My Experience Defying Gravity: Microsoft HoloLens Women in Space Exhibit at the Intrepid Museum

Astronaut Abby Defying Gravity Women in Space Microsoft

Astronaut Abby tries the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset at the Intrepid Museum during the Defying Gravity Event on September 22, 2018.

Imagine taking a stroll with retired astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, under the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise. It might take your breath away, as it did mine during my experience at the Defying Gravity: Microsoft HoloLens Women in Space exhibit at the Intrepid Museum. As a young woman, scientist, aspiring astronaut, and advocate of STEAM, I’m so proud to have partnered* with Microsoft, Smithsonian magazine, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the unveiling of the exhibit in New York City during Museum Day on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

Astronaut Abby Dr Mae Jemison Microsoft

Astronaut Abby meets retired astronaut Dr Mae Jemison at the Intrepid Museum during the Defying Gravity Event on September 22, 2018.

When I attended the launch of the exhibit, not only did I spend time with a hologram of Dr. Mae Jemison, but I had the privilege of meeting and learning from Dr. Jemison in the flesh! She was the first woman of color in space, is an incredible advocate for science literacy, and is, in my opinion, an absolute living legend! Listening to Dr. Jemison tell stories of her journey towards becoming an astronaut, I felt a sense of kinship with her. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be a scientist and astronaut, and pursued that dream all the way to space in 1992. Dr. Jemison was afraid of heights and willed herself to get over this fear in order to accomplish her dream – a fear and experience which I shared. Also, like me, Dr. Jemison is a dancer and believes that science is improved by participation in the arts. Dr. Jemison’s story is one of dreaming big, acting big, and always striving to inspire others.

And that’s exactly what Dr. Jemison is doing, both through in-person events like this and year-round through the mixed reality Microsoft HoloLens experience. This exhibit honors women in space and champions women and girls in STEAM – now and in the future. It was incredibly inspiring to virtually experience these pioneering women (many of whom have remained unsung in history) and their monumental contributions to space exploration. The exhibit was educational, informative, fun, and so inspiring!

You, too, can literally walk with Dr. Jemison’s hologram during the Defying Gravity: Women in Space HoloLens experience, which will be hosted at the Intrepid Museum’s Shuttle Pavilion in New York City for the next 12 months. The Microsoft HoloLens headset is used for a roughly 10 minute long mixed reality experience where you will be walked through the history of women in the United States space program by a hologram of Dr. Jemison under the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise.

The really cool thing about mixed reality is that you can see everything around you, but with an added overlay of 3D holograms. This means that while using the HoloLens you can look at Shuttle Enterprise and see the outside while also observing the schematics and building process occurring! This was the part that I audibly gasped at. Both the experience of the mixed reality and the event as a whole were unforgettable.

Astronaut Abby Defying Gravity Women in Space Microsoft

Astronaut Abby meets excited students at the Defying Gravity: Women in Space HoloLens exhibit.

I saw so many young people at this event with big dreams – they are truly the Mars generation. Hearing them talk about their dreams, hopes, and aspirations – paired with experiencing the history of women in space exploration and meeting a living legend of space travel – was incredibly powerful. I can’t even begin to imagine what the future holds for these young people, as it is truly limitless. Tomorrow’s history starts with our generation (known as Generation Z and/or the Mars generation) today.

So help spread the inspiration and, if you are able, visit this exhibit at the Intrepid Museum’s Shuttle Pavilion in New York City sometime in the next year. Share your excitement and experience on your social media channels with the #WomenMakingHistory hashtag and tag me and @Microsoft, too, so I see your fun photos and videos and I may share them as well!

*My nonprofit, The Mars Generation, received payment for my attendance at the launch of Defying Gravity: Women in Space and all posts related to the event. All posts that are part of this paid promotion will be marked with #ad or #sponsored. All opinions regarding the event are my own and not influenced by the partnership. All proceeds from this work are donated directly to The Mars Generation to help support the future of space exploration and STEAM education.

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