A career that would take Renee Horton to outer space was all she ever wanted.
“I’ve known since I was maybe eight or nine that I wanted to work for NASA. They were doing amazing things and I wanted to be a part of that,” Dr. Renee Horton, a lead engineer with NASA, said.
Her dream of becoming an astronaut got sidelined when she was diagnosed with a hearing disability.
“I didn’t find out until I was 17 that I actually had a hearing impairment and so it was very frustrating. I had graduated at 16, laid out this path that I was going to be an astronaut, and then all of that was taken away from me,” Horton said.
She continued to struggle after her career plans got slighted.
“So I’ll actually tell you, the first time I went to college I dropped out. So I didn’t overcome it the first time, I let it get the best of me. I didn’t want to compete with it, I didn’t know how to compete with it and I was also angry that it was happening to me,” Horton said.
The Louisiana mother of three found the inspiration she needed to go back to school through her children.
“After I had my daughter, I was looking at her and I said, ‘man she deserves so much more. She deserves somebody who can open doors for her to be able to walk through whatever door she wanted’,” Horton said.
She went on to complete her degree in electrical engineering and earned a PhD in material science with a concentration in physics.
Horton now works as a lead engineer at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, helping to assemble the largest rocket in the world; a dream career that often leaves her in awe of the life she’s leading.
“My day-to-day is walking in history. That’s exactly what my day-to-day is,”she said.
On top of her NASA duties, Horton travels around North America, giving speeches she hopes will inspire women to deny conventional roles.
“There’s serious obstacles in working in these fields. It is a male-dominated field and unfortunately, it comes with male-dominated biases. You may think, ‘it’s 2016, we don’t really have that.’ Yes we do. We still have guys who think women should be at home raising their kids and not working in the field,” she said.
Horton says regardless of the career path people choose, she wants to share the message that’s meant so much to her.
“It’s not too late. I started over after having three kids and after being divorced and I wanted that life and I wanted that happiness and so it’s never too late to go after your happiness,” she said.
To view the NASA station where Horotn works, you can visit the Michoud Assembly Facility website.