On the 25th of June 2015, Mwenya had the amazing opportunity to meet and interact with Astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt through the help of her mentor Luyando Haangala-Wood and the US Embassy here in Lusaka, Zambia.
When Mwenya was in tenth grade, she shared her dream of pursuing a career in the space science industry, but instead of encouragement, she faced ridicule from her guidance teacher and peers. However, with the unwavering support of her father, she persisted in pursuing her passion. Years later, she was accepted to five international universities to study aerospace engineering, but her plans were put on hold when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the setbacks, Mwenya remained determined to keep her dream alive. She had the incredible opportunity to meet and be mentored by Astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt, who has continued to inspire her to this day. In this blog post, Mwenya shares the valuable lessons she learned from Dr. Barratt about pursuing one’s dreams, no matter the challenges.
By Astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt:
I am a NASA astronaut and medical doctor specializing in space medicine and have had the tremendous good fortune to spend 212days in space over two missions flying the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as well as the US Space Shuttle.
The International Space Station is a powerful symbol of what many countries can together when their best and brightest meet and do something cooperative and constructive. I was very lucky to be chosen as an astronaut and have the amazing experience of flying to and living on this station. But the road to this experience was not clear or assured. I was not particularly smart as a youngster and did not go to a top university.
There are two main messages I wish to share. The first thing is the most simple but effective principle: work hard for something you want! The great Canadian physician William Osler said this of work in 1903: “The stupid man among you it will make bright, the bright man brilliant, and the brilliant student steady.” For me, this translated into countless hours of daily homework in primary school and university, and this continues even now in my professional life.
The second is to persevere in following your passion no matter how unusual. I developed an interest in space medicine when most of my friends and family had no idea there was such a thing, and there were very few places to get formal education. For years after my medical classmates had started practicing, I was in training and watching every penny. But I have been able to realize my passion for taking part in human space exploration and helping to build an amazing international coalition. Hard work and perseverance are by far the most important tools we have.
“Never give up on what you want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” – Albert Einstein