NL’s 1st Astronaut Candidate

St. John's native Bethany Downer is very excited and grateful to be selected as a scientist-astronaut candidate under project POSSUM.

This is a unique suborbital training program that teaches scientist-astronaut hopefuls how to operate the next generation of commercial space vehicles. The experience will allow Bethany to study and train in the fields of aeronomy, bioastronautics, and human factors research that provide an integral foundation for tomorrow's space missions.

The Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere (PoSSUM) program is an intensive astronaut-science training course that will begin in Florida this September. Its purpose is to provide specific skills necessary for using commercial space vehicles to conduct climate change research in the most distant reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Designed and instructed by former NASA astronaut instructors and PoSSUM team scientists, just some of the training that the program is high-G aerobatic flight training (to experience higher gravitational forces like those experienced during rocket liftoff and re-entry to Earth), crew resource management training, spacesuit training, high-altitude training, biometric analysis, and camera operations.

Twelve candidates will make up this class of candidates, and while roughly a dozen of Canadians have already graduated from the program, Bethany will be the first astronaut-scientist candidate from Newfoundland. 

As with her previous work both in Newfoundland and while working and studying in space in Europe, her mission has been the same: to inspire everyone from all walks of life to become engaged with space. She frequently quotes the phrase "rocket science" as a deterrent from pursuing space interests because it is perceived as complex and unattainable. Bethany's talks and outreach work is largely focused on altering this perception to help emphasize that all disciplines and all backgrounds are needed for the next era in space exploration. While astronomy research is answering some of humanity's biggest questions, space tourism and humans on Mars are events that are just years away. 

While many costs of this training are covered, Bethany must still incur some costs for the program and transportation to Florida. Any leftover donations will be put towards the development of an education program and talk tour across Newfoundland and other space outreach activities for the province. Any and all donations are sincerely appreciated. Bethany also wishes send a hand-written postcard from NASA to all those who donate. For those interested in receiving a written postcard, please provide your address using this Google form .

Background on Bethany:
-BSc in Geography and English from Memorial University of Newfoundland (2016)
-Master of Space Studies from the International Space University (France, 2017)
-Founder of the space communications company Reaching Space Science through which she communicates all things space for the general public for space organizations, company and academia
-Other work experience includes the Space Generation Advisory Council for the United Nations and the European Space Agency
Some recent distinctions include:
-Awarded the 35 Under 35 in Space Award in 2018 by the International Institute for Space Commerce
-Named one of the world’s Top 24 Under 24 in STEAM and Space in 2018 by The Mars Generation
-Featured in Canada's 30x30 Guide: Class of 2017 - Top 30 Under 30 by The Bay Street Bull
-Awarded the Alpha Centauri Prize for Individual Project Thesis of the 2017 MSS Class of the International Space University
-Named one of Canada’s Top 30 Under 30 by Corporate Knights 2016
-Listed as one of Canada’s Top 25 Under 25 in Sustainability by The Starfish Canada: 2015 and 2016
-Presented with the Memorial University of Newfoundland Student Leader of the Year Award with the David Kirkland Award: 2016


Bethany Downer
St. John's, NL

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