Jupiter mother, researcher Kellie Gerardi headed to space

South Florida native will fly on Virgin Galactic 5 research mission
Posted at 8:50 PM, Oct 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-23 20:50:57-04

JUPITER, Fla. — "My name is Kellie Gerardi, and I am a payload specialist flying on the Galactic 5 research mission," Gerardi told WPTV on Monday.

In less than two weeks' time, the Jupiter native is headed to space on a science mission with Virgin Galactic.

Kellie Gerardi, Jupiter mother who will fly on Virgin Galactic 5 space mission
Kellie Gerardi is a payload specialist who fly on the Virgin Galactic 5 research mission to space.

"I grew up in Jupiter, Florida, born and raised," she said. "I have special training to operate scientific instruments in space. So I'm going to be conducting research related to human health care and fluid dynamics in space on behalf of my research institute, the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences."

She said this is a same-day science flight and the timeline to conduct the science is short.

"We have choreography sort of down to the second, and we really try to maximize the science return, so every single second counts," Gerardi said.

She told WPTV she remembers dreaming of this moment as a child growing up in the area.

"My bedroom window perfectly framed that stretch of sky facing Cape Canaveral, and I always thought that perhaps there might be a way I could be a part of this," she explained. "I used to lay awake thinking, 'My gosh, what if I don't achieve this one thing I want to achieve in my life?'"

Kellie Gerardi poses outside Cape Canaveral
Kellie Gerardi poses outside the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Gerardi is also a mother on a mission, putting fear aside.

"A lot of people ask if I'm nervous or if I'm scared and I'm truly not," she said. "I think, if anything, it's this floating anxiety about sort of the preciousness of this opportunity."

Gerardi explained her goal is multi-faceted.

"I think sometimes people have a certain image in their mind of what it means to be in science, or to be in STEM, or to be a mother, or to be sort of any of these boxes that we might place on ourselves or each other," she said. "And I think embracing our multitudes."

She hopes to forward the future for women in space. Her team's flight window opens on Nov. 2 in New Mexico.

So does her mission make her an astronaut?

Kellie Gerardi speaks about upcoming space flight, Oct. 23, 2023
Jupiter native and mother Kellie Gerardi speaks to WPTV about her upcoming space flight, Oct. 23, 2023.

"Yeah, on Nov. 2, so right after I return to earth," Gerardi said.

She acknowledged it would be a feat.

"Fewer than 100 women in the history have ever flown to space," Gerardi said. "You know, the barrier has always been access and not aptitude."

Now she takes pride in the fact future generations can dream big.

"My daughter and her generation grow up knowing that not even the sky is the limit on their dreams," she said. "The most profound part of this journey for me is not only seeing it through the eyes of my daughter but seeing it through the eyes of my mother as well. When she was born, human beings hadn't yet been to space, and when she was growing up, women weren't yet eligible to be astronauts. One single generation later, she is watching her daughter prepare for a spaceflight of her own."