Best space day ever

As many of you know, I have the special privilege of working as a science educator at the Victorian Space Science Centre (VSSEC), Strathmore, Victoria. VSSEC’s flagship program for young teenagers, loosely based on the Space Camp program, Alabama (watch this for a run down), is the Mission to Mars; a simulation of humankind’s soon-to-be first landing on our neighbouring planet.

 

 

This stellar, fully-interactive Mission to Mars program sends half the student group to mission control, while the other half are landed on Mars as a team of scientist and engineer astronauts. The astronauts conduct experiments, monitor weather readings and collect samples on a simulated Martian surface, while their mission controllers direct them in their endeavours, problem solving and negotiating the astronauts through technical malfunctions and martian dangers to bring their people safely home.

 

 

Uniquely, we had the pleasure last week of running a Mission to Mars for The Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine (ASAM). These visitors were somewhat different to the 13 through 15 year-old astronauts we usually unleash on Mars. These ASAM visitors were a collective of highly skilled pilots, engineers, psychologists, biomedical scientists and educators.

The whole day was a huge buzz; alive with exciting discussions about humans in space, the potential of life on Mars, and what our motivations for exploring that planet should be.

Among these discussions and meetings, however, there was a particular stand out for me. I got to chat with Mars One candidate Dianne McGrath.

Her eyes are firmly fixed on the skies, but not for the reasons one might expect. You see, Dianne McGrath is motivated by her insight into humanities urgent need to extend our sustainable practices. As she explained to me, Mars One provides an opportunity to model the behaviour she wants to see us humans take down here on solid ground; complete sustainability in water, energy, food and waste. There is simply no other choice in the Martian habitat.

For real time insights into student-led space and Mars programs, follow @VSSEC@SpaceCampUSA and @TheMarsGen on Twitter, or check out their websites (in-text) for program information.

 

Mission to Mars photos courtesy of Marc Jurblum @mars_psych, used with permission. 

A huge thanks to Rabbot Hutch, the inquisitive man behind the camera, genuinely amazing artist, dog owner and housemate extraordinaire. Follow him @rabbothutch on insta.

Follow pug Thor @Thormypug on insta.

Best space day ever goes out to Nicole Morton, the most aspiring and inspiring woman I am lucky enough to call my friend.

 

 

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Part 1: Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is an incredible woman. A force to be reckoned with. She has a rare tenacity and a fierce sense of personal responsibility for her impact on the planet. In her own words:

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

This year, Think Inc. delivered an Australia wide tour in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute; a ‘fire side’ chat with the woman herself, fronted up by a casual talk from Jane. I attended the Melbourne event at the Plenary on June 16th, where Jane Goodall told of her childhood fascinations with animals, the unfolding of her dream to work with animals in Africa, and spoke on her now long history of global activism.

This is a woman who worked crappy secretarial and hospitality jobs to scrape together enough pennies for the boat ride from England, around the Cape of Africa, on to Nairobi. A woman who essentially pioneered the field of animal behavioural science, in spite of being badly ridiculed by much of the scientific community. And a passionate activist that admits she has not been in the same place for more than two or three consecutive weeks for some 30 years.

Jane Goodall’s personal story brings together true anthropological discovery, which is still unfolding today (see Part 3: First Humans)–but which had more of a wild west-type twang through the course of the C20th (see Part 2: The Leakey Legacy)–with pressing modern day issues: environmental degradation, overconsumption and human desperation in the developing world.

In writing this three-piece blog series I came to realise that, in truth, there is little I can say to elucidate Jane Goodall’s work, insight and ferocity that she does not immediately demonstrate herself. Just watch her.

 

 

To end on a moral note as Goodall did herself, the crux of Jane’s fear for the world seems to be this; in spite of the undeniable evidence for human-induced climate change, in spite of the devastating degradation of natural habitats carried out by our species, so many of us continue to do nothing. And as she emphasises, our time to make a difference is already on the clock.

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy,” she says.

Since attending Jane’s Think Inc. talk, I have started to realise how often the children and teenagers I meet through my education and science communication work have already adopted, at their fledgling age, a wholly hopeless outlook on our planets future.

I, myself, am wholeheartedly committed to realism but, as Jane clearly indicates herself, we need, absolutely, to remain optimistic. In fact, our future depends on it.

“You would be amazed at what inspired children can do.” – Goodall

 

Information on the Roots & Shoots program referred to at the end of this video can be found here, with some 23 schools participating in Victoria alone at the time of writing.

In the Formula 1 spirit

 

Pre-public robot fun enabled by public outreach and science engagement with VSSEC, late March this year. Our team of VSSEC educators made the most of our quiet morning time; before the onset of waves of school kids flushing through the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix’s Innovation Precinct.

And later in the day, when the flood gates opened and the kids found their way to fun…

 

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