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Columbia woman helping make space exploration more accessible for all

Centra Mazyck is making history as part of the first zero gravity flight crew where every member has a disability.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia woman has joined the mission to make space exploration accessible for all. As a person with a disability, her hands-on experience will help shape inclusive space crafts for the future.

Centra Mazyck has always welcomed new adventures. In 1995, she joined the Army and soon skydiving and parachutes were part of her every day life.

She told News19, "my first duty station was the 82nd Airborne Division, of course I had to jump out of airplanes.”

Mazyck was doing a routine jump in 2003 when she became entangled with another jumper.

“As soon as we were about to break loose, which we did, I did not have enough time to prepare to land," Mazyck recalled. "So, I landed with my feet and knees totally straight and I just had a rough landing and on impact I was paralyzed from the waist down.”

Doctors told Mazyck's family she'd never walk again, but she didn't let that stop her.

Not only is she now walking, she competed in the 2012 Paralympics. Now, she's going to fly.

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“I’m used to jumping out and putting other individuals out, but I never got the chance to stay on board to actually float around,” Mazyck said excitedly.

She’s part of a crew of scientists, engineers and artists all with their own disabilities that will be taking a zero gravity flight for space research.

"We have individuals with no legs, so how would they float and grab on to something? So, things like that -- we’re talking about it, we’re trying to be innovative with it,” explained Mazyck.

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Her crew recently went to MIT to collaborate with researchers on the changes that will need to be made to their flight in order for it to be accessible.

By taking a parabolic flight, they can learn what tasks people with varying disabilities can do while floating.  

"We are all not inclusive when it comes to disability, so we’re just trying to be included to show the world we can do what everyone else can,” Mazyck said.

Mazyck will be making history as part of the first ever parabolic flight where all crewmembers have a disability. She hopes their endeavor will pave the way for inclusive space exploration in the future.

Mazyck and her crew will take off from Long Beach, California on October 17.

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