InnovaSpace Founder, CEO & Scientific Director
The importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) education has long been talked about, with education policy and curriculum choices targeting these areas to improve competitiveness in science and technology development, and to try and address the shortage of skills in the workforce. While these subjects are extremely relevant in today's world, they do not underpin the innovative process in isolation, often requiring a streak of creativity and imagination to set an idea free. History demonstrates well the productive link between the STEM areas and Art, with Leonardo da Vinci being a classic example - both a great scientist and astounding artist.
The practice of art in its numerous senses, such as, language, physical art, music and design, among many others, can provide imaginative opportunities for communication and expression and inspire the young to be creative with their ideas. Blending art into the STEM areas can also provide a conduit by which to attract the interest of those who might not normally consider the sciences. Although a scientist and doctor myself, I have always been drawn to the arts and am equally as happy writing an article on space physiology as I am writing a romance novel. So when I was contacted by a gentleman from a theatre group wanting to know if I could share a little space knowledge with them, I was delighted to say yes!
The FLUX Phase theatre group brings together a diverse group of actors in training, currently completing an MA in Acting at the E15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex. Their latest production is based on Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, which states that as you travel close to the speed of light, time passes more slowly. So imagine if one identical twin makes a journey into space on a near light-speed spaceship, leaving the other twin at home on Earth, and then returns from 30 years space travel. Will the twin who stayed home have aged more? Will one look much older than the other? This is the Twin Paradox!
I had the great pleasure of virtually meeting with this group of actors to discuss the effects that microgravity has on the human body during a space mission - of which there are many! We chatted about bones, muscles, heart, lungs and the brain, and how these all react to being in an environment where there is no gravity, and in turn, they asked many interesting questions related to body movement and human behaviour in space - an interesting two-way process of bringing together science and art.
The clip below of a rehearsal session is just a taste of this very interesting and creative production, which can be seen at The Albany in Gt Portland Street, London, as part of The Camden Fringe on the 4th & 5th August 2018. Well worth a visit, and anyone turning up in a spacesuit or an Albert Einstein mask can enter for free!!
"The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin ... or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity." Mae Jemison, 1st African American woman in space
Blog written by Susanne Cappendijk, PhD, MBA, Founder and CEO of EDsnaps Inc, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on "Increasing Diversity in the STEM Workforce", New York City, NY, USA
On a bright September morning some 4 years ago, I was preparing the voluntary before-school session for the middle school SciGirls Club Program in Tallahassee, FL. One of the 6th graders entered the classroom stating, “Hey Dr. C, I like SciGirls a lot, but I do not like math”.
Over the past 20 years, I have heard this statement and its variations repeatedly from female students, ranging from age 5-18. And every time I hear it my blood starts boiling, my toes are cringing, my eyes are turning red and smoke comes out of my ears; you get the picture. However, I play it cool and ask the student, “Why do you not like math? You do math all the time and you are pretty good at it as you are here on time!” Then I explain to the student that in order to be on time, she used math as an application to calculate the time needed to travel from home to school. Students often do not consider time as a concept of math.
In the STEM curricula that I designed over the years, we use a variety of applications to show that STEM is fun. Physics is fun when applied in a self-defense seminar. Math is fun when applied on a 3D-cube shape. Engineering is fun when applied to building an electric circuit. And who does not like to step into Augmented or Virtual Reality, which applies and combines numerous disciplines of STEM.
Why do students in general, and female students in particular, demonstrate a misleading perception towards STEM disciplines? The Oxford Dictionary defines perception as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something, a mental impression”. The reason(s) for having this misleading impression can be due to several factor(s): geo-location, gender, family heritage, socio-economic classes, educational programs, and cultural background. Every one of us has experienced this issue (in)directly. Think of the family member who did not like math and repeatedly shared this vision, or a teacher discouraging your friend because she did not have grades to apply to a good college, or a neighbor discouraging girls not study math because math is not for girls, or parents who are not supportive of their daughters pursuing a post secondary education.
How can we interrupt this flow of misleading perception? Is the mental impression irreversibly anchored in the minds of female students? As a neuroscientist I argue that it is not. Everyone, including students, is exposed to the outside world, which continuously affects the brain circuitry. A STEM outreach program that provides positive real-life fun STEM experiences might initiate a perpetual central change. One might argue that this thought is simple, idealistic, and imperfect. However, I am not striving for perfection since perfection usually means stagnation and stagnation is detrimental to a change in mental impression.
