Nicole Stott is an astronaut and artist who creatively combines the awe and wonder of her spaceflight experience with her artwork to inspire everyone’s appreciation of our role as crewmates here on Spaceship Earth.

A veteran NASA Astronaut with two spaceflights, she lived and worked in space for 104 days as a crewmember on both the International Space Station (ISS) and the Space Shuttle. She performed one spacewalk (10th female to do so), was the first person to fly the robotic arm to capture the free-flying HTV cargo vehicle, she was the last crew member to fly to and from their ISS mission on a Space Shuttle, and she was a member of the crew of the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-133.

A personal highlight of Nicole’s spaceflight was painting the first watercolor in space, which is now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

She is also a NASA Aquanaut, where in preparation for spaceflight she was a crewmember on the longest duration saturation dive mission on the Aquarius undersea laboratory. Prior to astronaut selection in 2000, Nicole had served for ten years as a NASA engineer and program manager at the Kennedy Space Center for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs, and two years at the Johnson Space Center as a flight engineer on the Shuttle Training Aircraft.

Nicole believes that the international model of peaceful and successful cooperation we have experienced in the extreme environments of space and sea hold the key to the same kind of peaceful and successful cooperation for all of humanity here on Earth.

Now retired from NASA, she founded the Space for Art Foundation to bring space and art together for children around the world – helping them overcome the challenges they’re facing through the wonder and awe of space exploration, the inspiration of Spaceship Earth, and the healing power of art.

Nicole is a graduate of St. Petersburg College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the University of Central Florida, and she is an avid SCUBA diver and instrumented rated private pilot.


What is your background, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Clearwater, FL. Very thankful to have parents who shared what they loved with me and my two sisters. My mom is a nurse and is very creative (she made all of our clothes for us growing up.) I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when macrame’ and hooked rugs and pottery were popular, so if my mom was taking a class she’d let me get involved; and she was the one that got me to guitar lessons and ballet classes and softball practice, and she was the one who got me and my sisters out to the airport where my dad was building and flying small airplanes. This is where I developed a love of flying and an appreciation for the beautiful perspective we receive when we separate from the planet. I wanted to know how things fly so I studied aeronautical engineering. And if you want to know how airplanes fly, why wouldn’t you want to know how rocket ships fly?!


When did you first become interested in space?

I think there were a lot of things that had an influence on my interest — watching the Moon landing at 6 (even then you know it’s something extraordinary); the time at the airport with my family and people who love to fly; and watching the Space Shuttle program come to life. It was a long time though before the idea of becoming an astronaut even seemed possible to me – not because anybody told me I couldn’t, but because I always thought astronaut is a job that only other special people get to do – why would they ever pick me?


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

Couple things –
Commitment – hampered by NASA annual budget cycles and changing presidential administrations. (Could go on a long time about this one for many reasons).
Lack of respect for or very slow acknowledgement of the lessons learned from earlier programs (we shouldn’t have to relearn lessons – there’s enough we don’t know that can kill us).


What do you like to do for fun?

Gardening, painting, SCUBA diving, flying…. Anything that gets me outside together with my son, husband, and dogs.


What is your favorite movie and why?

This is always a difficult question for me, so here’s a few
Secondhand Lions – love this movie about adventure and family.

Dracula (the one with Frank Langella) – I love the original Bram Stoker’s Dracula and this movie is how I imagined the story when I was a kid.

Space movies — RocketMan (not the Elton John story) and Galaxy Quest — I think these two movies, while comedies and not based on any real space tech, are great because they do a great job making fun of the human side of human spaceflight.

What are some of your favorite books?

‘West With The Night’ by Beryl Markham
‘Apollo: Race to the Moon’ by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox
‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker

What are you reading now?

‘The Future We Choose’ by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac
‘Hello Earth’ by Al Worden (re-read when I heard that Al had passed away — had also read it again a couple months ago as I’ve been curating an astronaut art gallery at the crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center and was working with Al to include one of his poems).

Where do you see the space industry in ten years?

In ten years, I’m hopeful that we’ll be chatting together about the next ten years from inside a commercial space station or better yet from inside a new settlement in the Moon.

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

I would tell them three things:
There so much more about the space industry than being an astronaut.
The space industry is ultimately all about improving life on Earth.
The motto of my favorite boss: “Here’s how we can, not why we can’t” – that’s how we do the most complex things, like going to space.


What three words best describe you?

Thankful, humble, creative.

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