Feature Story

Astronaut Dreams

Kavya Manyapu prepares to get her advanced open water certification

Kavya Manyapu/Boeing

Kavya Manyapu prepares to get her advanced open water certification during a routine scuba dive at Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Scuba diving simulates the weightless environment of space, and is a training requirement for spacewalk practices in the neutral buoyancy lab.

Helping to build and design a space capsule would be an amazing experience, but building and designing a space capsule that you might one day sit in would be unthinkable. Not for Kavya Manyapu.

Kavya, a flight test engineer on Boeing's CST-100 commercial crew capsule, has wanted to be an astronaut since she can remember.

"As a child it was more like a dream that, 'Hey I want to go to the moon!'" she said.

But that dream is becoming more and more real.

Kavya moved from India to the U.S. to get a college education, and has been preparing to become an astronaut ever since by scuba diving, getting her private pilot's license, and practicing aerobatics, or aircraft flying maneuvers. She was even selected as one of 400 "highly qualified" applicants out of nearly 7,000 during the last astronaut application process.

"It's not a sprint; it's a marathon, so I'm preparing myself everyday to get there," said Kavya.

A full-scale mockup of the capsule is being assembled in Houston, Texas. Melanie Weber, a structural and mechanical design engineer on the CST-100, said the capsule design will lower the cost of space exploration.

"Designing a capsule is more efficient than a shuttle design, the turnaround is shorter, and we will be able to reuse the capsule many times, -- the fact that it can land on land is what makes it reusable," said Weber.

Engineers are using the mockup to test and re-test capsule component, ensuring the vehicle is built right the first time.

"Because of the feedback we get from NASA, the feedback we get from our other engineers and test subjects, we can iterate the design quickly, re-prototype, reinsert it into the mockup, then validate the design, so that on Day One when we launch this vehicle, we have the right vehicle launching safely and well-designed," said Tony Castilleja, a CST-100 mechanical engineer.

The next astronaut application period won't open for two to three years, but Kavya said she will apply. In the meantime, she'll continue preparing to fulfill her childhood dream.

"I'm looking forward to that day," said Kavya.

Watch the video to see how Kavya is preparing to make her dream a reality. To find out more about astronaut training and mission preparation, check out NASA’s training fact sheet.