Female students get first-hand look at NASA astronaut program at JSC


The girls participating here were selected from over 200 nationwide. It's a summer camp for some of the best young female minds, a way for them to experience what it's like to put together a real NASA mission to Mars.

Just down the road from mission control where NASA now tries to figure out what a mission to Mars might entail, a group of teen girls from across the country is putting together their own plan.

Over the next two weeks, 84 high school juniors are experiencing life as NASA engineers and scientists. NASA says the teens are among the best female minds anywhere.

"They're bright girls. These are our future leaders," said Linda Smith with NASA.

This is the Women in Stem High School Aerospace Scholars Project, or WISH, a program in its second year which started with President Barack Obama's push to get girls more interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

"Young women often don't get into math and science related fields because they don't realize that they are helpful fields, they're serving fields," said Jenny Gruber with NASA.

NASA mentors here are guiding the young women, helping them realize that a career in aerospace is as attainable and can be as fulfilling as any other profession.

"We actually do things here that make life better for people on earth," Gruber said.

The idea is to get the girls to engage in science, math and technology and to realize that those career paths are not the domain only of men.

"I've always been a huge fan of NASA," said student Allison Ziegler.

Part of what they're learning is simply that it's OK for women to like science. Ziegler says there's a lot to be said for that.

"I didn't know how many people were as interested in the same things as I am, because none of my friends have any interest in this," she said.

It's planting the seed as these girls may grow into the astronauts who do one day make that trip to Mars.

"I am a little bit scared, but it's also something that I have been looking into. It's a huge risk and I'm not sure if I'm willing to take the risk," said student Mithra Bhadha.

They're also learning that risk can be worth the reward.

If you know a young woman who might want to apply for this program next summer, you can click here for more on the WISH program.

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