January 16, 2024
Our Journey to a Metal Tattoo
By: Kate Stark, Brooke Owen, and Marc Rassel
Since I can remember, space has always fascinated me — so captivating that it sparks my imagination and fills me with awe. My love for the cosmos is boundless, bringing excitement and wonder to my life. I’ve been following NASA’s missions for years, sharing the thrill through live streams on my Twitch channel [twitch.tv/kate]. My goal is to spread the joy I feel during each launch with people worldwide, creating a shared experience that goes beyond borders and connects us in the wonder of cosmic exploration.
Driven by my deep passion for space, I eagerly applied to the NASA Social Program with a pitch to bring my live streams to Kennedy Space Center. To my surprise, NASA not only read my application but also accepted my idea. In just three weeks I found myself on a flight from cozy Western Canada to sunny (and very humid) Florida, ready to explore Kennedy and share it with my audience.
During that week, I joined a group of space enthusiasts from around the world. Together, we marveled at the Vehicle Assembly Building, checked out the crawler’s underside, walked the same ramp astronauts use before liftoff, and witnessed the Psyche spacecraft launch. Being there in person was unlike anything I’d ever experienced — I cried tears of joy watching the Falcon Heavy soar into the sky and feeling the ground shake from the booster rockets’ sonic booms. It was overwhelming in the best way possible.
The whole experience left a lasting impression on me and I decided to get a tattoo to commemorate it. Surprisingly, two newfound friends, Brooke and Marc, were up for the idea too. We stumbled upon a tattoo artist in Titusville, Florida, who just so happened to be from the same Canadian city as me. It was a small-world moment that added another layer of meaning to an already unforgettable journey.
Now, I have an amazing keepsake that I’ll always cherish. Each day when I glance at my arm I see this design reminding me of the most incredible experience and how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things.
Psyche has surpassed its form of a scientific mission and moved into a realm of inspiration. The mission is a testament to human ingenuity in the face of exploration into the unknown; it transcends space in a way that has influenced my life philosophy and connected me to my family.
During my time working on the Psyche mission as an undergraduate at Arizona State University I managed the Psyche Inspired internship program. This internship tasked undergraduates with the challenge of creating original artworks inspired by the mission- the interns never ceased to amaze me. This role gave me a new sense of self; before I worked on the mission, I didn’t know the leader inside of me that I have transformed into.
As I became more involved with the mission over the years, my family shared that my grandfather had been an electrical engineer who worked in aerospace on NASA missions. I felt even more connected to the mission through a link to my late grandfather. I knew he would be so proud of me if he was here, and I was happy that my grandmother was able to be with me at this time in my life. At this point I knew I wanted to get a Psyche spacecraft tattoo, so it was more of “when” that became the question.
While working on the mission I daydreamed about the milestones and where I might be as we reached each of them. I believed in my heart I would be at the launch but I didn’t exactly know how I would get there. As the launch date inched closer and closer I got a plane ticket and a hotel reservation and found a way through the NASA Social Program.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the acceptance email, it was a manifestation of the dreams of my undergraduate years. In this program, we got to go behind the scenes, see some familiar faces, get a front row seat to the spacecraft launch, and learn even more about the people and science behind this innovative mission. Being a part of this program surpassed my wildest dreams and gave me memories I will never forget.
The launch itself was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was so excited but couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud for fear some force would hear me and dispose of everything people had worked so hard on for years. The stakes had never been higher- the entire mission weighed on everything going right in this tiny window. Thinking about it now, I feel it in my body like an anchor released in my heart.
There were weather delays, but I knew that the 13th would be lucky, especially if it was stated as fact in my own delusion. It turns out that belief was right (after a couple of days of it being wrong) and the Psyche spacecraft launched on October 13, 2023. When prompted by Kate to get a tattoo to commemorate the trip I knew I wanted to get the spacecraft and I had to add the lucky number 13 on it as a reminder of the day and what hard work, believing, and just a bit of luck can bring forth.
When I first learned about the NASA Social program and the opportunity to attend the launch of the Psyche spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center I thought, “This probably won’t work out, but why not…I’ll apply and see what happens.” Fast-forward a few months and there I was, next to a diverse, yet like-minded group of people, standing in complete awe of the sheer power of the 27 Merlin engines of the Falcon Heavy rocket propelling the Psyche spacecraft into space in a matter of minutes. The light from the 200-foot-long tail of fire as bright as the sun, and the deafening sound rattling my chest as the rocket disappeared into the atmosphere was part of an experience I struggle to appropriately assign words to. This was an experience I will be thinking about for a very long time.
I have long been fascinated by space and all that NASA is from a very young age. I can thank my parents for cultivating this interest with my first trip to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex when I was 5 years old (see the kid that’s way too excited [though still too cool to smile] standing with an astronaut in his rad little SeaWorld hat below). So when asked, “Why did you want to attend this program and launch?” the answer could be simply, “to fulfill a childhood dream!” but it was far more than that.
The opportunity to see and learn about some of the NASA facilities from a more ‘behind the scenes’ look stroked my innate curiosity in the secrets of the cosmos we are only beginning to understand. We got to hear first-hand from the scientists working on the mission and the principal investigator herself, we looked straight up to the ceiling inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, learned about the exciting new laser communications technology demonstration onboard the Psyche spacecraft called DSOC directly from then-NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana, walked underneath the crawler, learned about the imaging instruments, and so much more. It was incredible. And while I didn’t know a lot about the Psyche mission at the time I applied, but that was certainly not the case by the end of these few days, leaving me even more fascinated by all of the things we may end up learning from the metal-rich asteroid that is Psyche.
Just the thought of all the time, effort, resources, and imagination that went in to the creation of a spacecraft that will travel 2.2 billion miles through space is enough to blow your mind, but on top of that, we will get the chance to study what might be a metallic planetary core of a previously unexplored kind of world. That’s just wild. So when the launch day and NASA Social concluded, Kate and Brooke asked “Does anyone want to come get tattoos with us?” It was without hesitation I offered an emphatic, “Yes!” As I said, it’s difficult to find the right words to adequately describe this entire experience. What better way to remember something that’s indelibly marked on my memory, than for a visual representation of it to be indelibly marked on me.