“There’s something about the passion NASA engineers have for the space industry that parallels the passion Rockettes have for dancing and performing.” – Heather Bottom
This Women’s History Month we caught up with NASA engineer, and former Radio City Rockette, Heather Bottom. Heather’s story inspires us to always dream big and reach for the stars! After her time on the Rockette line, she transitioned to a new mission: to find life on Mars! Heather oversees systems tests at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a research facility that studies the planets in the solar system through robotic space missions. She studied astrophysics at Columbia University in New York City, where she took a semester off from school to dance as a Rockette. She proves that women can do anything they set their minds to. Here’s a Wooden Soldier salute to you, Heather!
What are your favorite memories of being a Rockette?
“A favorite memory was the feeling at the end of “Christmas in New York” when the kickline ends and you’re so exhausted there could not possibly be more… and then there’s an encore. My husband calls it “Type II Fun” — something that is miserable in the moment, but fun in recollection. In that regard, ice baths on 4-show days were also a favorite. I also enjoyed baking cookies and watching SNL with fellow Rockettes — we’re still good friends to this day.”
What was your favorite Rockettes number to perform?
“12 Days” — I’ve always loved tap. The repetition of it with building intensity and syncopation really makes my heart happy.”
Do you see any parallels between your time as a Rockette and your work now as a NASA engineer?
“Absolutely — although it has taken many years for the similarities to come to light. Rockettes are very visual, physical, precise, and extremely fast learners. While NASA engineers aren’t as physical, they certainly are precise and, at times, very visual. And being organized and a fast learner has helped me to understand complex problems quickly. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, so many of my colleagues have diverse and interesting backgrounds, in areas like music, acting, art, etc. There’s something about the passion NASA engineers have for the space industry that parallels the passion Rockettes have for dancing and performing — to bring something inspiring and beautiful to the world. ”
The Rockettes are all about sisterhood, and we heard you work on a mostly female team at NASA. What has that been like?
“I love all the women I work with at NASA. I learn so much from them every day, and we support and uplift each other, especially when times are rough. My favorite part of working with women is seeing how differently each one works and communicates, and yet each is so effective and successful in their own way. We’ve spent late nights, overnights, and early mornings in the test facility together trying to understand the intricacies of the flight system. It’s certainly its own type of sisterhood, as well.”
What message would you share with young girls who have ambitious goals and dreams like you?
“Everyone has their own story and with a lot of hard work and passion, so much is possible. Follow your heart and stay true to yourself — embrace all the quirks and interests, because it’s what will make you confident and strong.”