Miss England took the controls of Boeing's new astronaut spaceship, simulator-style.
Jessica Gagan, crowned Miss England earlier this year, stopped by the Boeing-made Starliner simulator at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Boeing officials posted to X (formerly Twitter). Starliner is aiming to bring an astronaut crew on a test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than April 2024 following several years of engineering delays.
The tweet included a shout-out to NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will pilot the Boeing Crew Flight Test of Starliner in 2024 alongside NASA commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore. "We think you might have a new trainee," the post added, addressed to Williams.
Gagen, 27, graduated with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Liverpool this past summer, according to the Miss England website. She will pursue her master's degree after her Miss England obligations conclude. (Miss England is a beauty pageant, but the winner often chooses to work with charities or students to promote goodwill initiatives.)
Prior to visiting the Boeing Starliner simulator, Gagen was invited to speak at the Ascend conference in Las Vegas — which ran Oct. 23 to 25 — about how to use the ISS to get students inspired to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Her visit with Boeing in Orlando will include working with the social media team "to create content aimed to market how STEM subjects are involved in the aerospace industry," the Miss England website added. Other activities on her agenda include a tour of Boeing's facilities, a panel discussion with Redwire Space, and possibly witnessing the SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the ISS slated to lift off at KSC on Nov. 7.
"This trip is everything an aerospace engineer could have ever dreamed of," Gagen stated on the same website. "Having been one of only a handful of girls studying aerospace engineering at my university, I made it my mission to promote how exciting the sector is and diminish stereotypes surrounding what engineers do — and look like, which subsequently saw me scouted for Miss England. The rest is history."
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft has made two uncrewed test flights in 2019 and 2022. The first flight failed to reach the ISS as planned due to numerous reasons, but the 2022 effort made it there and back to Earth. Once Starliner is certified to carry operational crews, it will be the second option NASA has to send aloft astronauts under the agency's Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX, the other company, has been running astronaut crews up to the ISS since 2020.