It isn’t every day you get to hear first-hand from a NASA aerospace engineer, but that’s exactly what our Perth College community got to experience as part of Science Week 2020.

On Tuesday 18 August, guest speaker and International Space Station (ISS) research manager, Christie Cox, captivated audiences with her out-of-this-world presentation.

Beamed into the Judith Cottier Theatre all the way from NASA Headquarters in Washington DC, Christie was met with plenty of smiling faces from the Perth College community – all up bright and early to hear her speech.

Christie was warmly welcomed on stage by avid space fans and Year 11 students, Shreya and Madeline.

Shreya, who has always had an interest in science and wants to pursue a career in astrobiology, described Science Week as a “special event”.

Madeline has also always loved space since visiting the Perth Observatory when she was little and wants to work as an astrophysicist or aerospace engineer in the future.

Christie began her presentation by telling the audience about how she too had loved the solar system since she was young.

“I was lucky enough to go to Space Camp five times as a child,” she said.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

With what she described as an “extreme passion” for the ISS, Christie went on to study aerospace engineering at the University of California in San Diego and completed an internship at the Johnson Space Centre.

It was there she started her career with NASA simply making filters, before working her way up to a position in policy making.

As part of her presentation, Christie explained the ins and outs of the ISS, serving up plenty of fun facts along the way.

Did you know the ISS is home to anywhere from three to nine astronauts at any one time?

Or that there have been goldfish on board the ISS?

Or that astronauts recycle their sweat to use as water?

Audiences were intrigued, but it was Christie’s sage advice and a PowerPoint slide titled “Things I Wish I Knew” that seemed capture the attention of both students and parents.

Christie said to take the time to learn about yourself; observe your world; get a mentor; work on your communication skills; remember that intelligence is not intrinsic; learn resilience; and treat yo’self (exercise, eat nutritious foods and take care of your mental health).

At the end of Christie’s captivating speech, several budding young Perth College scientists were able to ask curious questions of their own.

The last one provoked a particularly inspiring answer.

“What kept you motivated to pursue this career despite any setbacks you encountered?” Year 10 student, Eden, asked.

“I’m really stubborn,” Christie laughed.

“I didn’t thrive in college classes, but I was just so passionate, and I knew this was what I wanted to do so I kept going.”

As for the future of space research? Christie said all things point to the moon and Mars.

The Apollo program’s twin sister, Artemis, is on track to go to the moon by 2024 to understand lunar resources and teams on board the ISS continue to develop science and research to perfect living in microgravity.

“We’ve learned a lot by being on the ISS – we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t,” Christie said.

“It’s all to get humans on Mars, trying to make sure we’re ready.”