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Space for a better world with Christina Korp, the Astronaut Wrangler.

The importance of space exploration and its relevance to issues like climate change, wildlife conservation, society, and culture.





Our full conversation with Christina Korp, the Astronaut Wrangler, on her organization SPACE for a better world, and her career advocating for space science, technology, and industry as a path to a better future for society, the environment, and humanity.

You can follow Christina on LinkedIn, Twitter, and her Website.

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T-Minus Deep Space Guest

Christina Korp is the Astronaut Wrangler. She tells us about her organization SPACE for a better world and her career advocating for space science, technology, and industry as a path to a better future for society, the environment, and humanity. She discusses the importance of space exploration and its relevance to issues like climate change, wildlife conservation, society, and culture.

You can follow Christina on LinkedIn, Twitter, and her Website.

Remember to leave us a 5-star rating and review in your favorite podcast app.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Those of us who really grok space could probably stand to do a better job of explaining to the broader public not just what's happening in space, but also why it's happening, and why it means great things for all of us on Earth. One of the people working to do just that is Christina Korp, the founder of Space for a Better World, a foundation formed to educate and inspire people all over the world about why space matters for everybody. And because she has, honestly, an incredible life story and the best job title I have ever heard, I'm going to let her introduce herself.

>> Christina Korp: Sure. My name is Christina Korp. I am known as "the Astronaut Wrangler," which actually, by the way, I just gave that title to myself. But it's because I used to work for Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. And now, I work with many, many astronauts who used to work at NASA or have already been to space.

>> Maria Varmazis: That, yeah, I mean that is the coolest title in existence, for the record. I mean. When I saw that on your email signature, I said, how does one get that amazing title. And, and what is that like to be an astronaut wrangler?

>> Christina Korp: Well, and to explain why it's a astronaut wrangler is because during all the years I worked for Buzz, people would call me up and say, since you're the astronaut whisperer, and I'm like, whispering is not the word. And there have been some people, too, by the way, who are like, oh, that's so disrespectful to astronauts to say you have to wrangle them. And the astronauts are like, no, accurate; it's totally accurate, so.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I, I would say, I imagine they're very busy people, so -- and as are you. So, I would think wrangling makes a lot of sense in that case.

>> Christina Korp: Well, and they're very, you know, there are many different kinds of personalities, you know. Just like anybody, astronauts come in many, many different molds. So, and, and look, they're all accomplished people. And they're all very confident people. So, you know, they're often experts in their own worlds, their own field or whatever. But I'm, I know what I'm doing when it comes to what I'm trying to help them with. And so, you know, sometimes there is a little bit of wrangling. But for the most part, I try really hard to work with the astronauts that I think are really good people who are, have a shared purpose with what I try to do through my foundation.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yes, yeah. So many good things in that. So, I was going to say, what, what kind of things do you do on your own or with the astronauts? Whichever, whichever one you want to start with first.

>> Christina Korp: Well, I think, you know, for people who don't know me, it's helpful to know that I came from the, the music world. So, I was in a family band growing up, and I moved to LA to become a rockstar. And my whole life was about music. I was signed to Warner Chappell as a songwriter and I sang on backgrounds on Ringo Starr records and I toured all over the world singing primarily in Spanish. And I don't speak Spanish very well, by the way, but I can sing it. And I just kind of had this crazy rockstar lifestyle of singing in front of 20 to 200,000 people in, in live concerts. And, and also recording. And that was my life. And then I, and then I started to -- because I had to get a real job, I went to work for John Tesh. And he mentored me and taught me how to run his media company, his record label production company, radio show. And I was the tour manager. And then, I went to -- I wanted a quiet, boring life for a little while, because I had had this total rockstar lifestyle. And I went to work for Buzz Aldrin. I answered an ad in the Hollywood Reporter, and it, it was one of these things where I had no idea what was going on in space. I just was looking for a job that I thought was going to be a good, more quiet, simple job compared to what I had been doing. And, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And it opened me up into this whole world of space and hanging out with Apollo astronauts and yeah. So, it's, it's not a conventional like avenue to space, and it's also not even typical for really anything else.

>> Maria Varmazis: I, I love that kind of story honestly, though. I mean, I would imagine -- I know very little about Buzz Aldrin. I've never met the man, but I, I know of him through his, you know, his mystique I suppose. I would imagine you having rockstar background might mesh well with him. Is that maybe why, when you answered the classified he was like, yeah, you, definitely?

