SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Even when indoors, Elizabeth Gabler finds her attention focused on the sky.
She says there was no greater joy in the pre-pandemic days than watching a planetarium dome filled with people and leading them on a journey through the cosmos. It’s that passion in part that led to a recent prestigious honor.
“I was named of the Mars Generations 24 under 24 STEM innovators in the entire world, which is a huge honor,” Gabler said.
Gabler says her passion for all things planetary goes back to age four, when she got her first look through a telescope.
Since graduating from Sacramento State last year with a degree in applied physics and a minor in astronomy, the 23-year-old has held a position as part of the faculty leading the planetarium programs.
“It really just starts at a young age, sparking those kids’ interest in future careers and letting them grow into astronomy or any science,” Gabler said. “It really makes a difference.”
However, it was her work before graduation as the youngest member of a NASA team that first brought her acclaim and the title, “rocket scientist.”
“I was hired at 19 and I was so excited to be working for a company that works for NASA, having my name on a program getting to help put something into space, having my designs used. It still excites me to this day,” she said.
The project is called DART, and the target they’re trying to hit is a would-be asteroid headed for Earth.
“DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. So, our plan is to launch it and have it intersect a double asteroid system, crash it into the smaller one and try and move it,” Gabler said. “That way, when a really big one comes our way, we can prepare for it.”
Gabler says she already has plans after that.
“My ultimate goal is to be working for NASA and to get humans to set foot on Mars,” she said. “Next is the moon, but I think we’re going to go to Mars and I want to be a part of making that happen.”