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From the ground to the stars: Dr. Yvonne Cagle’s journey

Cagle joins students to talk about aerospace medicine
Illustration+of+a+rocket+ship+leaving+Earth+to+colonize+Mars+thanks+to+technologies+that+Dr.+Yvonne+Cagle+has+worked+on.+
Mackenzie Jardine
Illustration of a rocket ship leaving Earth to colonize Mars thanks to technologies that Dr. Yvonne Cagle has worked on.

The planetarium audiences applauded as Dr. Yvonne Cagle, one of six female Black NASA astronauts and who holds a doctoral degree in medicine, took position in front of the audience. She described her upbringing, motivations and journey of getting her position to Math, Engineering and Science Achievement students and astronomy D004, the solar system astronomy class, on Feb. 22.

Cagle said that one of the earliest memories she had of wanting to become an astronaut was running outside the house to see the man walking on the moon as she saw him on the TV. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t see him walking there.

“But what happened is the more I tried to see him the more my dreams took weight and suddenly I, too, wanted to see my footprint on the moon,” Cagle said.

She then brought up her time being a Colonel in the Air Force, working on the F16 and F15, describing the adrenaline rush flying gives you.

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“You’ve never lived until you’re in a fighter jet and the boom which is a fuel line is coming right over your forehead to refuel your jet,” Cagle said. “(I am) not sure which is the greater fear: (the) boom coming down or running out of gas in the air. Those are the kinds of options that I wanted, where you’re right at the cutting edge of life, where every choice you make matters. Every choice is your own footprint.”

In 1996, her life changed. She received the call to become an astronaut right after saving someone from cardiac arrest while working in a hospital. With the new career change, moments of difficulty arose and the need to adapt is enhanced.

“I’m constantly learning. One of the things that I’ve learned is to become confident and proficient in the role that I bring to the table. To bring some kind of insight and innovation that other people might not have thought about to look at where the vulnerabilities are in any kind of problem or solution and to see if I can come up with something that hasn’t been thought about,” Cagle said.

Cagle brought up the research she is currently working on which involved “getting gravity without gravity.” She spoke about her work on the logistics of living on Mars as there may be a possibility that one day humans will move there.

Cagle works on figuring out how our bodies can perform, thrive in the hardest conditions by using math.

Cagle said, “Space will reinvent you, I get to figure out how we adapt and how I can accelerate human performance and amplify it when we have very limited time and space to do that with the human planet.”

At the end there was a question and answer session where she clarified her experiences working in biochemistry, reflecting on her TED Talks, the learning curve when she first got to NASA to the present day and how artificial intelligence is used by NASA.

AI helps NASA make decisions when it comes to being a support tool for the health of astronauts, the navigation of shuttles and finding the most optimal way for building stations and satellites.

“Another area that we use AI is for surveys,” Cagle said. “ When we’re doing the drilling and everything we’ve got to find very efficient ways to save energy, to save power, (learn how) temperatures affect the lithium batteries. I can’t tell you an area where we don’t use AI.”

Once the event concluded, Dr. Cagle had a photo session and answered private questions with students.

Student attendee, Angelina Ryabechenkova, aerospace engineering major was one of the students who took advantage of the opportunity.

“When I heard Dr. Yvonne Cagle was presenting. I wanted to be there because I knew I could ask her questions that are close to the projects that I’m working on currently, like the Mars rover for space,” Ryabechenkova said. “I wanted to get the first hand perspective of someone who holds the title of doctor in aerospace.”

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About the Contributors
Amit Cohen
Amit Cohen, Freelance Reporter
Mackenzie Jardine
Mackenzie Jardine, Editor-In-Chief
Hi! My name is Mackenzie Jardine, and I am really excited to connect with people through journalism. I'm very excited to be La Voz's Editor-In-Chief this winter quarter! It's an honor to be in charge of this quarter's paper and work with the incredible, hard working and talented staff. Thank you for supporting La Voz!

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