Hey FA readers! In honor of Women’s History Month, we call your attention to a newly forming star: Alexandra Doten a/k/a “Astro Alexandra.” This former NASA and US Space Force employee was a part of the first steps to establish GPS on the Moon (still in progress). She now dedicates her life to sharing space news in accessible and digestible ways on social media in hopes of inspiring the next generation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
After discovering lots of fun posts from Alexandra, The Farmers’ Almanac (Facebook and Instagram) joined hands with her to announce a rare alignment of planets — Parade of Planets in 2022. In early 2023, Alexandra shared details of when and where to view the notorious Green Comet.
Over the last year alone, Alexandra has garnered a massive following on social media (2 million followers on TikTok and over two hundred thousand on Instagram).
Here is her inspiring story, including how she and her close-knit community of women in space prove that out-of-this-world career aspirations really do come true!
6 Questions For Astro Alexandra
1) How did you become a Space Communicator?
I’ve always been interested in science, from a very young age, but I was never exposed to astronomy or space until I was in college. I took astronomy my freshman year and fell in love with it, then continued taking more astronomy classes. In my sophomore year, after taking quite a few classes, I got my first internship at NASA as a technical writer, making things more accessible. I loved the works so much, I went back the next year. I joined the GPS Team as a communications specialist, specifically for GPS satellites.
Vanderbilt University, where I went to school, has a medical center with a children’s hospital. In my senior year, I got a job there developing a science and engineering curriculum for the patients who were there for longer than two weeks. I tried to make learning accessible, to keep them up to date with the Tennessee and Nashville school standards, so that they could resume school without being held back a grade. That curriculum was adopted by Children’s Hospitals around the country and was a fantastic, rewarding experience.
After college, I took a year off and then returned to NASA full time, back with the GPS team as a fulltime communications specialist. I represented the US with our GPS interests with the United Nations and with subject matter experts around the country, working to get GPS on the Moon.
After about a year and half with NASA, I left for the Space Force. (A lot of the GPS stuff had been transitioned over to the Space Force when that was created.) I joined the Space Force very early on, when there were only a couple of employees. In November 2022, I left the Space Force to peruse content creation fulltime.
2) How and why did you make the leap to social media full-time?
My work at NASA was very public facing. I was flying overseas, visiting schools, and talking with people. My favorite part of that job was going to elementary schools and talking with kids about space and introducing them.
When I transitioned from NASA to the Space Force, my job also became significantly less public. I did exciting work internally, and loved the opportunities I had, but I didn’t get to have that same public-facing interaction and I almost never worked with children. But I felt like my purpose and my experience was to do that — to speak with young people about space and astronomy and to give them that introduction early on and empower them to pursue that career path.
I was feeling as though my biggest impact was through my content creation. Once I was able to set up a plan to financially sustain myself that way, I made that leap.
Support Alexandra’s mission by subscribing to her Patreon.
3) What excites you most about space?
The reason I love learning about space is because there is an infinite amount to learn! It will never end. We’re never going to know everything. There’s always going to be another star, another galaxy, another planet … someday extraterrestrial life. It’s never going to become stagnant or boring.
Another thing that excites me is there are quite a few new telescopes on the horizon. The one that I’m most thrilled about is the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is in development. I believe it’s launching in 2027. It is equivalent to Hubble’s visible light, but with a field of view that is thirty times that of James Webb. So, it’s going to be able to map the Universe.
4) Nancy Roman, known as the “Mother of Hubble,” was the first female executive and the first Chief Astronomer at NASA. In her youth, she assembled an astronomy group with friends to study the constellations. How important is community to you and are you close with other women in space?
We have a really tight-knit community of the women space creators. We all have a constant group message going. In November 2022, we all got together in Florida and met each other for the first time. There are 10-15 of us.
We all cheer each other on personally and professionally. We celebrate each others promotions, graduations, and engagements. We all woke up early and live streamed (and cried) as one of the women in our group message, Katya Echazarreta, became the first Mexican woman in space. (Learn more about Katya’s story here.) It’s a very supportive and exciting community full of extremely talented and brilliant women.
From left to right: Jessie Kolle, Asia Fee, Alexandra Doten, Susan Martinez, Camille Bergin. (Photo taken by Gus Martinez).
5) In honor of Women’s History Month, if you were to name 4 important pioneers in space, besides Nancy Roman, who might they be?
I admire so many women in space. My particular heroes include Dr. Mae Jemison, Gwynne Shotwell, Dr. Gladys West, Col Pam Melroy, and Sally Ride. I also think some of the most important women in space are behind the scenes, building the future of space.
6) What is next for Astro Alexandra?
My goal will always be to bring space to more people, especially people who haven’t felt empowered to learn about it before. I am excited to look towards new opportunities to expand that.
Join The Discussion!
Do you follow Astro Alexandra on social media?
What inspires you the most about her story?
Who is one woman in space you think is important to mention during Women’s History Month?
Let us know in the comments below!