We, as outreach STEM and STEAM educators, need to offer opportunities to students using socio-economic status, geo-location, gender, race, or age as positive tools to re-wire neuronal pathways. Our main goal should be to create a positive mental impression of STE(A)M for any student. Does my advocacy work? Yes it does. Our previous programs with the middle school SciGirls in Florida and our 3-week EDsnaps Program launched this past summer with underserved female high school students in the Bronx are living proof. Seeing is believing, check out the video in which the EDsnaps students demonstrate their awaking growth-mindset
Blog written by Mary Upritchard, InnovaSpace Admin Director
It really is just a matter of time before a manned space mission is launched into deep space, whether once more to the Moon or more likely to Mars. Of course, the time scale is still being measured in years, but interest in such a venture is growing fast and there are already leading players with plans to reach the Red Planet in the next decade.
Elon Musk of SpaceX has an ambitious plan to send a crewed rocket to Mars by 2024 using an under-development reusable rocket that will ultimately replace his Falcon rockets; the Mars One group are aiming to land a Mars crew by 2031 using technology bought from other aerospace companies; and NASA is currently testing its Orion spacecraft for use with the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), a rocket that will be capable of propelling humans and cargo out of Earth orbit.
The NASA journey to Mars will include a series of stages, an ambitious step-by-step plan to put humans into low-Mars orbit by the 2030's. The Earth Reliant phase will continue to build on research already being conducted on the International Space Station; the Proving Ground phase will see a series of missions near the Moon – called “cislunar space” – assessing the capabilities needed to live and work on Mars; and finally, the Earth Independent phase will test the entry, descent and landing techniques needed to alight safely on the Martian surface, and study how the natural planet resources can be used to sustain a human presence.
In the recently advertised Project Mars International Film and Art Competition, launched by SciArt Exchange, and with the support of NASA, young enthusiasts of Space and Mars exploration will have the opportunity to get their creative juices flowing, producing either a 5-minute film or designing a promotional poster focused on any aspect of the NASA plans to arrive at the Red Planet. Whether individually, or working as a team, let your imaginations loose and help visualise humankind’s journey into deep space. The global competition is open to early career professionals (less than 5 years experience) and college students from anywhere in the world, and the only cost involved in submitting is in terms of your time, your imagination and your endless enthusiasm for Space. The panel of competition judges is made up of leading experts from the worlds of space and art, including astronauts Nicole Stott (NASA) and Samantha Cristoforetti (ESA), Film Director Gareth Edwards (Star Wars, Godzilla, Monsters) and Joshua Grossberg, Vice President Creative Director of McCann New York, a global award winning advertising agency.
It's time to breakout your multimedia software and direct your thoughts towards how you would feel living and working on a space station orbiting the Moon? What would it be like to be confined within a spacecraft for many months, hurtling through deep space, further and further away from home and toward a planet so very different from your own? And what would you imagine the arrival at the Red Planet to be like? There are so many questions that will remain unanswered until the day humans step foot on Martian soil, however, in the meantime, we are limited only by our own imaginations - set your mind free and dream your way into Space!
Visit www.ProjectMarsCompetition.org for more details about the contest, judging panel, prizes and FAQs.
Entrants may also wish to visit http://projectmars.freeforums.net/ - a useful discussion platform through which NASA engineers can be asked any technical questions you may have, where you can talk with like-minded people about your ideas and progress, or even look for collaborators to strengthen your team and boost your chances of landing the big prize - Good Luck to everyone!
Manned exploration of Mars is really only a matter of time, and some even say it is a necessity that we step foot on Martian soil. Stephen Hawking declared at a lecture in 2008 "If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before", while SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk confirmed his belief that "Humans need to be a multiplanet species" in an interview with website Slate in 2015. Currently there are two operational and mobile US Mars rovers exploring the surface of the planet, Opportunity landed successfully in 2004 and Curiosity in 2012, so there is already much we know about the surface and landscape of the Red Planet.
What awaits any visitors to Mars is a very hostile and harsh environment; its atmosphere is about 100 times thinner than Earth's and is 95% carbon dioxide; temperatures can range from -125°C near the poles in winter to +20°C at midday near the equator; and the surface is covered in a layer of dust containing very fine-grained silicate minerals that tend to stick to surfaces and could be hazardous if breathed in. So the question is how to prepare astronauts for what they are likely to confront on an inhospitable planet that lies at least 55 million kilometres away?
"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching."
