11-year-old Australian homeschooler interviews former NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins

We chatted with Adelle, an 11-year-old home educated girl from Victoria about her love of astronomy and space travel. Adelle was recently given the incredible opportunity by IMAX Australia to do a video interview with former NASA space astronaut Marsha Ivins.

1. How long have you wanted to be an astronaut for?

I have wanted to be an astronaut since I was five years old. My sixth birthday party was space themed. Back then I was in school and one of the girls in my class said: “space is boring, it would be more interesting if you had a fairy party!” I still had the space party and it was really awesome!

2. How did you first become interested in space?

I don’t remember anything specific making me interested in space, I’ve just always had an interest for as long as I can remember.

3. What is it about space travel that has you hooked?

I love the idea of being able to float in micro gravity, and how microgravity affects everything like being able to drink water blobs from the air! I really enjoy working with science and technology such as robotics, electronics and coding. This is the type of work I would like to do in space as a mission specialist.

Adelle in her amazing space-themed bedroom.

4. Do you think being homeschooled has advantaged you in enabling you to explore your passions at all hours of the day and night?

Yes I do think being homeschooled helps. I can research whatever I want basically whenever I want. I don’t research or read about space every day but definitely every week. In my house we have more than 30 space books about topics like astronomy, spaceflight, astronaut biographies, Women In Space and how to become an astronaut. I also have 5 documentaries about spaceflight, and love spending time watching astronauts on the international space station on YouTube.

5. What's the process for becoming an astronaut if you live in Australia?

As we don’t have an Australian space agency Australian astronauts have to move overseas. So far there have only been 3 Australian astronauts (only men) and they all moved to America and had to get US citizenships before applying to the NASA astronaut program. The only other Australian that I know of is Beth Jens who is currently working for Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and is applying for a US citizenship so she can apply to the astronaut program. I have recently got in touch with Beth by email and she has agreed to stay in contact and answer questions.

6. Do you have a plan for how you might apply to NASA one day?

I am not sure if I will be applying to NASA as there are 5 main space agencies at the moment that I know of: NASA (National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration), ESA (European Space Agency), RFSA (Russian Federal Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

My plan is to first go to NASA space camp in Alabama. Space camp offers a realistic taste of an astronaut’s training and flight experiences. To save up for space camp, i'm going to busk with my balloon modelling business Twisting Time every day in the summer holidays. I am also looking into aviation and scuba diving lessons.

I also love to go to any space events that I can. This year on a trip to England I went to the National Space Centre in Leicester and I also got to see a special exhibition on Cosmonauts from Russia at the London Science Museum.

Adelle on set at IMAX, interviewing Marsha Ivins.

7. What was it like interviewing ex-NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins?

Marsha was really lovely to work with and made an effort to help me feel comfortable. Marsha also gave me some awesome gifts before the interview. They were: all five of her mission patches, two signed posters of her in space and 3 promotional documentary postcards given in ‘A Beautiful Planet’ drawstring bag.

The IMAX producer/camera man Rob was also really friendly and nice to work with. First, they clip a mini-microphone to the top of your shirt. Then they drop the cable from it down your shirt and then another part of the microphone goes in your back pocket. That makes it really uncomfortable to sit on. Then we sat down on stools in front of three cameras that were positioned to capture different angles and bright portable lights. Then the interview and filming began.

8. Were you nervous?

I was very nervous! I had never interviewed anyone before then and I also had no experience with being on camera!

9. How did you prepare for the interview?

First I did a lot of research on Marsha Ivins. I read every article I could find online about her and watched everything I could find about her on YouTube. She also features in one of my space books ‘Women Astronauts’ by Laura S. Woodmansee. I took this book in with me and got it autographed by Marsha. Then after doing that I made up my questions and practised the questions about 2-3 times a day, until I had basically memorised it.

You can view Adelle's chat with Marsha here.​

Adelle with Marsha Ivins