Emerald Ainge is an aerospace engineer at Pioneer Astronautics in Colorado, where her current project is the design of high performance, green-propellant spacecraft thrusters for a NASA research grant. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering from Purdue University. Her thesis focus was the development of interplanetary propulsion thrusters. After Purdue she worked at SpaceX on the Merlin Vacuum (MVacD) engine and on developmental space engines. Several of her designs are currently in use on commercial missions to the International Space Station.
Emerald pursues intensive research projects in remote areas of the world where she can work as part of a crew. In 2009, she flew on a Zero-G flight as part of the Mars Gravity Biosatellite team, where they studied gravity’s effects on mice. That same year she traveled to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt for desert conservation research. In 2010, she traveled to the Alps for harsh conditions training and psychological evaluation for remote missions. In 2011, she traveled to Antarctica, where she worked as the resident engineer inside a survival home without electricity, heat, or running water. She completed geological research by climbing glaciers, taking magnetic measurements, and exploring the environment. In 2016, she was accepted into Project PoSSUM, an astronaut-training program that prepares civilians for research in suborbital space. As part of the training, she operated pressurized space suits, handled high G-loading, and completed simulated missions. In addition to her professional work, Emerald is certified in open water SCUBA diving, American Sailing Association (ASA) blue-water sailing, and is currently working toward fluency in Japanese.