Space to Grow Together

Elizabeth Anderson, International Program Specialist, NASA, U.S.  

Before I applied for the UNOOSA Space4Women Mentorship Program, my exposure to space policy had mostly been limited to American perspectives. At the time, I was at my first job out of undergrad as a government representative for a non-profit in the space sector and in my first semester of graduate school.  

I applied to the Space4Women program to expand my knowledge beyond American perspectives and was hoping to be paired with a seasoned expert in the space sector, preferably someone with expertise with foreign government and the UN. I was very lucky to be paired up with Dr. Adriana Thomé.  

Throughout the course of the mentorship program, Adriana and I met ten times in a seminar format. Adriana would spend the first half of the meetings providing an overview, then we would spend the second half discussing readings Adriana assigned and questions I had. The mentorship sessions covered policy priorities of major players in the space sector, the function of international organizations, space technology, and principles of science diplomacy.  

Halfway through the mentorship program, I began a new job at NASA Headquarters, in the Office of International and Interagency Relations. Adriana reshaped the mentorship sessions to best mentor me for my new job in government by tailoring sessions on regional space policy that I would be working on.  

I gained considerable knowledge in science diplomacy and international space policy, which not only contributed positively to my graduate studies but also directly impacted my success at NASA. Furthermore, being paired with a senior expert in science diplomacy and space policy offered a forum for both mentor and mentee to share our perspectives on the topics and gain insight from one another.  

My best advice to young women interested in the space sector is to ask questions and seek out opportunities. Space is a niche and young sector, and you must be passionate about your work, ask questions when you do not understand, and advocate for yourself. Thank you to UNOOSA and to Adriana for this fantastic opportunity.  

I hope to someday return the favor as a mentor to future generation of women in space.  


Adriana C. Thomé, Senior Technologyst/Advisor at the International Affairs Office, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Brazil 

I remember exactly the first question Elizabeth asked me in our very first meeting: Is it possible to pursue a career in the space sector without having a degree in technology?  

I confess that the question took me by surprise. Having worked in the field for so many years, I sometimes forget how unknown and complex the space sector can be for those who are just beginning their career in this area. In that very moment, I perceived the importance of mentoring and realized the responsibility entrusted in me as a Space4Women mentor. In concert, I was happy to realize I could help Elizabeth seek answers for her question. In practice, that question was the hint that I needed to better understand what Elizabeth was seeking within the programme. I proposed a meeting schedule with subjects that would help her to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of the space sector, and consequently to comprehend that there is room for professionals with diverse backgrounds in the space field. Furthermore, in my view it was important to highlight to her that although a certain level of technological knowledge is essential to work in the area, a deep technological knowledge is not necessary or mandatory for all careers in the sector. 

Right from the first meeting with Elizabeth, I realized we could build a learning path that could meet her expectations as a mentee and my expectations as a mentor. From my part, I have to say that it was a very pleasant experience to be Elizabeth´s mentor in 2023. She is a brilliant young woman and a very talented professional. I was very surprised by her commitment not only to the programme, but also with the schedule we jointly established for our meetings throughout the year. Her excitement to explore new concepts and absorb new knowledge is something that I admire. To a certain degree, her eagerness to learn and curiosity reminded me of myself when I was younger. Interestingly, this reminder of how I used to be in the past filled me with new energy to face novel challenges in my own career. That is fantastic, isn´t it? In my opinion, this exchange between mentor and mentee is the reason why this programme is so amazing! It triggers growth and development both ways and when you finish the programme you are sure that you have nurtured a relationship of mutual understanding and friendship that will last. 

I was very proud of Elizabeth when halfway through the programme she told me she had gotten a position at NASA. After all, this is a dream coming through, isn´t it? I hope that as a mentor I was able to contribute somehow to the development of Elizabeth´s career and that she continues in this amazing pace of apprenticeship. I certainly have learnt a lot with her! In March 2024, we finally had the opportunity to meet in person when Elizabeth came to Brazil on her first international mission as a NASA representative. I thank the Space4Women programme for giving us this awesome opportunity to get to know each other and to develop bonds of companionship and friendship that will last for many years to come.