Payload Pioneers 2023: Makena Fetzer

Makena Fetzer’s journey to the space industry began at her high school’s telescope observatory in Arizona, where she spent her time gazing up at the stars. 

From there, the universe opened. Fetzer studied astrophysics at UC Berkeley and went on to intern at JPL and learn how to be a mission manager at Spire during a Brooke Owens fellowship.

Now, 25-year-old Fetzer is working at SpaceX as a mission manager for NASA missions, figuring out every day how to get science missions into the skies.

“Makena works to ensure the successful mission planning, launch, and deployment for some of our country and world’s most advanced and exciting science missions,” Kier Fortier, managing director of Exolaunch USA, wrote in Fetzer’s nomination. “Makena is an advocate for women in STEM and high-altitude ballooning projects to make space and science more accessible.”

NASA’s needs: At SpaceX, Fetzer works with NASA programs to manifest missions, which she says has taught her how “to merge great ideas and community cultures.” Right now, she’s working on a project to manifest the first NASA payload to fly aboard a Transporter-like mission under the VADR contract.

Women in STEM: Fetzer’s participation in the Brooke Owens fellowship program kickstarted a passion for inclusivity in the space industry, and she’s been an outspoken advocate for women in STEM through the program ever since.

“You don’t have to look or talk a certain way to do great things in the world of STEM,” Fetzer said. “I continue to actively participate in the Brooke Owens Fellowship community to uplift other gender minorities in aerospace.”

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