Sharon Hagle is among one of the first space travelers of Virgin Galactic, who already has had a transformative experience since she met the Virgin Galactic team.
When Sharon Hagle and her husband Marc Hagle accidentally met with Virgin Galactic, they immediately signed up for their future space travel. Inspired by Virgin Galactic and their commitment in helping others, Sharon formed SpaceKids Global initiation through Galactic Unite, a charity founded by Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts to promote STEAM education for the younger generation.
Dodo Newman had an exclusive chance to talk with Sharon in order to discover her personal aims, motivations and to share the hard work that Sharon commit to through SpaceKids Global.
Dodo: Thank you for taking your time to share your thoughts with me, I know you have a very busy schedule nowadays.
Sharon: Yes, it’s been crazy lately. We were filming at the Orlando Science Center and NASA, Kennedy Space Center for a new promotional movie for SpaceKids Global. It was exhausting but also very exciting.
Dodo: I can imagine that since it is coming from your true passion to inspire first and second graders to excel in Technology. So what does space mean to you?
Sharon: I believe space is the future of Earth and mankind.
Dodo: You were among the first group to sign up with Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship as an astronaut, what was the point when you decided to do so? Was it a long time dream of yours or just a spontaneous decision?
Sharon: We had an opportunity by happenstance of meeting up with the Virgin Galactic’s international sales team at Kennedy Space Center while experiencing a Zero Gravity flight in April 2007. Both Marc and I believe if an opportunity presents itself, we jump at it.
Dodo: So it was a very spontaneous decision. Did you talk about it before?
Sharon: No. We had never heard of Virgin Galactic.
Dodo: That is incredible. It is really like a bliss. So basically it was your husband, Marc’s first idea?
Sharon: No, it was my idea to book a flight on Zero Gravity. I was looking for something different to do for an anniversary present. I got tickets to surprise him. When we arrived, Virgin Galactic’s team was on the same flight.
Dodo: You just had this idea or was there something that inspired you?
Sharon: No, I believe, you are, where you are supposed to be. Because of that encounter, it changed our life.
However, the space flight with Virgin Galactic was definitely Marc’s idea. He grew up in Orlando when NASA was launching the Vangard, Atlas, Mercury, Gemini and Saturn launches. As for myself, Marc takes me out of my comfort zone and I’ve never been disappointed.
Dodo: Sure, your whole life is evolving around it right now with SpaceKids Global.
Sharon: When you purchase a ticket to space, there is so much more. You have an opportunity to meet people around the world who share the same interest and excitement. We see one another frequently and after all these years, we have become an international family. It is not about the destination, it’s the people you meet along the way.
Dodo: Do you have regular contacts with them through Skype or email during the year or these meetings are happening more likely in person during the events? How do you share thoughts in this VG community?
Sharon: Those who wish to communicate with each other do so either by personal emails or often through Virgin Galactic Space Book and events.
Recently several Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts traveled to Antarctica where we planted a Virgin Galactic flag claiming the South Pole as “Virgin territory”. In December, a group met in Moscow to train for several days at the Russian Cosmonaut Space Training Programme.
Dodo: Yes but it brings you altogether and it is really fascinating. As you well said it is more than just a space travel or a ticket. Do you have any memories of the first time in your life you wanted to go up to space? What was it? Or maybe it just recently entered into your life and it was never so important before?
Sharon: I remember sitting in my sixth grade classroom listening to the PA system while Alan Shepard was completing his sub-orbital flight in 1961. Never anticipating, I would have the opportunity to do the same.
Dodo: You are the founder of SpaceKids Global. Was this initiation launched when you bought your Virgin Galactic ticket or how did that happen?
Sharon: SpaceKids Global was launched last year through Virgin Galactic’s charity Galactic Unite.
Dodo: Why do you think it is so important for them to know about it? Why is it important to talk to children about space and to make them also aware of it? Why it is important for them to get this interested so early as well?
Sharon: Our planet needs bright, well educated students to prepare for their world in the future. It is imperative we inspire young students in STEAM education. We need to get them excited about math and science. Having attended a lecture at Rollins College in central Florida, Dr. Michio Kaku a physicist mentioned, if you don’t have children hooked on STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) by 6-7 years old, you have lost them.
Dodo: Yeah, you have to start to shape the future. Would you send your children to space to experience it if it was possible?
Sharon: Absolutely and my grandchildren too. What an opportunity of a lifetime to experience space travel.
Dodo: You and your husband Marc Hagle are philanthropists, how is your care for these areas of life linked to your fascination for space?
Sharon: We have been very fortunate in our life and we are passionate about giving back. We particularly focus on medicine/health, the arts and education. Not only are we involved in education in the states but have been a sponsor and donor to the Himalayan Youth Foundation in Kathmandu, Nepal for over 14 years. These are underprivileged children, some who are left in the street or sold.
