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Sarah Knights and Blue Origin
Sarah Knights in the Mission Control room

An alumna of the astronomy program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo served as capsule communicator or “capcom” between mission control and the rocket that jetted Amazon founder Jeff Bezos into space this month. Sarah Knights, a 2006 UH Hilo graduate, also helped train Bezos and the three other private citizens aboard the New Shepard in preparation for the 10-minute spaceflight, a first for Bezos’ commercial company Blue Origin.

Sarah Knights
Sarah Knights

Knights conducted training for every astronaut mission or rehearsal, and conducted launch operations both in the field and in mission control. She also defined learning objectives aligned with the inaugural flight’s certification process and developed an astronaut training curriculum.

The flight is the first time a commercial company has launched a privately funded and built spacecraft from a private launch facility with people on board. The crew on the flight was eclectic, each important in their symbolism and meaning to the quickly evolving business of commercial space flight.

On board with Bezos during the July 20 flight was his brother Mark, pioneering female aviator Wally Funk and Dutch student Oliver Daemen. With the flight, Funk, 82, who began her astronaut training in 1959, became the oldest person to fly in space, and Daemen, 18, the youngest.

A career in STEM education

Knights joined Blue Origin in 2016 and in addition to her communication duties, also serves as internship program manager. She has taught STEM to more than 70,000 people of all ages and ran hundreds of missions at the Museum of Flight Challenger Learning Center in Seattle, WA.

Prior to her career in STEM education, Knights worked at Gemini Observatory and W.M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea while attending UH Hilo. At Gemini, she was a summit observational assistant and provided live quality control data reduction and weather monitoring for the telescope operators during observations. Knights focused on data and observation and engineering while at Keck.

For more information, go to UH Hilo Stories.

—Story by Susan Enright

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