>> Christina Korp: Well, so, the funny thing is I didn't even meet Buzz in my early interviews; it was his ex-wife and her daughter who were really the ones running company who needed the help with managing his appearances. So, they wanted somebody with an entertainment background who knew how to handle that kind of thing, especially someone in LA. And for me, I had just been hanging out with Aerosmith and people like that. So, to me, dealing with.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm in Boston, so that's a big deal.

>> Christina Korp: But dealing with Buzz Aldrin and thinking of this old dude who walked on the moon, I was like, man, this is going to be a piece of cake compared to what I was doing, you know. Just to deal with one guy and also someone -- I mean I literally just thought he must just watch, read the paper every day, you know. This is going to be pretty boring. And I thought well, I could use some boring. It's been a while, but. And, and I mean, initially it really was fairly quiet and he was just doing typical like corporate gigs and that sort of thing. But as the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 came up, because I started with him in January of 2008, and 2009 was the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. And things really started ramping up to celebrate that anniversary. And that's when I started really leveraging my entertainment background to try to help promote what, not only the historic anniversary but then his vision which was all about going to Mars. And that's when I started thinking well, maybe I have an opportunity here to bring my entertainment skills to try to amplify his vision, but in a way that people like me could understand it. And so, that's kind of what has led me down this path now in my own, you know, new mission, so to speak, of what I -- how I married that, the entertainment side of me along with the, the space world now.

>> Maria Varmazis: That is a fascinating story. And I, I, I think it's so important that people understand that every, every path into a career does not have to be this linear thing. That no experience is every wasted, and we can bring our full selves to the table. And I, I, I love that, that you've got Space for a Better World, you foundation, where you're doing that; you're bringing all these facets of your experience together. Can you talk a little bit about what your foundation is, what it does?

>> Christina Korp: Yeah. So, I came up with the tagline of, "Connecting the space curious to the space serious," because I came from the world of the space curious. I mean even though I knew nothing about space, I loved Star Trek and Star Wars and watched with like my, my grandma was always big into astronomy. And so, you know, space curious for sure. But then I got, then I entered this world of the deep space serious, of dealing with, you know, guys who walked on the moon, but also space agencies and heads of aerospace companies and just really major decision makers in space. And so, and, and then, aside from that always hearing moon landing memories. Being with guys who walked on the moon, I became the keeper of the moon landing memories. I just heard thousands of them, you know. And realizing wow, I have a responsibility here. You know, I, I'm in a unique position of, of hearing these stories that, for the guys was just their reality. But then I realized, wow; this is people pouring out their hearts and souls about what the first moon landing especially meant to them and how it kind of lit this spark within them of believing they could do something that they didn't think was possible for themselves before. So, that's really what kind of has led me to Space for a Better World. So, it's, it's a combination of doing outreach to inspire young people and people from a lot of different backgrounds to believe that there's a place for them in space. And, and I'm living proof of that, you know, having come from where I came from. But then, also realizing there's -- I, I have a, a, maybe an opportunity to educate even people who are big decision makers for companies or even in countries, you know. That's something that I realized when I went to the World Economic Forum in 2019 and again in 2020, just before the pandemic, is how little a lot of those decision-makers who say they want to save our planet know is at their disposal through space, like, that there are tools here that are really valuable to help some of the world's biggest problems. And may, I really feel that space is the place for those solutions. So, that's what I'm trying to do is help educate people and create content and do outreach and speak about it whenever I have a chance.

>> Maria Varmazis: I think that's such an important mission. And, and, and I'm so curious what you just mentioned, the fact that a lot of people don't know that there's, that space -- I love space is the place; it's a great line -- a lot of people don't know or they don't see the relevance, like, for example, my mother was a teenager when we went up to the moon. And she often tells me, I don't understand why we spent all that money to go there when we got out problems on earth, which we hear it all the time from everybody. And I feel like historically, we've done, those of us who are enthusiasts or work in the industry in any capacity, we haven't done a great job at sort of, selling for lack of a better term, why going to space matters and why space exploration is important for those of us on Earth. Like, why have we not done as good a job as maybe we should be doing?