There is undoubtedly no landscape on Earth that can exactly match the harshness of the Mars conditions, however, we can get close, such as on Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii where Hi-SEAS analogue missions take place, the Atacama desert in Peru/Chile with its Mars-like arid soils where only the most limited of bacteria can survive, and the Dhofar desert in Oman, where in February 2018 the AMADEE-18 Mars analogue will take place. The use of field research in an environment that mimics Mars conditions in some form is an excellent way of gaining experience, practicing for the 'real thing', but more importantly, understanding the advantages and limitations presented by remote science operations where access to and communications with a central control are subject to difficulties and delays.
AMADEE-18 is a simulation mission being conducted by the Austrian Space Forum under the leadership of Forum President Dr. Gernot Grömer, a global partner of InnovaSpace, and in partnership with the Sultanate of Oman. A four-week mission is planned in the Oman desert to serve as an analogue for future manned missions to Mars. This scenario will provide an excellent opportunity for the testing of equipment and procedures in simulated Mars conditions and has the added significance of human involvement, with 6 space-suited 'astronauts' being isolated from the world. Contact with a Mission Control centre in Austria will be possible, but will include a 10-minute signal delay in either direction, as would be the case on Mars.
The AMADEE-18 analogue is certain to receive much coverage as the mission gets underway, and has already featured in the mainstream media. The team at InnovaSpace will await the results produced by this mission with great interest. Whatever the findings are, the media coverage will undoubtedly attract the interest of the future generations of space explorers, perhaps stimulating and drawing them into the STEAM areas of education. Certainly the Austrian Space Forum has provided encouragement through the addition of an AMADEE-18 Junior Researchers Program, opened to students from Europe and Oman.
It is without doubt that Space has a cross-generational and universal appeal, and its beauty lies in it being a truly interdisciplinary area, something that can be used to unite different disciplines. Traditionally, this has often been difficult to achieve within a university context, where individual areas, such as biology, physics, computer science and engineering, follow their own parallel paths. However, learning can undoubtedly be maximised through the use of interdisciplinary teaching and research. The promotion of interdisciplinarity is the core concept of InnovaSpace, with the field of the Space Life Sciences being used as a tool to draw together different subject areas in an interaction that permits new knowledge construction and a deeper understanding of ideas, something that will be vital if Mars analogues are to be translated into the reality of a manned mission to the Red Planet.
Blog written by Mary Upritchard
The next decades will undoubtedly witness greater long-term extraterrestrial space exploration, as mankind endeavours to establish Moon bases for the commercial mining of minerals, and to fulfil dreams of sending manned-missions to Mars. For such plans to be realised, many technological obstacles have yet to be overcome, which will require fresh minds, new ideas and innovation – but where will this new space industry workforce come from? Already there are reported shortages of qualified workers in the US aerospace industry, a situation repeated in the UK with a lack of skills in the STEM areas. This scenario is set to become worse as the space sector grows. For example, according to the UK Space Agency, the industry is growing four times faster than the rest of the economy and will demand many new additions to the current 70,000 strong highly-skilled workforce, as recently confirmed by former NASA astronaut Stephen Frick for City A.M. newspaper. So how will we plug this gap? How can we capture the interest and enthusiasm of the youths who will become the next space generation?
"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
While some may say the answer to these questions lie in the university systems of our societies, as new graduates channel through in the STEM areas, we at InnovaSpace firmly believe the true answer is set much further back in the educational life of a child. Children are born a blank canvas just waiting to soak up knowledge. Their minds are open and eager to learn, as they reach out to the world surrounding them – THIS is the ideal time to light the spark of interest in space through introducing opportunities to interact with the STEM areas at a basic level and in a positive enabling environment. An inspiring demonstration of this is seen in the Lockheed Martin Generation Beyond Challenge, in which technology and education are combined to bring space science into the classrooms of 9-11 year olds in an entertaining way, through the design of a space habitation module for the first crew to Mars.
InnovaSpace also seeks to open up learning opportunities to the young people who will ultimately shape the destiny of space exploration through the provision of educational modules. Very recently, InnovaSpace Scientific Director, Thais Russomano, had the opportunity to put this into practice, spending a week at King’s College London teaching pre-University students. The teenagers, who came from various regions of the UK and some from other countries, learned about manned space flight, the physiological and emotional challenges of a space mission, how astronauts live and work in microgravity, and the ways we can simulate the hostile conditions of space on the ground, and also included a visit to the Space area of the London Science Museum. The course, entitled Into Space, is just one of the modules that form part of the InnovaSpace educational program, taught primarily in English, but also offered in Spanish and Portuguese, in order to open up the modules to a broader audience. This in line with our philosophy of promoting Space Without Borders.
Blog written by Mary Upritchard