Alumna Takes Up Space on Saturday Mornings

by Kate Repantis on October 7, 2014 · 0 comments

in In the News, Space

Move over Saturday morning cartoons, there’s a new space show in town. Emily Calandrelli SM ’13 is the host and co-producer of Xploration Outer Space, a new FOX series that explores space and big questions about Mars, astronaut life, and space travel for the K-12 audience.

Calandrelli at the Mars

Calandrelli at the Mars Desert Research Station. Photo: Calandrelli

Likened to the “female version of Bill Nye the Science Guy…without the bow tie” by the Boston Globe, Calandrelli draws from her dual MIT master’s degrees in technology policy and in aeronautics and astronautics to explain the science and technology behind space initiatives.

“At times it may be a little cheesey, but who doesn’t love a little cheese with their space?” Calandrelli jokes on her website of Xploration’s balance of educational and fun content.

Emily Calandrelli (second from left) and Astronaut Cady Coleman '83 experience weightlessness in the VOMIT Comet with a team of MIT researchers on an episode of Xploration. Photo: Calandrelli

Emily Calandrelli (second from left) and Astronaut Cady Coleman ’83 experience weightlessness in the VOMIT Comet with a team of MIT researchers on an episode of Xploration. Photo: Calandrelli

In one episode she shares what it’s like to train as an astronaut. To feel and then describe weightlessness, she rides the VOMIT Comet at Johnson Space Center and visits the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the world’s largest indoor pool where astronauts get their minds and bodies ready for space.

She also talks with veteran astronauts, including MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, about his first ride to outer space. “I had Jeff as a professor [while at MIT] but never had the opportunity to ask him about these experiences, and the show has allowed me to do that.”

Calandrelli shares a hug with Tim while still a student at MIT.

Calandrelli shares a hug with Tim while still a student at MIT. Photo: Calandrelli.

As part of a mock Mars field trip, Calandrelli sports an orange astronaut suit for an episode on Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Researchers of this remote desert outpost are trying to simulate what life would be like on the red planet, so quarters are tight and food has a long shelf life.

For Calandrelli, the visit was a homecoming—she had served as part of the station crew through a two-week student internship in 2009. “I’m essentially picking things that I have found personally interesting in the past eight years that I have been studying in the field,” she said.

Upcoming episodes spotlight space travel, the Mojave Air and Space Port, and West Virginia University’s work on high-altitude space balloons.

Calandrelli with MIT President Chuck Vest

Calandrelli with MIT President Chuck Vest in 2010. Photo: Calandrelli

Calandrelli holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from West Virginia University and grew up in the same town as the late MIT President Chuck Vest. “He was an example of someone that can be incredibly successful and still relatable,” she recalls from a meeting with him as an undergrad. “I hope to grow up to be similar to him.”

Helping girls and boys relate to space might be the ticket for doing just that.

Xploration Outer Space airs Saturday and Sunday mornings on FOX. Read Calandrelli’s remembrance to Chuck Vest. The Alumni Association will host an #MITAlum Twitter Chat with Calandrelli on Thursday, October 30 at 12 p.m. ET. Follow along using #MITAlum. 

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