>> Christina Korp: You know, what's interesting is we, I just was talking earlier with Nicole Stott, the NASA, the astronaut who I work closely with and is a major partner in purpose with me on Space for a Better World. You know, the interesting thing about the Apollo era is, they did a fantastic job of marketing going to the moon. Like, they really got not just America but the whole world on board with the idea of this exciting endeavor of going to the moon. And so, it's just since then, I think we've, you know, there hasn't been the greatest marketing and messaging in a way that people understand the value of what they've gotten from that. I mean, the return on investment is so beyond measure that hardly anybody's -- I don't even know if anybody's ever truly done it. And we're talking thousands and thousands upon times of what we put into it has been given back to the world. And so, you know, what I'm trying to do through Space for a Better World is kind of show people that. So, for instance, you know, everyone takes for granted that they have a little computer in their hand that lets them talk to anyone in the world with no delay. They can do it with video chat. They can use GPS to go anywhere they want without a map in their hand. And that is all space technology that was created to go to the moon. It was all about trying to create communications and different types of technology to enable us to take humans to the moon. And now, we all use it and everyone takes it for granted.

>> Maria Varmazis: It's so ordinary now, right. Yeah, yeah.

>> Christina Korp: Yeah. It's, and people don't even understand that's what it is. I mean, that's the interesting part about it is, everyone is using space technology and they just don't know that's what it is. So, trying to bridge that gap, that's what I really feel like, okay, maybe me and the astronauts can help bridge that gap. Because meanwhile, like, even in the world of cyber and AI and all of that, again, all of that computing began, a lot of it, within the space program. Or at least in some way really evolved into what everyone's using now because of what we had learned for space. And so, that's where I'm trying to even kind of bring back full circle so many things that people don't, don't understand evolved from the space program. And so, so just to give a couple more examples that are not even the technology but, you know, I say to people if you're using memory foam, you're using space technology. You know, everybody uses it for their neck pillows, and it's in their shoes, and it's on your beds, and it's, you know. And it's, it was a material that was created to soften the landing of a spacecraft, you know. I could go on and on. And that's one thing that I'm, I'm going to start doing is trying to show people, like, look, you, you are benefitting every day from this. So, it isn't like we're just spending -- and this is where we always laugh in the space world about, oh, we're spending all this money in space. Well, actually all that money is spent on Earth.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yes.

>> Christina Korp: It's actually spent on Earth paying people, engineers, and a lot of what they're developing is actually totally, I don't know how best to describe it, but it's totally, totally evolving into things that we use all the time as everyday products.

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back after this quick break. Yeah, and I, I know that that is definitely an avenue to, to reach some folks who are maybe on, on the cusp of being, like pro-space for a, for lack of a better term. Like, yeah, I think, I guess what space is doing for us is really good. I, I'm wondering how do you reach people who are really cynical about it? Who are, who are just, I guess, really, really, like, I don't care about that. I'm down here and that's up there. I mean, it, does, does that get through to them? If you're telling them about, you know, the cool things that, that exploration and, and scientific development have done for them? Or is there, is there some other avenue that you've found sometimes gets through?

>> Christina Korp: Well, I think what it comes down to is you have, you know everybody cares about something right. So, you have to figure out where you can meet them at the point that something matters to them. And so, often the people who are saying, oh, why are we spending money on space, will say, oh, I'm an environmentalist. Or I'm worried about climate. I'm worried about these things, you know, with climate change. And, and, and the ironic thing is, you know, they'll say I just, I can't worry about space; I've got to worry about that. And I'm like, well, first of all, we live on a planet in space. And it's not this faraway place that has nothing to do with us. Space is all around us, first of all. Second of all, it's actually NASA and the European Space Agency and all the different agencies that are giving you the climate data. That's where it's coming from; it's not just some nebulous thing, you know, out in the universe you're, we're just learning this. It's the space people who are providing that data and are working in cooperation with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association or Administration. And it's not a separate thing. That's, that's -- so, that, that's what I think it has to come down to is, you find something that people care about. You know, I met some people back in London last year who care about animals. And so then, I said, well, so did you know that they're using AI with satellites in orbit that are able to track say, like, the gorillas or endangered elephants easier from space than on the ground? Because it's easier to police the poaching efforts or keep track of the animals using AI in, in orbit than it is with just people driving around on the ground. So, that's where I think if you can meet them at the place about the thing that they care about and show them how space can help that particular thing, I mean, that's where I, I feel like I'm starting to get more people to understand the value or at least not be opposed to it.

