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(CNN) —  

Growing up, Holly Ridings, Anne McClain and Nujoud Merancy dreamed of space. But they didn’t let those dreams rest to become flights of childhood fancy. Now, all three women work at NASA.

McClain is an astronaut who just returned from a six-month stint on the International Space Station. Merancy is the Exploration Mission Planning and Analysis lead for the Orion spacecraft that will be part of the Artemis mission in 2024. And Ridings is the first female chief flight director.

And they’re all working toward the goal of landing the first woman on the moon by 2024.

Holly Ridings

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Ridings remembers watching shuttle launches in her elementary school cafeteria, but her classmates didn’t seem interested. Then, the Challenger exploded, and she remembers thinking, “I want to make that better.” She couldn’t articulate this need at the time, but it became the backbone of her career: exploring and achieving the hard goals.

At the time, she didn’t think about it, but upon reflection, Ridings realized that many of her math and science teachers were female.

She pursued a degree in mechanical engineering and had mentors who had worked for NASA. It showed Ridings the balance of engineering with the human side of the space community. She learned how important it was to build a team that could work together seamlessly while incorporating different skill sets, and that leadership could unite them for successful missions.

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In 2018, Ridings was announced as the first female chief flight director at NASA. She is responsible for all of the agency’s human spaceflight operations, including the International Space Station, commercial crew vehicle operations and upcoming launches. No two days are the same. She works with partners, meets with her team in Mission Control and makes sure the space agency is ready to confront the unknown and fly.