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How a Concord Housewife Learned to Soar Among The Stars

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    There was a time when MJ Maggraff didn't consider having two feet firmly on the ground was such a good thing. She was 45, a happily married mother of two — dashing off to PTA meetings and getting the kids to school. Yet something was missing. Joe Rosato, Jr. reports. (Published Wednesday, April 27, 2016)

    There was a time when MJ Maggraff didn’t consider having two feet firmly on the ground was such a good thing. She was 45, a happily married mother of two — dashing off to PTA meetings and getting the kids to school.

    Yet something was missing.

    "I was very busy, but without anything very inspiring for myself," said Marggraff, who is now 61.

    It wasn’t until she lost her planner, its pages practically black with appointments, that she eyed change in the face. Her new replacement planner represented a new life.

    "When I opened it up," Marggraff said, "what I had really was a blank slate."

    Today in addition to being a mom and a wife — Marggraff is a pilot, a businesswoman, and certified to fly up to the edge of space, should such a civilian sub-orbital journey prevail itself. In other words — she chased down her childhood dreams of flight decades after it potentially expired.

    "I’m still an ordinary mom," Marggraff said. "I’m just an ordinary mom who flies."

    Like many kids, Marggraff grew-up dreaming of space journey and airplanes. Despite the fact she came from a family of terrified fliers, she was compelled to literally rise above those fears.

    "What I put in the planner was a childhood dream," Marggraff said. "I would overcome my fears and I would learn to fly."

    Now, Marggraff is spreading her love of flight and space travel to high school students whom she is mentoring. After founding a company called Made in Space, she is working with a team of students at Moraga’s Campolindo High School to design games, created by 3-D printers, that astronauts on the International Space Station can play.

    One game called "star catcher," is like the space version of hot potato. Just two weeks ago, a version of the game was aboard a resupply rocket heading for the space station to become part of the astronaut crew’s onboard experiments.

    "It’s just going to be something for them to play with each other," said student designer Maya Buelos, "compete with each other, have fun."

    Somehow Marggraff’s endless energy has rubbed-off on the students who are donating their own time to work on the project.

    "That’s so incredible," said student Bennett Coates watching Marggraff bound around the classroom. "I hope that when I am like 45, I still have the same drive and passion that she has."

    Somehow in between all the waypoints, Marggraff found time to write a soon-to-be-released book called Finding the Wow, which chronicles her inspirational journey from housewife to orbital traveler — a roadmap of how to avoid a life of regrets.

    "I missed the opportunity to be a NASA astronaut," Marggraff said, "but I am touching the stars and I am helping these young students do the same."

    Still, Marggraff hasn’t entirely given-up on visiting the stars herself.

    "I will see that edge of space one day myself," she said. "I’ll be up there, I’ll float and I’ll know I’m where I ought to be."

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