Kids have great hopes and dreams for what they want to be when they grow up. They say, “doctor!” or “teacher!” with bubbling enthusiasm. A definite kid-favorite career is a rocket scientist. The excitement of the unknown and the wanderlust drawing us to explore and discover makes space travel and aeronautics popular aspirations for kids. In honor of the dreamers and makers of space travel, we spoke to Nanette Faget to share her experience as a “rocket scientist” at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and how she made her childhood dream come true.
Nanette with Robonaut, a robot built to help astronauts with tasks in space.
Nanette’s passion for aeronautics began as a young girl. Her father was an engineer for NASA and she had it in her mind to be like him. After apprenticing at NASA during college for a few semesters, she was hired on after graduation and has worked there for thirty-four years. As Branch Chief of Systems Engineering & Test Branch at NASA, Nanette works with a team of engineers on projects creating new systems for the International Space Station (ISS) and the Orion Spacecraft.
With her father’s history as an engineer for NASA and her husband’s career as a real-life astronaut, you can say that aeronautics is a family affair. Her husband, Greg C. Johnson, last went into space in 2009 to repair the Hubble Space Telescope which astronomers use to study far away galaxies, auroras, and planets.
Nanette with her husband, Greg C. Johnson before his 2009 launch
Nanette finds inspiration in “finding what’s out there and to learn about the universe and the whole unknown.” She’s driven by the future of exploration, developing new ways to go farther into space. Her favorite project so far has been working on the space shuttle. “It launched several times a year and each mission was different with a new crew and mission objective.” With these missions, they’ve been able to slowly build up the space station over time. She finds gratification being apart of the team and its missions.
Nanette with rockets that launched the Mercury capsule and
helped test the Apollo abort system or with some of NASA’s early rockets
In her spare time, Nanette enjoys raising monarch butterflies. For kids who dream of working at NASA, Nanette advises, “Stick with math and science. If you love those classes then you’ll be a good fit.” She encourages them to be curious, question how things work, and always ask how you can make it better.