Nikolas Blanks’ love of space began at age 4 with a viewing of the iconic space movie Apollo 13
with his grandfather, Lee Akers. He later developed an inoperable brain tumor which required treatment to stabilize and contain. With the support of the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, Niko successfully completed his cancer treatment. Afterwards, Niko wondered if he would be able to realize his dream of spaceflight–did he still have ‘the right stuff’ after battling cancer?
To find out, Niko attended U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. The experience renewed his confidence and passion for aerospace. He returned to camp three more times, including a week of Elite Space Academy where a new Mars mission simulation was first used. That session was filmed for the 2017 documentary The Mars Generation (available on Netflix).
Following his experience at Space Camp, Niko enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
in Daytona Beach, FL, where he is currently studying Spaceflight Operations. He also works as a Research Assistant in the ERAU Spacesuit Utilization of Innovative Technology Laboratory (S.U.I.T. Lab).
In 2020, he served as Cheif Engineer on the Sensoria M3 lunar simulation mission at the HI-SEAS habitat in Hawaii.
During an eight week SpaceKind training
with Yuri’s Night co-founder Loretta Whitesides in 2020, Niko expressed his desire to ‘pay it forward’ and create the opportunity for someone else impacted by pediatric cancer to have the same life-changing experience he did by attending Space Camp. Yuri’s Night and the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer are working together to make that happen in 2021!