Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides is a Founder Astronaut at Virgin Galactic, mother of two, wife to George T. Whitesides, and author of The New Right Stuff: Using Space to Bring out the Best in You. Loretta studied astrobiology at Stanford and Caltech, did research on plant life in the Canadian Arctic with NASA, dove to the bottom of the ocean with Titanic Director James Cameron, and has floated weightless hundreds of times as a Flight Director for Zero Gravity Corporation. She and her husband are the Co-Creators of Yuri’s Night, the annual Worldwide Space Party celebrating the dual Russian and U.S. space anniversaries on April 12. She currently teaches leadership and personal development for the space community through her SpaceKind Training Program which evolved from the New Right Stuff training program she led at Virgin Galactic for five years. 

3 words to describe Nature?

Elegant. Closed-loop. Soul-filling

3 things Nature taught you?

Trees are incredibly generous

You don’t need to “waste” anything

We need natural systems to thrive

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Redwood forests

On a rock next to a mountain stream

On a mountain looking down on a fog bank

When you look at the OCEAN, it makes you feel…?

Fragile, insignificant, held (I believe the ocean holds are memories)

When you see a FOREST, it makes you feel…?

Calm, grounded, loved

When you see a VOLCANO, it makes you feel…?

Primal, powerful, grateful

When you see a SUNRISE or SUNSET, it makes you feel…?

Blessed, full-hearted, quiet

When you hear THUNDER, it makes you feel…? *

Excited, powerful, expansive

When you hear the WIND HOWLING, it makes you feel…?

Connected to my friend Andrew Hopping who loves the wind, hunkered down, humbled

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Mountains and forests

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?


Share with us a childhood nature memory?

When I was about 14, our girl’s group at my summer camp was challenged to do a 24 solo- as though we were lost during a hike- just shorts and a t-shirt in Northern California. It was pretty demanding, alone, cold, hungry, but I survived and was SO PROUD of myself! I always push others to let kids do things that are hard and scary so they can have that experience that they can do more than they think.