>> Maria Varmazis: That, that's a great point. And how can those of us who are space enthusiasts, what, what would you -- so, that's one recommendation: meet people where they are. Any, any other recommendations to those of us who maybe are trying to win over a skeptical family member or a friend, and anything else that you might recommend in those conversations, those day-to-day conversations?

>> Christina Korp: Well, I have to tell you, if their a flat Earther, you're not going to change their mind.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, we'll, we'll throw that one out. Yeah. People, people who believe in the basic tenets of science. We'll start with that.

>> Christina Korp: Yeah, it's pretty hard to, I mean, anybody who's decided the earth is flat, man, they have just committed themselves to something that's just, man, you know.

>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, and I'm sure you've encountered folks like that, too, so on the, I'm on the, no fun there.

>> Christina Korp: I just, I think people, you know -- I'll, I'll just tell you a little story which is interesting relating to conspiracy theories. Because sometimes I just think people want to believe, just want to be different. They want to stick out.

>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, for sure. Yeah, definitely.

>> Christina Korp: You know, I went to the South Pole with Buzz Aldrin in 2016. And.

>> Maria Varmazis: The way you so casually said that, by the way, it just kind of blows my mind.

>> Christina Korp: Yeah, it's a weird, weird statement, but it's true. And when we got there, he got high-altitude pulmonary edema, and we had to be evacuated because he got very sick. And we, so we went from one side of Antarctica to the South Pole and then evacuated to the other side to McMurdo and then home. In the course of that flight from the South Pole to McMurdo -- actually I guess it was from when we were going on to New Zealand, because we had to go to New Zealand. That was the closest place from McMurdo. We had put out a press release, you know, that he had gotten sick. And in the course of the flight from McMurdo to New Zealand, someone created a fake tweet that looked like it was from Buzz, like it looked graphically real, saying that there were alien pyramids at the South Pole. And the funny thing is, is I was the one who created Buzz's social media accounts, and I created that Twitter account, and I was the one who does the tweets. So, I couldn't say, oh, well Buzz -- first of all, Buzz doesn't tweet anything; this isn't from him. But I just, you know, had to say like this is not real. And a lot of people would reach out to me. And I just pictured somebody sitting in their basement just thinking, I'm going to mess with a bunch of people and create this, this complete fabrication. And so, I mean, to this day, people will still message me saying please tell us about the alien pyramids at the South Pole. There's nothing, there's nothing there. There's a, there's the pole, and there's a research facility, by the National Science Foundation.

>> Maria Varmazis: And a lot of ice.

>> Christina Korp: And there's nothing else. I'm going to tell you that right now. And so anyway, I mean, I think if someone is just dead set on not listening to you, I just think it's pretty hard to change their mind. But I think if someone is willing at least to hear you out, and be curious enough to go and explore, you know, you can always guide them to things. And that's what I'm trying to do with my network, and try to do some storytelling that shows them. Because look, all of this is, is at your disposal on the internet. I mean, unfortunately.

>> Maria Varmazis: The trustworthy sources, yes.

>> Christina Korp: Yeah, unfortunately there's, there's a lot, you know, a lot of nonsense on there, too. But you know, this is all on the NASA website. Now do they present it the best way? I mean, there's a lot of sifting to do. And that's where we're trying to help guide you to the stuff that, that maybe you care about. The other thing is like with the moon landing. The moon landing conspiracists who don't believe we landed on the moon. I mean, the funny thing is, we landed on the moon six times. Six moon landing sites, which by the way, I did not know until I worked for Buzz, either. So, I understand why some people wouldn't, they would think there was one moon landing, and why would we just go to the moon once? Well, we went there.

