Place of residence: Netherlands
Position: CEO and Founder of Cosmic Girls Foundation and CEO of Inner Space Training
Please describe a day in your life
Cosmic Girls Foundation is a new charity to upskill girls all over the world to become astronauts by offering girls the opportunity to get trained in STEM subjects, space education and key life skills, and offer world-class astronaut training and a chance to go to space for a few lucky girls. At the moment, as the head of the charity I am heavily focused on finding the funds to pay for the astronaut training and spaceflights. My days are often spent finding and talking to corporate sponsors/partners and figuring out ways to market and get the funds for our 6 Girls, 6 Continents Competition, which will be starting in 2024.
How many projects are you working on currently?
As a charity that has just started up and doesn’t have any paid employees yet, including my job, I am essentially doing everything from writing annual reports, finding someone to help us do our taxes, marketing the competition, getting corporate partners, recruiting more nonprofit partner organizations, raising funds, arranging world-class astronaut training for the participants and being responsible for executing our charity’s strategy and business plan. All of these things are separate projects with different timelines.
Can you tell us about the Cosmic Girls Foundation?
Despite sixty years of space exploration, gender inequality has kept women from being equally represented in the space industry. At present, 656 individuals have travelled to space. Less than 12% were women. To date, there are just 12 countries that have sent female astronauts into space. Clearly, it’s time to change those stats. Our mission is getting girls into space and making gender equity a reality by including geographically diverse and economically vulnerable girls within the incoming space generation. Our vision is: Launching Dreams in Girls and Girls into Space!
Will the foundation mentor girls worldwide?
By joining up with some of our nonprofit partners who provide mentoring, those girls will receive mentoring. However, Cosmic Girls Foundation and its nonprofit partners primarily focus on upskilling girls. But more importantly, by joining the competition, girls will have access to other girls who have the same dreams as they do and can also provide support to one another. We will create an online forum to finally hear from girls on how to include them in the space community better.
How will the upcoming competition empower girls for space? Who can apply, and when is the deadline? Is it open globally?
Yes, it is open globally. In early 2024, Cosmic Girls will launch its first competition for girls who want to become astronauts. All entrants (eligible girls worldwide ages 14-19) can access the curriculum (by joining up with our nonprofit partners worldwide), leading to upskilling in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and developing key life skills that enable them to soar. Cosmic Girls competition entrants will also gain astronaut skills virtually, and the six lucky finalists will further develop these skills in person at world-class training facilities. The competition will provide one lucky winner with a trip to space on a suborbital flight!
What is your greatest achievement up until today?
Founding the Cosmic Girls Foundation, something much bigger than myself. My long-held vision of voyaging to space has taken the “scenic route”. I have held senior positions at multinational corporations for two decades, travelling to exotic international locales with my cosmic dreams ever in tow. However, my space travels will be incomplete without having contributed to that of a Cosmic Girl’s launch on behalf of the incoming space generation and females in particular. I created this foundation with hopes of exceeding donor & benefactor expectations to enable more Cosmic Girls from the far corners like myself to flourish and soar.
What is your next goal?
Train and coach people who will be spending time in space hotels.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?
To develop my intuition more and to trust it as much as my rational brain.
Which famous person would you like to have dinner with and why?
Do you have a person who influences you?
What did you dream of creating/inventing/doing as a child?
I have dreamt of being an astronaut since I was six years old, and I have been working on this dream for the last 50 years.
What advice do you give young girls who want similar careers?
Try to think about what the future needs will be for people living and working in space and try to create and provide that service for them! For example, you can imagine that when space hotels are actually up and running, there will be a need for people who will want to eat better food than what is currently available for astronauts. Space chefs or people who specialize in this new field can potentially get themselves a trip to space to provide this service for the hotel. Many more areas will need attention and foresight. If you can imagine it, you can create your own niche! Go for it!