Astro Liz – A Guest Blog Post

The following post was written and provided to Astrobotic by “Astro Liz” and her mother, Jennifer. They are participants of the DHL MoonBox program, aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One

“3-2-1 LIFTOFF!!!” Elizabeth exclaimed as she pressed her launch button and watched in amazement as the smoke cleared and her homemade Vulcan Centaur rocket lifted off the ground. Ten days of intense planning, building and static firing her cardboard rocket in the family living room had paid off! We had no idea it was going to be the start of her most exciting space adventure yet—making lunar history with Astrobotic!

Elizabeth’s aspirations aren’t unlike those of many seven-year-olds as she dreams of a future exploring the depths of space, but life during lockdown this past year has enabled those dreams to reach new heights. Her passion for space and the unique dynamic of home learning have afforded her some incredible opportunities that have set her apart from other children, and our family couldn’t be more excited about her endeavors—past, present, and future.

It was clear at the start of lockdown that the confines of traditional textbook learning weren’t going to satisfy Elizabeth’s passion for all things space and her need to explore. It was almost immediately that we decided she needed a space that reflected her adventurous side and quest for knowledge, and so we established her home learning lab! As a family, we developed Astro Liz’s Lab, Elizabeth’s YouTube channel, which aims to inspire a new generation of mini-scientists through STEM exploration and features her favorite home learning experiments (edible slime, anyone?). The channel has been a wonderful outlet for Elizabeth to share her adventures with like-minded children throughout their own lockdown learning journey. Subscribers follow her work as the youngest NASA citizen scientist in the Citizen Science Association directory and can catch a glimpse of how she uses satellite imagery to help NASA track penguin populations in Antarctica and search for planets outside our solar system. They take in space news and activities such as Elizabeth’s tips for keeping fit during lockdown through participation in the UK Space Agency’s ‘Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut’ program. It has been incredible watching her interest, knowledge, and love of space reach beyond our own planet and deep into the recesses of our solar system.

Lockdown learning defied the confines of textbooks for Elizabeth, and she enjoyed engaging in private, virtual lessons with the European Space Agency Manager of Planetary Defense, who taught about potential threats to our planet, including asteroids and near-Earth objects. Throughout the year, she participated in webinars with the Royal Astronomical Society, NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, Airbus Space’s Abbie Hutty and Q&A sessions with scientists and engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Thanks to her passion for space, even Elizabeth’s art lessons took an interplanetary approach. Together, we researched how space technology affects life on Earth, and she was excited to use her new knowledge to make her own lunar regolith simulant and Martian dirt for work she submitted to the Space Foundation’s International Student Art Contest in Colorado! Her continued dedication to learning about and inspiring others to have an interest in space recently gained her recognition from the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs when they established her as their youngest ‘Model of Girls in Space.’

Elizabeth literally took her home learning to new heights in January with the construction and launch of her model Vulcan Centaur rocket from her ‘launch pad’ in our front garden (much to the delight of our neighborhood!). We proudly shared daily updates of her progress on Twitter and we were beyond excited to discover Astrobotic was following her adventure! Elizabeth was so inspired by Astrobotic’s support of her work that she became more determined than ever to get her rocket off the ground. Although the process tested her patience at times, she persisted from start to finish. She dared to dream big, and in a Twitter post asked Astrobotic if they would include her sticker in their lunar payload if she could make her rocket fly. Nothing could have prepared us for what followed! “Whether your rocket flies or not, it’s the science, effort and enthusiasm that really counts. Send us your sticker @AstroLiz’sLab and we’ll send it to the Moon!” Astrobotic responded!

Astrobotic’s inclusion of Elizabeth in the historic Peregrine lunar lander payload later this year has reinforced the notion that truly anything is possible if you work hard enough. It has been amazing watching Elizabeth’s self-confidence and ambition grow as a result of Astrobotic’s overwhelming support and generosity. Their messages of inspiration have been the basis for Elizabeth’s continued drive toward achieving her dream of becoming an astronaut, and the possibilities are seemingly endless for her.

As we prepared to send Elizabeth’s sticker to Astrobotic she was beaming with enthusiasm. She shared a special moment with her eight-year-old brother, proudly announcing, “We are going to the moon, William!” She couldn’t wait to share her adventure with him and included the sentiment on the back of her sticker before we packaged it. Elizabeth, dressed in her quintessential blue flight suit, mailed the sticker herself and it was heartwarming to hear the praise and excitement of others in the post office who overheard that she was mailing a lunar payload to Astrobotic for them to send to the moon!

We are continuously amazed by our daughter’s determination and ability to adapt to unique circumstances and personal challenges at such a young age. Although she still has much to learn, she persists in pushing herself to new limits daily as she continues to pursue her dream. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Elizabeth, and we are so grateful to Astrobotic for their support and encouragement of her journey into space. To have her sticker carried on board the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo missions is an adventure we will be forever grateful for and one that will remain on the lunar surface for all of eternity! We love you, Astrobotic! Thank you for showing our shooting star that dreams do come true!