When the astronauts call Earth from space, we answer

When we checked in with Andrea Boyd a few weeks ago, one of our talented Young Women to Watch 2013, we didn’t expect her to say she’d be the new voice of Europe to the International Space Station. Needless to say we’re very proud. There’s no way of knowing where this young woman could end up next, but we’ll be watching and cheering and clapping, if not tweeting with her astronaut friends in space.

Taking a break between all the serious work and tests to chill in the ISS Columbus Module
Taking a break between all the serious work and tests to chill in the ISS Columbus Module

What’s happened since your Leadarise blog interview last year?

I’ve moved to Germany and now work at the European Astronaut Centre! My new role is called EUROCOM at the European Space Agency, our European equivalent of CAPCOM at NASA. When the astronauts call Earth from space we answer. There’s not just the famous Houston, there’s also Huntsville, Moscow, Munich and Tsukuba. We’re “Munich”.

So you’ll soon be the voice of Europe in space! Out of this world! How did you get there?

This opportunity came up late last year. I decided to try, placed an application, sat various interview levels and after a nerve wracking few weeks – which included turning down another very enticing New York job contract – I was holding in my hands a guaranteed offer. I took a risk in waiting for the outcome and thankfully it was positive news.

Failure was not an option, so I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough.

How’s it going so far?

Given I’m experienced in International Space Station (ISS) flight operations, my programme has been fast-tracked and condensed from the usual year or so it usually takes to be certified, down to about 9 weeks. So it’s felt like an exam week that never ends for the past two months. Failure was not an option, so I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough.  However, the astronauts do this, and more, for 4+ years. That always gives me perspective! I remember the day Alex (German astronaut) left for his flights Germany-Russia-Kazakhstan-Space, I was immersed in work and feeling the pressure, he cheerfully passes by my office to say goodbye with his suitcase all packed and says “Talk to you on the loops!”.  That made me smile and take an attitude check. Alex launches to the International Space Station on 28th May and from then onwards we will have a continued European presence in space aboard the ISS.

Samantha (Italy) launches in September, Andy (Denmark) early next year, Tim (UK) in Nov 2015 and Thomas (France) in 2016. I am so proud of Europe and the European Space Agency and am in awe of the privilege to work here.

How do you feel about the job?

Loving the job – ridiculous responsibilities like being one of two mandatory technical reviewers together with a fantastic astronaut from our department for all the upcoming experiments from Europe. On the ISS we use English and Russian, socially at the Astronaut Centre we speak mostly English, French, Italian and German. Language switching all the time is epic and I’m sitting in a department of only a few people as a young person amongst so many experts!

Everyone here is completely extraordinary. I am in awe of my colleagues.

We guess that makes you a young expert!

Everyone here is completely extraordinary. I am in awe of my colleagues and sometimes when I attend meetings, I question how I have a right to sit there with such amazing people. I didn’t really have any idea of what I was getting into and frequently I’m afraid of saying something stupid. I am very aware of my need to improve my engineering skills, my professional development and my language acquisition, but European Space Agency is perfect for all those things. I have mega impostor syndrome, but, at the same time, I’ve always been taking on roles that I thought were beyond my capability – that’s how you become a better engineer. Swimming at the deep end is a way of life.

Sounds daunting, but you’re clearly the best person for the job! Will we hear you in space soon?

My final exam is in May, so I will be certified ready for Alex’s launch to the ISS at the end of the month. You’ll hear me starting in June during my first week in the big flight control room near Munich. The voice of Europe to space now has an Australian accent! There’s been internet on board the space station since 2011 and the next three astronauts will be tweeting live from space! Follow them at @Astro_Alex @astro_reid @Msuraev and catch updates from me at @AstroAndgie7

Andrea Boyd, the new voice of Europe to the International Space Station in June
Andrea Boyd, the new voice of Europe to the International Space Station in June

@AstroAndgie7 we salute you and your Australian accent! If Leadarise makes it as far as space…or Munich, we’ll know who to call!

Article by: Laura Hemmati

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