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Brooke Owens
Brooke Owens, a pilot and space policy expert, died of cancer in June at the age of 35. She was an alumna of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (Credit: Brooke Owens Fellowship Program)

Space industry pioneer Brooke Owens didn’t live long enough to reach the final frontier, but her life has inspired a fellowship program that will help other women follow in her footsteps.

This week marks the kickoff of the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program, which will offer paid summer internships for undergraduate women interested in aerospace careers.

GeekWire is among the first organizations to participate, taking our place alongside such space stalwarts as Arianespace, Blue Origin, the Museum of Flight, Planetary Resources, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. We’re the only host institution in the pack to offer an internship on the journalistic side of the aerospace frontier – and we’re looking for someone great to work with us in Seattle.

The fellowship is a fitting tribute to Owens, who passed away in June at the age of 35 after a long battle with cancer. During her career, she worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the nonprofit XPRIZE Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Brooke Owens on zero-G flight
Brooke Owens during a zero-G airplane flight. (Credit: Brooke Owens Fellowship Program)

“Brooke’s work at the White House and OMB was absolutely critical to the progress made during transition and in the early years of the Obama administration,” Lori Garver, who served as NASA’s deputy administrator during those years, said in an online reminiscence.

“Her expertise, tenacity and innovative approach as a budget analyst helped craft the programs that are transforming NASA into a 21st-century space agency,” said Garver, who now serves as general manager of the Airline Pilots Association.

Garver teamed up with Vulcan Aerospace’s Cassie Lee, NASA’s Diana Trujillo and Virgin Galactic’s Will Pomerantz to create the fellowship program. Pomerantz says the goal is to foster “a generation of future Brookes.”

The fellowships are open to women seeking an undergraduate degree in any field, as long as they intend to pursue a full-time career related to aviation or aerospace. Applications must be submitted by Dec. 5.

Those who are selected will head out to their host institutions and work with an on-site mentor (in GeekWire’s case, yours truly), plus a second mentor working elsewhere in the industry. The work internships will typically last 10 to 12 weeks. There’ll also be a gathering for fellows in Washington, D.C. For full details, check out the fellowship program’s website and application form.

We at GeekWire are greatly honored, and slightly daunted, by the prospect of participating in this first go-round for the Brooke Owens Fellowships. Here’s hoping we live up to Brooke’s legacy – and the aspirations of the next generation of women in aerospace.

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