Dodo: I think it is noble that you are willing to give back to the World. Teaching and education is one of the best tools. Since art is borderless just as the earth from the space, do you believe that visual art forms have key roles in spreading and opening people up towards the awareness of space, which has the potential to bring people together?
Sharon: Absolutely. In our SpaceKids Global presentations we are always talking about all the aspects of STEAM and how important it is to experience art, music and dance. Why not have another form of communication to tap into a vibration where we can feel and sense these energies.
Dodo: When do you expect to have your trip? Do you have any estimated time?
Sharon: Having attended the recent event at Mojave, California for the unveiling of the new Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two, “Unity” named by Stephen Hawking, it appears I will be flying sooner than I anticipated. I’m fortunate to have my husband on the same flight. We are ready!
Dodo: That is a good attitude. How do you prepare yourself for the trip, do you have any special training to undergo?
Sharon: When we signed up in April 2007 we were informed that there will be several opportunities for training. To date we have completed the Zero Gravity training at Kennedy Space Centre, NASTAR, the National Aerospace Training and Research company which is a two day training program in South Hampton, Pennsylvania where the NASA astronauts train. While there, we had an opportunity to meet Commander Christopher Ferguson, who was in preparation for the last space shuttle launch from Kennedy Space Centre several years ago.
In January 2016, we had the opportunity to experience a three day Russian Cosmonaut Space Training program where several Virgin Galactic future astronauts participated. We met in Moscow and traveled to Nizhny Novgorod where we flew the Russian MIG 29 supersonic fighter jet, reaching a speed of MACH 1.8 and an altitude of over 60.000 feet.
We continued our journey to Star City where we trained in the actual space suits the astronauts and cosmonauts used on board the International Space Station. We did exercises in both the IVA (Intravehicular Activity) and the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuits. The IVA is only used inside the ISS a.k.a. the rescue suit and comes with a portable life support oxygen box. While the EMU is used outside the space station during repairs and experiments, it carries its own cylinders of oxygen and lithium hydrogen to remove moisture and carbon dioxide Another exercise was latching and unlatching the hull. We also completed a stabilizer test. You sit in a spinning chair and simultaneously move your head from shoulder to shoulder for two minutes. Try it…. it’s more difficult than you think.
Dodo: Do you think your view of life and life purpose will change even more so after your experience of being in space? Or will it change even more so once you will return from your space travel?
Sharon: Absolutely. I am preparing my mind for the changes that are bound to occur. I think it will be a very spiritual experience.
Dodo: Well, it is already opened up for you so many new doors since you have decided to go. You have experienced so much new things coming into your life. Do you have any fear when imagining your space trip? (Knowing the tragical accident with the previous spaceship).
Sharon: Fear comes from “fear of the unknown”. I know what to expect. I have successfully completed several training programs. I know I can do it. Anxious, sure….but I’m psyched.
Dodo: Who waits the trip more, you or your husband? Or you both have the same eagerness?
Sharon: We both do. To be among the first ones to go above and beyond the Earth atmosphere, that’s priceless.
Dodo: What is your favourite colour and what does it mean for you? I think the energy and the colors are important aspects to relate to people. It tells a lot of a person.
Sharon: Deep blue because it has depth. It represents the sky, water and space all moving with different energies.
Dodo: Without having been yet out in space what is your most beautiful image of it?
Sharon: The most famous image is looking back to our planet Earth. I want to see it for myself.
Dodo: So it is a new opportunity to experience something extraordinary.
Sharon: Yes and I want to thank Richard Branson because if it was not for him, none of us would be able to experience space. He has changed our lives forever.
Dodo: Before our interview you just finished the video shooting for SpaceKids Global, could you share a little bit about this?
Sharon: Our goal is to reach as many children around the World as possible. It is challenging
because we visit the schools in person, telling our story how we became a Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut. By distributing our video through the public school systems’ electronic devices, we will be able to reach a greater number of students.
Dodo: We truly appreciate sharing your experiences, thoughts and feelings through this YOUniverse interview. What was your main inspiration to share your experiences with us?
Sharon: I want to get the message out encouraging others to participate in the Galactic Unite programs. We have astronauts around the world who are ready to mentor the younger generation. We have scholarship programs for high schools and universities. We need a data base where people can see what others are doing around the world. Our programs may be different but our goals are the same; getting students excited about technology. These are the jobs of the future. Let’s help prepare them.
I really appreciate what you and your YOUniverse team is doing to share our stories.
I live by Richard Branson’s quote:
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough!”
If that doesn’t motivate you nothing will.
Dodo: Thank you Sharon. It is exactly what we aim to bring alive a community where we can share the individual and human stories behind people related to space.
If you have a chance to form a message for the future generation (besides SpaceKids Global of course) what would it be.
Sharon: Reach for the stars! Nothing is impossible and if you find something you are passionate about, it’s fun. It will never be considered work.
Together we can inspire STEAM+ education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics+ Environment