Navy engineer sets her trajectory for space

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ben Robson (author), LSIS James McDougall (photographer)

Topic(s): International Women's Day

Lieutenant Kate Cox visits Questacon in Canberra, after returning from a visit to NASA's Space Camp 2019. Lieutenant Cox has goals to travel into space. (photo: LSIS James McDougall)
Lieutenant Kate Cox visits Questacon in Canberra, after returning from a visit to NASA's Space Camp 2019. Lieutenant Cox has goals to travel into space.

International Women’s Day Feature

Lieutenant Kate Cox visits Questacon in Canberra, after returning from a visit to NASA's Space Camp 2019. Lieutenant Cox has goals to travel into space.

Lieutenant Kate Cox visits Questacon in Canberra, after returning from a visit to NASA's Space Camp 2019. Lieutenant Cox has goals to travel into space.

A Navy Aviation Engineer has taken one small step towards a truly stellar ambition after attending Space Camp 2019.

Lieutenant Kate Cox, a Certification Engineer at the Capability and Sustainment Group’s Navy Army Aviation Acquisition Project Office, spent 10 days travelling across the United States, visiting The Spaceship Company (founded by Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson), the Northrup Grumman Headquarters and the US Space and Rocket Centre.

Facilitated by One Giant Leap Australia (OGL), the program fosters an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), as both a study option and as a career.

“I absolutely loved my time at Space Camp and would thoroughly recommend it to students and young-at-heart adults alike,” Lieutenant Cox said.

“I particularly enjoyed that it was a mix of both theory and practical, that we’d be studying rocket construction one session and the next we’d have a competition to see which team could build heat shields for eggs that could withstand being exposed to blowtorches for three minutes and not cook.

“It was great that we were studying the theory and then applying that through critical thinking in a specific situation and figuring out how to solve a particular problem.”

Lieutenant Cox said a highlight of the trip was meeting scientists and engineers from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Particularly inspiring was meeting Sue Finley, NASA’s longest-serving employee who is still working at 81-years-old.

Finley began her career as a ‘human computer’, calculating rocket launch trajectories by hand, and has been involved in every unmanned mission from JPL.

“It was just spellbinding to meet her,” Lieutenant Cox said.

Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day, Lieutenant Cox said it was important to encourage all children to consider careers in STEM. 

“When you think about people like Sue Finley, you realise women have always been there, however her story is especially inspirational since she was working in the 1950s – a more challenging time for women in STEM fields - but her work was so critical and so important, so meeting her was just awe-inspiring,” Lieutenant Cox said.

One Giant Leap Australia Director Jackie Carpenter, the Western Sydney Inspirational Woman of 2019, said that while the program encouraged everyone, 70 per cent of the organisation’s web site audience were women.

“Our program inspires everyone,” she said.

“So that we can achieve the best we can as a country, we need to ensure our community believes in what we do, that our future prosperity comes in maximising our potential in the global economy.

“We need problem solvers, thinkers, collaborators - but they also need compassion and emotional intelligence.

“One Giant Leap Australia was created to inspire and encourage everyone to be involved in STEM.

“We know that by increasing the number of students in STEM careers, our GDP would rise dramatically and keep Australia competitive on the global stage,” Mrs Carpenter said.

Originally from Southeast Queensland, Lieutenant Cox was first drawn towards the aviation world when she began learning to fly at the age of 15.

In the Navy now for 15 years, she has constantly challenged herself and followed her sense of adventure, from conquering the world’s five best hikes to literally reaching for the stars.

While she hopes her own experiences will help motivate the next generation of young engineers and scientists, Lieutenant Cox has now set herself the goal of going into space on a commercial flight by the year 2030.

“I love hiking - our Earth and its nature are so spectacular,” Lieutenant Cox said.

“When you’re surrounded by the hills and the mountains, overlooking the valleys, you realise that you are only such a small part of something so huge, so you can only imagine then what it must be like when you are in space, looking back at Earth,” she said.

A not-for-profit organisation, One Giant Leap Australia currently has two part scholarships for students aged 15 to 17 years old on offer. For more information visit https://www.onegiantleapaustralia.com.