Washington Township native Grace Robertson has been named an astronaut scholar at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
“I always ask why and I will never stop asking why,” said Robertson, who will be a senior at the university this fall. “For me, this is the final cap to show me that I worked really hard for a lot of years. I stayed up late, put myself through the grind and this is it. This is the recognition and … it gives me the opportunity to push through doors and gets me three steps closer to my next goal.”
Before Robertson became an astronaut scholar, she was a young girl with a love for the planets. Her real journey into the world of aerospace engineering began when her sophomore science teacher at Washington Township High School asked students to write a research paper on a university they would like to attend.That’s when Robertson discovered Embry-Riddle.
“From the time I found that university, I decided, that’s where I am going,” Robertson recalled. “I had no idea Embry-Riddle existed … I have always been academically focused and Embry-Riddle is that epitomized.”
Robertson entered the Daytona Beach university in 2018, with a major in aerospace engineering and a concentration in astronautics. She channeled time-management skills acquired in high school, where she juggled sports, clubs and classes.
“If there is one piece of advice I could give to high-school students, it would be to pick a couple things and balance them and do them well,” Robertson advised. “Be excited about what you do and be excited about going to do it every day.”
Now in her senior year at Embry-Riddle, Robertson earned the astronaut scholar designation in part because of a project she undertook in her sophomore year, when she became a project founder and principle investigator for an autonomous robot that could clean microplastics from beaches. She also participated in a project that would help feed communities through hydroponic gardening, and was the project manager for the test flights during the creation of the EagleCam, which will land on the surface of the moon during a NASA flight later this year.
“I am here to help people and do good things day by day,” said Robertson. “But to get that little bit of feedback that people see I am doing good things, it is that sweet treat that says, ‘We know you are working hard, we see that.’”
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation that awarded Robertson was established in 1984 by the six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts at the time, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton; Betty Grissom, widow of the seventh Mercury astronaut, Virgil “Gus” Grissom; Dr. William Douglas, a Project Mercury flight surgeon; and Henri Landwirth, an Orlando businessman.
The foundation’s goal is to support more than 50 university students each year as they excel in engineering, science, technology and mathematics. Award recipients also form lifelong relationships with mentors and have opportunities to network with astronauts and executives.
With her time at Embry-Riddle coming to an end, Robertson looks forward to starting her future in systems integration for mission planning and long-term space pursuits, and hopes to eventually become a mission control flight director.
“When I was younger I really wanted to work for NASA,” she noted. “But what I have realized is that it is not about where I work, it is who I work with and the unified goal that we work under.”