As a little girl growing up in Poland Dorota Filipowicz studied the heavens on evening walks with her father and buried herself in science fiction books given to her by her mother.
Now the University of East London (UEL) student is about to take one giant step closer to reaching the heavens after landing a place at space camp. The 35-year-old has been accepted onto an eight-week Space Studies programme organised by the International Space University in Haifa, Israel and will spend this summer rubbing shoulders with engineers, scientists and other people who help make space travel possible.
Dorota, whose nickname is Astro, said: “Space is a fascinating place full of mystery, the unknown and things we are slowly discovering.
“My father used to go on evening walks with the dog and I would join him and he always used to point at the sky and say ‘there is Venus and Mars’ and point out the constellations.”
Like her father, Dorota is a trained physicist and works in the radiotherapy department at Mount Vernon Hospital in Hertfordshire. The Watford resident is also studying part-time for her Masters in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology at UEL and it is just as intrigued by the inner universe of our minds as she is the vastness of space.
She said: “I want to learn how what one person does affects others and what we can achieve if we set our minds to it.
“My work isn’t exactly linked to space and nor are my studies but at the back of my mind I have always wondered how I could get into the industry. So when I heard about the programme I thought it was the perfect place to start.”
Dorota hopes the summer programme will teach her how her psychology skills can be used to help astronauts.
“On manned missions the human factor is very important,” she said.
“You have humans in a confined space, far away from home with limited contact with other people. This creates a huge amount of stress so that has to be managed.
“I want to learn more about what psychology can offer to space sciences.”
Dorota needs to raise £14,000 tuition fees before she heads off for the course on Sunday, July 10, and has launched an appeal for donations to that end.
The acting dean of UEL’s school of psychology Prof Rachel Mulvey has already pledged £2,000 to her cause, bust she still needs to find £12,000.
In return Dorota will be blogging about her experiences and making a short film about space exploration and plans to present talks in schools and universities to encourage young people to learn about space.
She said: “I want to empower others to reach for the stars.”