Astronaut candidate's profile

The candidates participating in the astronaut selection process all have unique journeys and outstanding qualities and skills. You can read their remarkable profiles here.

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Spangelo, Sara

Sara Spangelo

Where were you born?
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Mountain View, California, USA

Education

  • Bachelor's, mechanical engineering – University of Manitoba
  • Master's, aerospace engineering – University of Michigan
  • Ph.D., aerospace engineering – University of Michigan

What is your current job?

Systems engineer, Google X (Moonshot factory) - I lead a team developing a spacecraft concept, including both technical and market analysis and optimizations, and developing new proposals and pitches.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder, Swarm Technologies, Inc. - I lead business and technical constellation/communication design and development. Swarm is developing the world's smallest two-way communication satellites for ground-based sensing, tracking, and telecommunications towards developing a space constellation with global coverage and the ability to return data from anywhere on the globe, particularly for those without cell or Wifi connectivity.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

First, I am motivated to become an astronaut because of my passion for space exploration. I want to push the space frontier to make life better on Earth and pave the way to Mars and other planets/moons. Secondly, I have a strong drive for new adventures and overcoming the next personal and space program challenges. Finally, I want to continue to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists and engineers by acting as a strong role model for girls and boys around the world.

What motivated you to study in your field?

My interest and passion in space started early but skyrocketed when I attended Space Camp in Montreal in Grade 8, where I loved the intersection of physical exploration, technical constraints, and application of science and math for adventurous exploration. I loved the centrifuge chair, Moon jumping, and intense missions from the pilot seat and the control tower. This motivated me to study mechanical engineering in university, where I enjoyed learning basic principles, and learned to wrap design tools and optimization formulations around them to solve practical problems. This, combined with my interest in aviation, led me to study aerospace engineering.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My Grade 12 AP Chemistry teacher, Mr. Deakin, was hugely impactful on my career. He designed every lecture, assignment, and test to really ensure we were grasping the important concepts and constantly learning. He was thorough and detailed, yet practical. He taught us not only chemistry, but also how to learn difficult and new concepts efficiently. He motivated us to work extremely hard, which helped set me up for future success. What impacted me the most was how passionate about teaching and student success Mr. Deakin was, sacrificing incredible amounts of his own time and energy to help us.

What do you like best about your job?

What I love most about my job(s) is working with extraordinary people at Google X and in my start-up, who are not only the best and brightest in their fields, but are also curious, creative, respectful, supportive, and fun to work with. The second thing I love about my job(s) is treating space system design concepts as optimization problems and developing frameworks to understand the interactions between technical, programmatic, business, and social impacts. I always find it a fun and unique challenge to develop models and tools to find the "sweet spot" in the design space.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

The living person I admire the most is my partner, Ben Longmier. He is the most technically creative, hardworking, tenacious, kind, and supportive person I have ever met or worked with. Despite the lack of a perfect support system and opportunities, he has thrived at every stage of his education and career and elevated many people along the journey with him. I admire that he focuses on projects that have the potential to have real impact on people's lives, and he executes them according to those goals. He is calm and cool, and someone you want as your co-pilot.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

My favourite sci-fi movie is The Martian, because it demonstrates incredible creativity to overcome what seem like insurmountable challenges. I loved watching the characters cleverly derive technical "hacks" both on Mars, Earth, and in between that allowed for the "saves" and returning home. I liked that this movie was also about unstoppable optimism, which is necessary for any explorer. When I saw this movie, I was working at JPL, so it was fun to compare how similar some of the characters' personalities were to real JPLers.

What is your motto?

My motto is to never settle for the status quo. I love challenging my body and mind to overcome the next challenge, whether that's to break a personal record in a half-marathon race, efficiently complete multiple conflicting technical projects to high standards, or figure out the optimal way to lead and manage a challenging team. I am continually looking for the next big challenge and best approach to efficiently reach this goal and look forward to the new combined physical, mental, and psychological challenges of space exploration.

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

What is your most treasured possession?

What is your favourite place on Earth?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

What is your favourite book?

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