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Aerospace engineering student trains with NASA

Jillian Yuricich, fourth-year in aerospace engineering, (right) with Emily Calandrelli, host of Fox’s Xploration Outer Space, training with a Super Decathlon aircraft. Credit: Courtesy of Jillian Yuricich

Jillian Yuricich, fourth-year in aerospace engineering, (right) with Emily Calandrelli, host of Fox’s Xploration Outer Space, training with a Super Decathlon aircraft. Credit: Courtesy of Jillian Yuricich

Ohio State student Jillian Yuricich will share her first astronaut training experience with audiences across the country on Dec. 19. The fourth-year in aerospace engineering will be featured in a season two episode of Fox’s “Xploration Outer Space”, which will be available on Hulu for free on Dec. 20, hosted by Emily Calandrelli.

Yuricich’s training lasted five days this semester, from Oct. 5 to Oct. 9, at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. The astronaut-training program, called Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere Academy, was instructed by former NASA astronauts and geared toward young students who are passionate about space exploration.

Yuricich’s video application to join the program included homemade props to illustrate how space exploration would benefit society as well as her desire to be an astronaut, a dream she said she’s had since the age of 5.

The program will show Yuricich going through a series of hands-on training activities, including flying in an aerobatic aircraft, operating a simulator in a real, pressurized space suit and hypobaric trainings. She said the experience was amazing.

“I absolutely loved it,” Yuricich said. “I had a great time filming with Emily… and the training itself was invaluable to me.”

Yuricich and five other students were the first class of students selected to experience this type of astronaut training, which in the past was open mostly to professionals.

“It’s a brilliant play on their part that they’re starting to open it to undergraduate students,” Yuricich said. “The earlier you could have this type of experience, the better.”

Calandrelli said in an email the program wanted to get younger students involved in the Xploration Outer Space adventure.

“These are the people who will influence the space industry in the future and we really wanted to highlight them on the show,” Calandrelli said.

Yuricich said the experience showed her astronauts’ commitment to missions where the training occurs over a period of two years, not just five days.

“It really showed me what it took to be an astronaut,” Yuricich said. “It gave me a good taste of what the training would look like in the future … (and I) reconfirmed that I want to be an astronaut.”

Calandrelli said that working with Yuricich was a lot of fun and that she is an “extremely passionate, positive person” and a natural when it comes to talking about science and technology topics on camera.

“We chose Jillian because her passion about space exploration came through her video better than any of the other applicants,” Calandrelli said. “After reviewing all the applicants, it was unanimous for those of us at Xploration Outer Space. Jillian was the clear winner.”

Yuricich said in her video that she wanted to be an ambassador of space exploration and that she was totally convinced by Elon Musk’s famous analogy explaining why space exploration is important to the survival of human species.

Jillian Yuricich, fourth-year in aerospace engineering, at Smith Lab. Yuricich trained for five days at PoSSUM Academy in Florida. Credit: Courtesy of Jillian Yuricich

Jillian Yuricich, fourth-year in aerospace engineering, at Smith Lab. Yuricich trained for five days at PoSSUM Academy in Florida. Credit: Courtesy of Jillian Yuricich

“On your computer, if you have a hard drive, that is an important backup to all your files … Elon Musk looks at human race in the same way. We need to back up our species on another planet,” Yuricich said. “It’s no longer just because we can, but there is a real mission to do that to protect the human species in case something terrible happens on Earth.”

Yuricich also said she wants to be an active proponent of space exploration because she believes it’s a way of promoting STEM literacy (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) among the public.

“I think it’s really important for the citizens not only of the United States, but also of the world, to be literate in STEM and take that into account when voting,” Yuricich said.

In the past, Yuricich made the news as the first OSU student to win an Astronaut Scholarship awarded by Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for the 2014-15 academic year. She has also interned at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and Naval Air Warfare Center in Maryland.

As a female working in the aerospace engineering field, Yuricich said she has never seen her gender as an obstacle to keep her from achieving her goal, even though she recognizes that there’s a real issue of females being underrepresented in the workplace of engineering.

“Just because I’m a female doesn’t make me any better or any worse at it … I hope people see my accomplishments rather than my gender.” Yuricich said. “What I need to remember is that I just need to do my mission here and get through all these things. The stars will always be there waiting for me.”

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