>> Maria Varmazis: And why are we going back again? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

>> Christina Korp: And we landed six times. And we're going to go back again. And this time, we're going to do it as an international endeavor on Artemis. But, but to back up to the conspiracy theory thing: Google has a lunar orbiter. And they have mapped the whole entire moon. It's Google Moon. You can look for it. And you can zoom in and see where Apollo 11 landed. And even the tracks of where Neil Armstrong went to the edge of the crater with his, you know, moon boot tracks. So, this is all stuff that, you know, it's too hard to have that many people in the conspiracy when there's so much evidence, you know, that we did, but anyway. I just think, if somebody is, is doubtful of that kind of thing, you can say, well, go check this out. And hopefully they do.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I, I was going to say given, given what you do and who you work with, that unfortunately has to be a downside of the gig is dealing with people who are, the conspiracy theorists who. I, I remember talking to someone who was working on the comm side at NASA and it was just sort of like a big downer of the job was dealing with people being like, it's all fake. And just got to be dispiriting I think, being on the other end of that. When you know it's real and a lot of hard work went into it, to have people discredit it. So.

>> Christina Korp: It, it's not that, I mean, those people are, thankfully, in the minority. And the good news is that I think if you talk to a reasonable, sensible person and you say hey, go check this out, and they're curious enough, they'll go do it. You know.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah, thankfully you're right. Those, those folks are kind of more fringe. Anyway, let's -- I'll change topics entirely to something more positive. So, what are you excited about for what's coming in this, this new space era?

>> Christina Korp: Well, first of all, the commercial space part of things is really exciting, because it's helping to accelerate things that are difficult to help accelerate in government. So, I say this because a lot of people are, oh, all these billionaires, this new billionaire space race. And we actually, the astronauts and I and most of the commanded are like thank goodness for the billionaires. Because it's not just -- they're not doing joyrides just for the sake of it. They've got big ambitious plans. And besides all of that, they employ thousands of people who have their own hopes and dreams, you know. They'll tend to these new future space endeavors. So, we're super supportive of it, and also even trying to help kind of change people's perceptions of why people like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, you know, they're both terrible communicators. And, but they're, what they're actually trying to do is actually amazing. And we need that kind of crazy ambition to do the things that they're doing. And meanwhile, you know, NASA has the Artemis program and there are I think 23 nations in the world have signed the Artemis Accords. And this is the missions to go back to the moon for a human presence, like a permanent presence, to build a moon base. And again, people go, oh, why are we going to do that? Well, everything we will learn from that will benefit and turn into new, innovative technologies that will benefit the whole world. And so, that's one thing. And, by the way, it's opportunities for commercial companies to actually make money; it doesn't have to be just this, okay, the taxpayers are paying for us to go to the moon. There are huge opportunities for companies to be a part of this and to actually make money doing it. And then secondly, Artemis is to land the first woman on the moon. They will land other people, too. But as a woman, and I'm sure you can appreciate this, the idea that the first woman will finally get to walk on the moon is pretty exciting. And I'm really trying hard to make people aware of this and, and, and it isn't well-known, unfortunately, and it needs to be more widespread. And I think when I tell, especially science teachers who don't know, they're like, wait a minute; what? I'm like, yeah, the first woman is going to walk on the moon. And we're not talking in 10 years; we're talking in the next few years. Like Artemis I launched in November. I was at that launch at Kennedy Space Center. And Artemis II is in the planning phases. And, you know, it probably will be SpaceX Starship will be the rocket, probably, that will take them back to the moon. I mean, they have the contract for a lunar lander. But, but, you know, we shall see, but these are near-term ambitious plans that I really want to make people aware of. Because I think it has the power to excite the world the way that the Apollo missions did.

>> Maia Varmazis: I totally agree. For me, I have a six-year-old daughter who's, I'm, is very into space. And me telling her, hey, you're going to get to see the first woman walk on the moon, I just can't tell you how much that just makes my, it makes me light up knowing that I get to watch that with her and, and watch my little girl see that. That's, that's for me, just massive. So, I, I hope more people will, will understand that there's some really great stuff coming. And I, I'm so excited for what your foundation does and is doing, because I think it's an extraordinarily important mission. It's something that we've been needing for a long time is to pay attention to how we're messaging the important things going on and communicating to not just space nerds, but to everybody what's going on. So, thank you for what you do. And I'm sure we'll be talking to you a lot about what's been going on. But thank you for your time today. I really appreciate it.

>> Christina Korp: Oh, thank you for having me. I, I know I could just ramble on and on, so.

>> Maria Varmazis: I would gladly listen, so. I see you've got a lot of great stories, so. Thank you so much.

>> Christina Korp: Thank you very much.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, thank you so much.

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