Have you ever dreamed of exploring beyond planet Earth? Have you ever thought about what life would be like in space, or on other planets such as Saturn or Mars? Well, Camille Alleyne's 16 year long career has kept her closer to the skies and more than many of us would ever hope to see.The 45 year old PhD Assistant Program Scientist for the International Space Station and part time student works with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with the hopes of one day becoming an astronaut. Now based in Houston Texas, the mother of one has an impressive resume of academic and professional achievements that have afforded her many opportunities to work with the most brilliant personnel in the United States in the field of Aeronautics.
Born and raised in Trinidad, Alleyne admitted that she travelled a lot as a child with her dad who worked at Shell and a mother who was a nurse and "just dreamt a lot about space" when she was younger."It was an innate curiosity I had. But travelling as a child fed my love for planes," she said. In 1983, the St. Francois Girls College alumna left her homeland to pursue Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Aerospace at Howard University."That was the first time I knew about NASA and the space shuttle. It just changed the trajectory of my life, who I wanted to work for and what I wanted to become."After completing her undergraduate degree, her hopes of joining the ranks at NASA were delayed, so she decided to pursue a Masters at Florida A&M State University in Mechanical Engineering with a specialisation in composite materials. She was one of two persons from her program who were recruited to work at the Kennedy Space Centre (the launch complex) as a flight systems engineer."It was exhilarating because I got to work on the space shuttle and I was able to see the hardware up close," she recalled.
After a two and a half year stint at the Space Centre, Alleyne decided to return to school to pursue her Masters in Aerospace Engineering with a specialization in Hypersonic Aerodynamics and Propulsion. "I wanted to be an astronaut and I am very driven, so I kept pushing myself. Not only did I want to learn the flight systems and payheads (cargo transported to and from space) but I also wanted to design the spacecraft," she said.After completing her degree, Alleyne waited two years before being recruited by the Department of Defense to work on ballistic missile defense systems as an Aerospace Systems Engineer for eight years by another company. Soon, NASA came calling once again with an invitation to apply to their Astronaut Program in 2003. Out of 4000 applicants to the elite program, Alleyne was selected as part of the final twelve where she underwent a week long interview, medical testing and evaluation. Unfortunately, she did not make it to the final round; however, the process only solidified her passion for working at NASA. "That experience actually made me realize that NASA was where I needed to be. NASA was my home," she stated.
Shortly after, Alleyne's luck turned around when she was hired by NASA to work as a Systems Engineer. A serendipitous encounter with the Exploration Director opened up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in the field of space exploration. She was recruited to work at the Johnson Space Centre as a Crew and Service Module Systems Engineer and Test Manager for the Orion Space Vehicle. While there, Alleyne ambitiously lead her team in developing requirements and testing plans for the crew and service module for six years."We have a ground test program that simulates the environment that the spacecraft is going to see, from launch to re-entry," she explained.She has since moved on to her current position as Assistant Program Scientist for the International Space Station."Every day there is something new to learn and it's just fantastic. We get a new sense of knowledge because we're doing it in a space environment," she said.Although Alleyne's professional pursuits have been immensely rewarding, she also has philanthropic interests of educating young girls through the medium of science and technology to reach their own potential."I had this vision that I wanted to use the discoveries in space to bring peace on earth... I wanted to bring all nations, especially nations of colour – Africa, the Caribbean and South America in the dialogue of space," she said.
As such, Alleyne decided to channel her dreams through the establishment of her Brightest Star Foundation in 2007. "The aim is to educate, empower and inspire young women around the world to be leaders through the science of math, science and technology. I would like to establish a global network of Space and Science Academy for Girls, starting in Kenya (where 30 percent of young girls do not have access to secondary education) and Trinidad. I want to produce the next generation of Nobel Laureates in Science," she said proudly. Her drive to help change the world through science and technology has led her to pursue her PhD in Educational Leadership, which she juggles with her other domestic and professional commitments.It is clear that Camille Alleyne is nothing short of a trailblazer in the field of Science and Technology. Her ambition and talent has propelled her to heights that have superseded the environment in which she works. What makes her great lies far beyond her discoveries in outer space. It resides within her relentless pursuit to leave a legacy through her philanthropic efforts of moulding the next generation of young scientists, who would one day soar to the moon and beyond!