Skyline senior is seeing stars; hopes to step foot on Mars

Josie Anderson could talk space all day long. And all night, for that matter.

The Skyline High School senior is so into astronomy, science, all things space, that she leads the school’s astronomy club, and one day wants to be an astronaut.

“I don’t just want to read about Mars, to look at Mars, I want to make a footprint on Mars,” said the 17-year-old Anderson.

If you doubt her resolve, just ask those around her.

“She’s a woman with a plan,” says Casey Warner, a science teacher at Skyline and sponsor of the school’s astronomy club. “I think I’m excited about science, but Josie is really excited about science.”

Anderson approached Warner about sponsoring the astronomy club, promising that if Warner gave the club a room and some supplies, Anderson would do the rest. She has fulfilled that promise.

At every Tuesday meeting, Anderson gives mini-presentations on what club members voted the previous week they wanted to hear. She does the research, gets together the notes, and gives a presentation. Topics have included alien life, solar systems, black holes, habitable planets, the planet Earth, and more. The club recently took a field trip to Haven Hall Observatory, and also crafted planets to scale.

“It’s nothing too heavy, I try to keep it light,” she said. “They’re already taking a full load of classes. I’m not trying to add to that.”

Anderson handles her full load of classes just fine, thank you. She has a 3.98 grade-point average, and has never received anything lower than an “A” in a science course. That includes Biology, Earth Science, Life Science, Advance Placement Environmental Science, Forensic Science, Chemistry and, of course, Astronomy. This semester, she’s taking Physics and Computer Science Principals. In addition to leading the Astronomy Club, she is a member of the Environmental Club and the Film Club.

“She is in touch with other schools to get them here in the club,” Warner said. “There is a member from Community and one from Greenhills.”

Anderson is darn serious about becoming an astronaut. She knows it will take years of research, education and training, but that doesn’t faze her.

“Sometimes people tell me to tone it down, this astronaut thing,” she said. “But I love space. It’s my dream. Being an astronaut is what I want to do.’

There are two categories Anderson talked about when being interviewed for this story. She spoke of the commander of the spacecraft, the pilot in other words, which takes years of military training and flight experience. That’s not her preference. She’d rather be a mission specialist, a member of the crew who does experiments, does “the science part of it,” according to Anderson.

“I don’t want to pilot, I want to be along for the ride,” she said. “A mission specialist; that’s what I’m looking at.”

Still, she has years of schooling and research ahead of her, and she must keep herself in good physical condition.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Anderson said. “I’ve got to get my bachelor’s degree, masters, PhD, and do many hours of research.”

Anderson figures, if all goes according to plan, she will be ready to submit her application to NASA in her early 30s.

She knows there will be obstacles along the way. In fact, she has already encountered a speed bump, but refuses to let it get her down. In spite of her stellar GPA, she was not accepted at her first college of her choice. It was a prestigious university that she would rather not name in print.

“It’s not going to stop me,” she said. “I’m in the process now of getting acceptance letters. You can’t be afraid to fail.”

 

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