties, Saenz also trains other mission designers and future flight controllers as they work on their own certifications. She is currently working on her Master of Engineering in Space Operations out of the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. Saenz hopes to earn ROBO’s top flight-controller certification and remain in the world of space robotics and flight operations for years to come.
Because of the limited exposure to engineering and science she experienced in her childhood, Saenz is passionate about STEM outreach and engagement in her hometown community and beyond. She enjoys connecting with students of all ages to talk about STEM education, NASA missions, and human space exploration.
Dr Yajaira Sierra-Sastre
Project Manager for Mars Spring Tires, Sample Retrieval Lander Mission, NASA
Dr Yajaira Sierra-Sastre is a materials scientist and informal science educator with fifteen years of R&D and project management experience in academia, start-up companies, and the United States Federal Government. Yajaira obtained her B.S. degree from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and her Ph.D. in Nanomaterials Chemistry from Cornell University. As part of her doctoral studies, she conducted research at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Yajaira has spent most of her career bridging disparate concepts to generate new technologies. After completing her PhD studies, Yajaira worked for nanotechnology companies where she designed, developed, and characterized functional coatings for the biomedical, textile, and energy sectors. At the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing she led the development of anti-counterfeiting technologies for banknotes.
In 2013, Yajaira served as the Chief Science Officer for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, a four-month-long Mars analog mission where she researched self-cleaning garments and new food systems for Mars. She currently works at NASA as the Project Manager for the Mars Spring Tires, Mars Sample Return Mission. Yajaira also supports the team responsible for the mobility testing of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory.
A teacher-turned scientist, she is extremely passionate about STEM education and has led multiple citizen-science initiatives in The Americas. She presently volunteers as a STEM ambassador for the PoSSUM 13 and is one of the mentors of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs’ Space4Women Network. Yajaira has been a highly qualified applicant for the NASA Astronaut Candidate Program and aspires to become the first Puerto Rican woman to fly to space.
Follow Yajaira on Twitter @yarinaut.