ISE student takes steps toward astronaut aspirations

Published: March 01, 2022

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Auburn University junior Jordan Carraway has big plans. Her goal is to one day become an astronaut, but first, she plans to fly as a pilot for the Air Force and win the title of Miss America.

Carraway, who is studying industrial and systems engineering, recently took a step closer to her dream of becoming an astronaut when she was accepted into Project Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, or PoSSUM, a program hosted by the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences. The program took place at Florida Institute of Technology from Jan. 25-29.

Project PoSSUM features a course titled Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, which introduces students to scientific human spaceflight as a systemic problem. Through the course, students gain a general understanding of the mesosphere and life support systems relevant to suborbital flight.

Carraway, along with nine other students, had the opportunity to participate in a simulated parabolic flight, spacesuit training, experience zero gravity through aerobatic flight and more.

“This opportunity was a massive step for me in the direction of my dream of one day becoming an astronaut,” Carraway said. “It was also the most fun experience I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

Originally from Daphne, Alabama, Carraway has been fascinated by space since middle school.

“A friend used to brag to me that her grandmother sent her to space camp every year for her birthday,” she said. “I was an angsty pre-teen and said, ‘my grandmother would send me to space camp if I asked her to.’ So, I asked her to, and she sent me. My parents said that after I came back that summer from space camp, I never stopped talking about space.”

She returned to space camp every summer through her senior year and then went back to teach at the camp after high school.

“Everything about space is so beautiful and we know so little about it,” Carraway explained of her fascination. “There’s still so much to learn and to explore and there’s so much uncharted territory. That sense of adventure is really exciting to me.”

Carraway is mostly interested in the human factors and ergonomics aspect of industrial engineering. Her favorite astronaut, Mike Massimino, also studied industrial and systems engineering. She said she first learned about human factors after reading his biography.

“I want to continue studying more into human factors, especially with deep space travel,” Carraway said. “Ergonomics is going to be very important moving forward and going to Mars. With six months there and six months back of being in a tiny little spaceship, ergonomics is very important.”

When it comes to her other plans, Carraway is working towards those goals by being active in Auburn University’s Air Force ROTC program and she currently holds the title of “Miss Hoover.” She is passionate about her social impact plan, “Girls Can,” which she is working to promote through her pageant title.

“It’s all about empowering women looking to enter male-dominated career fields,” she explained. “Being an engineering major, being in Air Force ROTC, wanting to be an astronaut, all of those fields are very male-dominated, so I know the struggles that can occur at times. I want to be a light and provide outreach and mentorship to women who feel like they may be alone in these fields.”

Carraway is certain that the Auburn University Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering is setting her on the path to succeed in all of her goals.

“I have enjoyed being an ISE student since my first course in occupational safety and ergonomics,” she said. “It has just gotten better since then. I know this is the major I was meant for.”

Submitted by: Carla Nelson