WVU grad aims for seat on civilian space flight

West Virginia

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – Morgantown native Emily Calandrelli has accomplished a lot. She was a Truman Scholar at West Virginia University, before earning two masters degrees from MIT and then gaining international acclaim for her Emily’s Wonder Lab series on Netflix.

Calandrelli isn’t stopping there and now wants to take her talents to outer space, pushing for a seat on the Inspiration4 flight, which bills itself as the “first all-civilian mission to space.”

The mission is being led by Jared Isaacman, the CEO of a company called Shift4 Payments. So far, he will be joined by Hayley Arceneaux, a frontline healthcare worker at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. That leaves two empty seats, which will be filled by someone who launches an online business through Isaacman’s company, and by someone who helps raise money for St. Jude’s.

Calandrelli is going both routes, having started an online store selling personalized videos for kids, with all of the proceeds going to St. Jude’s.

Should she be chosen, Calandrelli said she would like to make the first TikTok video from space. It’s all part of her “empathetic education” efforts, which come from her “West Virginia roots,” she says. She encourages scientists to first listen and try to understand people who distrust science, such as people involved in the coal industry who deny that global warming is happening.

Calandrelli also “works to meet people where they are at,” trying to reach kids who don’t have internet access, through her Xploration Outer Space show that airs on broadcast TV. That is the same reasoning behind her Tiktok from space idea, which would bring science education to a younger generation through social media.

In a Twitter video, Calandrelli says she “wants to become the first woman from West Virginia to reach orbit to give kids from Appalachia and little girls around the world an astronaut they can see themselves in.”

The winner will be announced on Feb. 28.

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