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I’ve been dethroned as FLORIDA TODAY’s biggest space geek

I've been dethroned as FLORIDA TODAY's biggest space geek
Hey Subscribers,

Before I get into the heart of this week’s topic, I’d like to share a bit about… well, me.

You see. I’ve been dethroned so to speak.

I love space. I was born just days after the Apollo 11 mission returned from the Moon. I wore out the pages of my dad’s July 1981 edition of National Geographic that featured Voyager’s images of Saturn. And even now, there are likely a dozen reels waiting for me on Instagram to discuss black holes, neutron stars and the vast distance between us and anything else. It also means I’m a huge sci-fi nerd. Even as I’m typing this, I’m rewatching episodes of “Star Trek: Voyager.”

For a long time, I thought I was truly FLORIDA TODAY’s biggest space geek.

But… Enter Brooke Edwards.

Brooke, the newest member of our team, joins Rick Neale on our stalwart Space Team.

As someone who actually served as an analog astronaut, Brooke brings a unique perspective on NASA, space and the reasons why we’re pushing the boundaries of where humans can go, live, work and thrive.

What the heck is an analog astronaut? Yeah, I thought the same question. Before Brooke joined us, she got the unique experience of being an analog astronaut with HI-SEAS  (The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) in February 2021 where she served as her mission’s science communications officer.

Brooke spent two weeks living in a habitat, 8,000 feet above sea level on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, one of the closest places to Mars you can be on our planet. The desolate environment where little life exists is the perfect spot to give the analog astronauts the feeling of being on the moon, Mars or some other place.

The simulation mission was lunar based, meaning for the two weeks she was confined to the habitiat, she had to live, work and play as if she was on the lunar surface. If one of the six crew left the enclosure without going through the simulated airlock and “depressurization,” the mission would end. A good test for actual astronauts as such an event could kill the entire crew.

Of the experiments conducted over the course of Brooke’s mission, several looked at astronaut mental health. As humans continue to venture farther into space, there’s a need to determine the effects of isolation on the human mind. Brooke says that private analogs like HI-SEAS, as well as NASA analogs, are seeking to understand and find answers before humanity attempts to send crewed explorers to Mars and beyond.

Her story fascinated me and I wanted to know more – and share that information with you.

Question: What excites you the most about covering space and about being part of the FLORIDA TODAY Space Team?

Brooke: Since I was a young girl my two greatest passions have been space exploration and storytelling. If I wasn’t looking up at the night sky or reading on space, I was writing stories.

What excites me most is the fact that I can wake up every day and work on those passions. Growing up in Philadelphia, I never thought I would be involved in space or even see a launch in person. Now here I am – writing about space on the Space Coast and watching history unfold.

Q: What area of space is your favorite? Mine is our solar system, particularly Jupiter’s moon Europa (thanks Arthur C. Clarke).

Brooke: I would have to say Earth’s Moon. It is the only celestial body to be explored by humans (so far) and is responsible for Earth’s tides and stable axis. The view of the Moon’s craters through a telescope also never fails to disappoint.

Q: What are the challenges you’ve faced on the job so far?

Brooke: Every publication has their own style. The hardest part for me is remembering Gannett’s style and attending to all the details in Presto, FLORIDA TODAY’s content management system. The only other challenge is trying to navigate without the use of GPS, as I moved to Florida from Michigan.

Q: How long have you been a journalist? Where did you go to school? Where are you from? (The basic stuff)

Brooke: I have been writing articles since I was in my undergraduate years at Holy Family University in Northeast Philadelphia, where I grew up. Having a basic interest in writing, community news, and storytelling, I joined the university newspaper. Little did I know, I would find myself enjoying it and even gain a following.

I was a reporter until I graduated with my degree in science education. In 2018, I decided to jump into writing about space exploration as a hobby. This decision changed everything.

Starting in 2019, I wrote about space for Freshwater Reporter – a small monthly newspaper in Manistee, MI. In 2023, I became a freelance local reporter with Manistee News Advocate – the town’s main newspaper.

Q: What’s your favorite way to decompress after a tough day on the beat?

Brooke: After a long day, I like to go for a walk or find a dark sky for single-shot astrophotography.

Q: Any pets? if so, type and name?

Brooke: Yes, I have my active, orange and purple, crowntail betta fish. I fittingly named him Prince Peach “Peach”. Fun fact: He ended up competing in a pet showcase I was covering for Manistee News Advocate, and we were interviewed by the newspaper from the neighboring county.

If you have questions about space or upcoming missions, or if you just want to say hello, you can reach Brooke at

Normally I would end with “you can reach me at Or you can find me on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube (just click the name, the internet will do the rest),” but this week I’m letting you know we’ll be on hiatus next week (vacation and the high seas are calling). Look for the next newsletter on April 5th.

As always, thank you again for subscribing to FLORIDA TODAY and for supporting the work of local journalists like Brooke.

Rob Landers

Sr. Multimedia Editor


This article originally appeared on Florida Today: I’ve been dethroned as FLORIDA TODAY’s biggest space geek

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