Diversity Circle #2 - One hour with Anika Mehlis

„What would you like to be when you grow up?“ This question seemingly tends to complicate when we get older. Anika Mehlis is now an analog astronaut, however, choosing this profession was not a clear or outlined plan from the start. In our Diversity Circle #2 „One hour with Anika Mehlis“ she told us about her exceptional (and sometimes perceived as „unconventional“) career path.

When she decided to study environmental technology she was in her second parental leave, had a finished biology diploma and worked shifts in a scientific laboratory where she analyzed environmental samples. This was also the time when another turning point was soon to appear: Anika decided to quit her current position and started a job at the German health department. Even though this position was advertised for a physician, she knew to be an appropriate fit due to her scientific and laboratory experience. One day, about eight years later, her attention was drawn to an ad in the local newspaper: The ÖWF was looking for analog astronauts. Since she has always been interested in outer space science, without further ado she applied for this position. The selection process was kind of opaque and after the first weekend, where she was tested both physical and mental strength, she did not know at all if she did well or not. She only knew that she felt like to be with the right people. One week later she got the wished-for but still surprising call: She was among the 8 analog astronauts who were chosen of over more than 100 applicants!

Anikas journey as an analog astronaut began with a five months basic training: weekends of scientific lectures about geology, orbital mechanics and orientation on the night sky were followed by improving her fine motor skills and learning how to handle the 50kg astronaut suit (not to even mention the fact that getting dressed needs 3 people to help and takes about 3-4h).

This year she will be on her way to the next mission on earth: the Mars mission simulation in the Negev desert of Israel!

You can find her full talk in the embedded video below.

Dear Anika, the TUtheTOP alumni club wishes you great success on this mission! It was a great pleasure to hear about your inspiring journey.

Our learnings:

  • Reach for the stars (literally): Look for a job where you are encouraged to combine your (seemingly contending) passions and you can learn from.
  • Don’t be intimated: When it comes to applying for a job/ certain position, it is not always necessary to fully satisfy all the prerequisites, it is more important that you are willing to learn and bring the necessary interest.
  • Look for your pack: Reach out and search for mentors, who trust in your skills and see your potential, and team members that compliment you. A rocket must be flown and operated by a (diverse) team – not a single person.