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Prior to leaving Boeing, Manyapu configured and led a complex crew test with astronauts in flight suits in a spacecraft — a major milestone prior to the crew flight test of Starliner, she says. Her dedication to the test meant she had just a weekend of rest before jumping into her new role at NASA March 15. But she says it was worth it.

“The last test was the highlight of my career,” she says.

Manyapu is well-equipped for the challenges that lie ahead. An experienced private pilot and certified scuba diver, she has participated in Mars simulations for Boeing in the Utah desert and asteroid simulations for NASA at Johnson Space Center.

“I’ll be working on planning and preparing for spacewalks and testing spacesuits for the missions to the moon that would eventually get us to Mars,” she explains. “But I will be rooting for the Starliner mission and cheering when they take off.”

Manyapu looks for ways new technology developed for human survival on other planets can be applied on Earth in areas where food and water are scarce.

“The first time we went to the moon was for geopolitical reasons,” she explains, referencing the 1960s U.S.-Soviet Union space race that led to the Apollo program and the first man on the moon.

But the focus has shifted now. The Artemis program is setting a path for future deep space operations and for long-duration missions.

“All the great science investigations we’re doing on the International Space Station, we will continue to do on the moon, and we will test our technologies to eventually take those first steps on Mars, transcending frontiers,” she says.

Manyapu looks at space exploration as the future of all humanity, including her 1-year-old daughter.

“I’m grateful she will be part of that next generation that will look at space travel as commonplace, and know the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education,” she says.

When asked if she’d like to be part of a future Artemis mission herself, Manyapu doesn’t hesitate.

“I’d go in a heartbeat,” she says.

Originally published in the Georgia State University Magazine.

Kavya Manyapu working on the Boeing commercial crew Starliner vehicle.
Kavya Manyapu working on the Boeing commercial crew Starliner vehicle. Photo courtesy of Kavya Manyapu and the Boeing Company.



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