How exciting is it that we live in a time where scientists are cultural icons?

Now, as kids, or even adults, grow up their heroes don’t just have to be sports figures or celebrities.

Sometimes we forget that icons started as kids with dreams too. Something in their life inspired them and made them who they are today.

Today, we get a chance to hear the stories of the moments that inspired some of the world’s most famous astronomers and space explorers.

PBS’s NOVA has a truly incredible series called NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, that features candid interviews with famous scientists and engineers.

There are an endless number of videos to go through there, all of which we highly recommend. Take an afternoon to lost yourself there – you won’t regret it. Today we are going to feature a few highlights from interviews with scientists and engineers whose life work has been dedicated to the exploration of space.

We begin with a story from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and science celebrity, talking about the origins of his fascination with the stars

What if your path to your dream job is a little less direct?

After a brief detour to medical school, Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, decided to go for her dreams of becoming an astronaut. Here’s her marvelous story and her perspective on the importance of inclusion in science!

These icons of space exploration aren’t just making contributions to the world of science, they are also inspiring the next generation of thinkers!

Jill Tarter is best known as a founder and director of the SETI Institute, an organization dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Her place as a cultural icon was solidified after the publication of Carl Sagan’s sensational book Contact, and her portrayal by Jodie Foster in the subsequent film.

Jill/Jodie’s character and the film itself has been an inspiration for a generation of budding space explorers. Here’s Jill with her take on the legacy that Contact has had…

Finally, being a scientific icon comes with its share of remarkable insights.

Astronauts have a special place in our collective psyche. They are the explorers on the frontiers beyond our planet.

The astronaut Chris Hadfield gained widespread notoriety for his cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddityand his remarkable TED Talk about going blind in space.

His experiences in space have changed the way he sees our planet in the grand scheme of things, and his insights are something we can all carry with us every day…

We live in an exciting time for science and space exploration!

Thanks to the scientists and engineers working on the frontiers of our knowledge, we are pushing back our understanding of the universe every day.

The future will need more inquisitive minds working on our biggest questions, and it helps to remember that our scientific icons started out as kids with hopes and dreams just like all of us.

It is important that we share the stories of our origins, our successes, and our failures to remind budding minds that we can achieve our dreams, and that the road ahead is a tough but rewarding one.

Whenever I run into an inquisitive mind, I think about where they might be in the next 30 years. What insights they might have for us all, how they will further our understanding of our world.

Cultural icons of any kind start out like all of us, so who’s to say that the next great thought leader isn’t sitting in a classroom near you?

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” -Victor Borge

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  1. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson: When I Look Up.” YouTube. NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 July 2016. <>.
  2. “Mae Jemison: I Wanted To Go Into Space.” YouTube. NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 31 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2016. <>.
  3. “Jill Tarter: Carl Sagan Contacted Me.” YouTube. NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 10 June 2014. Web. 22 July 2016. <>.
  4. “Chris Hadfield: The Universe Surrounds You.” YouTube. NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 14 July 2016. Web. 22 July 2016. <>.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV