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Student's dream of working in space becomes reality

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Chicago-area college student is living her dream of working in the country's space program.

Kristen O'Mara was selected by NASA to be one of 180 scholars from across the country to work on a plan for a mission to Mars.

A lot of us may dream of space travel. But, for O'Mara, the possibility of someday working for NASA just got a little bit closer.

After being just one of 48 students chosen nationwide to participate in a three-day NASA program, O'Mara left Tuesday for the space flight center in Alabama.

"We're gonna be building a prototype rover, and basically pitching a fictitious company to NASA, working with scientists and engineers to get a feel of what it's like," said O'Mara.

O'Mara's interest in astronomy really didn't begin until she took a class taught by Dr. Bhasker Moorthy at Harper College in Palatine.

Moorthy was astonished when heard of O'Mara's achievement. "She didn't even tell me until after the semester was over," said Moorthy. "She said, 'Oh by the way, I've been participating in this program, and it's been a great opportunity, and Could you write me a letter of recommendation for the last part?' ... I was shocked."

Thirty years old and a mother of two, O'Mara is certainly not your stereotypical college student, but the math major has what it takes, at least according to NASA.

In order to be considered for the program, students must score at least a 95 on their proposal. O'Mara scored a 97.

O'Mara is already preparing for another possible NASA program.

"We proposed an experiment that will fly at a reduced gravity. It's like a parabolic plane, called a Zero-G," O'Mara said.

After finishing up the semester at Harper, O'Mara will move on to Northwestern University to continue her quest to eventually work for NASA.

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