Reaching for the Stars: senior plans career as astronaut


Photo by Photo used with permission of Lauren Stern

Lauren and friends pose at space camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Stern, who wants to become an astronaut, says that attending space camp was just one factor that led to her to follow her career ambition.

Madeleine Lawler, Bear Facts Contributor

The stars are the limit for this senior, whose career goals are literally out of this world.

I’ve wanted to be an astronaut ever since kindergarten actually. Performing experiments and going to these places that people have never been before, is just incredible,” Lauren Stern, senior, said. “If I was the first person to walk on Mars, it’s just so strange to me that a place so far away, you could get to go there and walk around.”

Since she was ten years old, Stern has attended space camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and has been fascinated with space ever since kindergarten. In addition to doing “every project she [could] on astronauts” and writing her college essays on the topic, Stern’s love for space also shines in her personality, according to Alexis Alvey, Stern’s friend since first grade.

Lauren is determined, hardworking, [and] definitely passionate. She’s wanted to be an astronaut for as long as I can remember. The moment I met her, I knew,” Alvey said. “She goes to space camp every year, and in elementary school, her favorite movie was Toy Story, because of Buzz.”

Even before elementary school, however, Stern hoped to be an astronaut.

“[In kindergarten] we did this Flat Stanley project, so I sent it to my uncle, and he took it to the Kennedy Space Center where there were rockets and astronaut exhibits, and I just thought it was so cool so I did my project on that, Stern said. “And ever since then, I don’t know it’s weird being a five year old, but I’ve just gotten more interested in the subject since then.”

As she attends Penn State this fall, Stern plans to major in geology, a major she hopes will give her a head start on pursuing a career in space, because most astronauts are either scientists or go through the military. However, becoming an astronaut is tough. The field is very competitive, for example, only 14 out of 18,300 NASA applicants made it in 2017, and it’s difficult to make the cut, according to Stern.

“Being an astronaut is super hard to do because so many people apply and not a lot of people get in, and the people that do, they keep narrowing it down to like seven or eight people per astronaut class,” Stern said. “So you can apply or go to college to major in something that you think will help you become an astronaut, but realistically, you’re probably not going to become one.”

Despite a difficult career path, Stern is excited to step into the next phase of her life and works towards a job in space.

“I’m excited. Being an astronaut is something most people don’t want to do because there are lots of risks to it. A lot people think that, ‘oh you want to be an astronaut, you’re not actually going to do that,’ but I’m excited,” Stern said. “You should follow your dreams, and don’t let anyone take that from you.”