24-year-old aspiring astronaut from St. John's inches closer to space
Bethany Downer will get a space suit as part of astronaut training program
One small space suit for Bethany Downer, one giant leap toward her dream of becoming this province's first astronaut.
"I'm almost speechless describing what it felt like but I had to give my measurements for my flight suit," Downer said.
"We confirmed what flag we want on our arm for the patch. And it was things like this that made me go, 'Wow, this is — you know — an exciting step.'"
Downer, 24, has been steadily working toward space.
She's completed a master's at France's International Space University, worked for the European Space Agency and built a company focused on making space news more accessible to the general public.
Excited to say I’ve been selected as the first scientist-astronaut candidate from Newfoundland under project POSSUM! I start training in Florida next month and am welcoming support for program costs and the development of a space education program for NL: <a href="https://t.co/hz1iRpgyVe">https://t.co/hz1iRpgyVe</a> <a href="https://t.co/9rHgSqLAOs">pic.twitter.com/9rHgSqLAOs</a>—@BethanyAstro
Next month she'll go where no Newfoundlander or Labradorian has gone before — astronaut training program Project PoSSUM, or Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere.
"So this is very much a very strong way forward," she said.
"This means I can be selected as an astronaut under PoSSUM."
The month-long program open to students worldwide is based in Daytona, Fla., and features coursework and aerobatic flights that simulate different G-forces or weightlessness.
"You're going to take dives. It does flips. It goes up very steep. This allows you to practise what this feeling is like," Downer said.
"I'll be subjected to changes in atmosphere, I'll have to learn to control my breathing, all while being in a space suit."
Downer is trying to crowdfund the program's $5,000 USD price tag.
With any leftover funds, she said she'd like to create an outreach program in this province to show students of all ages — university level in particular — that rocket science isn't out of reach.
"Ever since I've expressed that I wanted to be interested in space I've had some people tell me it may not work out A) because I'm a woman, B) because I'm too young, C) for where I come from," she said.
I don't think anyone from the province should feel that because it is smaller in nature that there are any restrictions into what they want to do.- Bethany Downer
"I've simply not accepted any of those criticisms, particularly where I come from. I don't think anyone from the province should feel that because it is smaller in nature that there are any restrictions into what they want to do."
Despite that discouraging mindset Downer says she's found her passion for teaching the public about space while still pursuing her dream of making it there.
"I very much want to emphasize that the things that are taking place in the space industry are very important for humanity, for mankind … so I really want people to get motivated and involved, but more so to realize that we need people from all backgrounds to do this."