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Comstock, Heritage High School host trailblazing women in space

It’s July. The weather is hot and sunny, and school has already been out for a month now. However, the auditorium at Heritage High School in Leesburg was full of middle and high school girls Monday night as Congresswoman Barbara Comstock hosted an event featuring NASA Director of Education Janet Sellars and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

The space superstars were there as part of the 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program, hosted by Comstock, a Republican in her second term. The featured guests were women of NASA: Williams, an active NASA astronaut; Sellars; and Jessica Millard, a rising high school senior who is part of a high school group designing and launching a satellite into space later this year.

As the girls filed into the school before the talk, they could stop and meet and take a photo with Williams.

“I’m so excited to see all of your smiling faces,” Williams told the young women as the program started. “Because one day I’m going to retire, and you are going to take it over.”

Williams has logged more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 aircraft. She currently holds the record for most space walk hours for a female astronaut with over 50. After a career in Navy aviation as a combat helicopter pilot and test pilot, Williams was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1998. She’s a veteran of two space missions to the International Space Station, where she worked on the robotic arm.

An avid runner and swimmer, Williams has lived in the Aquarius underwater laboratory for nine days and run the Boston Marathon multiple times.

“Once I ran it in space,” she said.

“I challenge you to find those fields that you think are slightly impossible, and see what they’re doing,” Williams said. “Because I bet you you’ll find that you can do exactly what those guys are doing.”

The next to speak was Jessica Millard. A junior at North Idaho Charter Academy, Millard is one of a group of high school students working on Project Da Vinci. With the help of NASA’s Student Launch program, they are working to launch the Da Vinci Cube Satellite later this year.

“It’s going to be Internet capable, so students can connect and listen to the satellite,” Millard explained. “We want to create a space community. You’ll even be able to tweet from space.”

Millard told the girls that one of the main lessons she’s learned from experience is to not be afraid to ask questions, especially of your mentors. She also said it’s OK to not be totally sure what you want to do.

“I went into this knowing nothing,” she said. “Now I want to have my own rocket company.”

Millard will graduate from the academy in 2018 and plans to attend a four-year program in the aerospace field – because, as Millard succinctly and enthusiastically put it, “space is cool.”

Sellars then addressed the girls. As the director of education at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Sellars holds degrees in human relations, is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership and has served in the U.S. Air Force as a paralegal.

“I am here because I want these girls to know that they can contribute to NASA,” Sellars told the Times-Mirror before the talk. “And that for them, this is normal—just another day at the office. Girls do math. Girls do science. Wanting to be an engineer is just wanting to be an engineer. And even if they are not in a STEM specific field, they can still contribute to NASA. Like myself—I didn’t come to NASA from a STEM field. So I want to expose everything that is out there for them.”

Sellars shared with the girls and their parents available scholarship and internship opportunities.

“All of this is more than within your reach,” Sellars told the girls. And she said to the parents, “I go to some schools where we don’t get this type of parental support. I so appreciate the level of support here today, it really speaks for this community.”

The talks wrapped up with a short Q&A, then everyone settled in for a screening of the movie “Hidden Figures,” the Oscar-nominated 2016 film based on the true story of African-American female mathematicians who worked as “human computers” at NASA – specifically at Langley, where Sellars works – during the space race in the early 1960s.


To learn more about 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program, visit http://www.comstock.house.gov/services/young-women-leadership-program-application. To find out more about Project Da Vinci, go to projectdavincicubesat.org or follow them on Twitter @davincicubesat. You can follow NASA Education on Twitter @NASAEdu and at their website http://www.nasa.gov/education.


I’m sure the femanists will al come out to support Barbara. Just as they supported Kelly Ann Conway on being the first woman to run a successful Presidential campaign. Fully support the agenda of Republican Women Empowerment!

Wow - Comstock has been seen in public…now when will she be seen by her constituents who have questions about her views on healthcare, taxes, medicaid, debt, immigration, economy, energy, defense, fbi, intelligence community and on and on…glad she was able to find time for high school kids though…

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