Having dreamed of space since she was a little girl, Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides wants to use the power of space to shift our perspectives, connect us with each other and our home planet and become the kind of species we would be proud to send to the nearest star.

Loretta studied astrobiology at Stanford and Caltech, worked in the Astronaut Office in Houston Texas, did research on plant life in the Canadian Arctic with NASA, dove to the bottom of the ocean with Titanic Director James Cameron to film the IMAX Aliens of the Deep, floated weightless hundreds of times as a Flight Director for Zero Gravity Corporation, studied terraforming Mars with Dr. Chris McKay of NASA Ames, worked for the X Prize Foundation during the $10M winning Ansari X Prize flights in 2004, helped launch the Space Generation Advisory Council in 1999, and Co-Created Yuri’s Night, The World Space Party in 2001. Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides has been a Founder Astronaut with Virgin Galactic since 2005.

She has written a book called, “The New Right Stuff: Using Space to Bring out the Best in You.”

She currently lives in the desert outside Los Angeles with her husband George and their two kids and leads leadership development training for Virgin Galactic staff. She continues to give talks and write to help people fulfill on what they came to Earth to do!


What is your background, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Santa Rosa California, a place that was ravaged by the Tubbs fire in 2017. Parts of my high school and grade school burned and many of my friends lost their childhood homes. It’s an hour north of San Francisco and full of wineries and redwood trees! I ended up at Stanford (because it was close to a NASA center) and studied Astrobiology because I wanted to figure out how to grow our own food while recycling our air and water in space!


When did you first become interested in space?

When I was 5. I remember my kindergarten class had an Apollo astronaut on the bulletin board. The teacher said that anyone who passed the alphabet test would get their picture up on that bulletin board! I was clear I wanted that!
My cousins and I also played spaceship in the crawl space under their stairs (complete with silver insulated ducting!) and looked at the pictures in National Geographic’s coffee table book “Our Universe” and argued over who got to be the god of which planet.


What do you think the biggest issue facing the industry today?

I think the biggest issue is a human one. We need to make sure we are taking care of the whole person. Happy people do better work. I also want to see us get better at working together, whether at the team level, the company level or the industry level. We all love space and can gain a lot by being able to support everyone in winning. A rising tide lifts all spaceships. To do this requires self care (sleep, exercise, mindfulness) as well as a commitment to improving interpersonal skills as well as your own personal development.

I think having more feminine energy in the industry would also help a lot. Love, patience, cooperation, warmth, nurturing, respectful communication and generosity go a long way and will help put the space community back into balance.


What do you like to do for fun?

Hike, read inspirational books, travel, take transformational courses, hang out under fresh water, backpack, dance, lead Ropes Challenge Courses, talk to people about the things that matter to them most, coach people to let go of whatever is holding them back.


What is your favorite movie and why?

The Empire Strike Back. I love to listen to Yoda remind us of important things like “War does not make one great,” or “You must unlearn what you have learned,” or “Anger, Fear, Aggression, the dark side of the Force are these…”

I also really like “Real Genius.” Val Kilmer’s character is actually exactly what God looks like to me…and how he talks to me, irreverent, funny, brilliant and dead on. (I also really like a Room with a View and 2010).

What are some of your favorite books?

Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah- by Richard Bach
Stranger in a Strange Land- by Robert A. Heinlein
The Overview Effect, Space Exploration and Human Evolution by Frank White
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- by Douglas Adams

What are you reading now?

For Us the Living by Robert A Heinlein and
Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho

Where do you see the space industry in ten years?

(this is my wish list anyway!)
Thousands of people will have experienced suborbital flight for themselves.
We will be offering point to point services between the biggest travel hubs
Private orbital trips will be available
1st woman will have walked on the moon and
The 1st human mission to Mars will be being planned.
We will have found many compelling ways to use space to protect our home planet’s ecosystems
We are moving out mindfully into space, drawing on lessons from colonialism and environmental damage to make sure we build in for inclusion, protection of the places we go for future generations, and peace.

What would you tell people just starting out in the space industry?

Meet as many people as you can. Go to conferences. Write out your ideas, values and vision. Dream big, ask for help and remember that every set back, disappointment and frustration is the perfect training for you to fulfill what you came to Earth to do. Read my book, “The New Right Stuff, Using Space to Bring out the Best in You.” Preferably in a book club with others so you can all support each other in your missions!

Go to Yuri’s Night near you or plan your own! Get involved with Space Generation Advisory Council.


What three words best describe you?

Peace, Love, Space

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