Time filter

Source Type

News Article | January 20, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

Natalie Panek has been staring up at the stars with curiosity and wonder ever since she was a child growing up in the Canadian Rockies, when camping and hiking excursions meant plenty of weekends spent in the back country, where she’d gaze at the sky. Watching TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate SG-1 with her mom made things even clearer for her: Space was calling, and she’d answer by making it her life’s work. Today, Panek is a mission systems engineer in robotics and automation at Canada’s MDA Corp. outside Toronto, where her team is building the chassis and locomotion system for the European Space Agency’s 2018 ExoMars Rover. Of course, it's easy for stories like hers to get lost amid the breathless news coverage of the space industry today. The central figure in that narrative is often a certain space-obsessed male billionaire whose private company's rocket has pulled off an extraordinary landing, and who captures our imagination with ambitions to make space travel eventually commonplace. When Panek isn't helping build and test rovers, she says, she's working hard to make sure women see reflections of themselves in her industry. "We live in an age where what we see and hear in the media is hugely influential," Panek says. "Having positive role models in the media can change the game and allow young people to see engineering and technology as fields that are attainable by anyone." She points to prominent women in the field like Dava Newman, the recently appointed deputy administrator of NASA; European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti; and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX. Panek also relishes the chance to share her own story, which is one reason she’s set up her website, thepanekroom.com, to talk about her work, her adventures, and philosophy about the field. "We need to inspire girls at a young age to see the potential in science, engineering, technology, and math fields," Panek says. "The second part of the problem is retaining women in STEM fields throughout their careers, which means stopping the leaky pipeline that’s so common. It's not enough to talk about record enrollment in engineering or computer science courses in university. A wider perspective is necessary, which looks at the statistics regarding women advancing in their careers into leadership, director-level, and board-level positions." Dr. Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, likewise sees diversity in her industry as imperative—not just as a good unto itself, but one with plenty of research to back up the benefits. She points to a report on recruiting women into technical positions that was prepared by the Anita Borg Institute. Among its findings: That there are "consistent blind spots in recruiting and hiring practices" that manifest themselves in things like narrow recruitment criteria, hiring processes that are implicitly biased, and a lack of organizational infrastructure to support diversity efforts. The paper recommends steps like setting up blind resume screening processes; showcasing technical women during the interview process; and requiring that every open technical position has a viable female candidate. "I'm always surprised that people from science and engineering will bring their best data and technical chops to tackle scientific and engineering challenges, but then, when it comes to improving the diversity of their workforce, they often act like there's no research to inform what their approach should be," Walkowicz says. "The research exists, both on recruiting and on the myriad benefits of diverse teams. We owe it to scientific progress to do better in this regard, so that we can bring the brightest and most capable minds into unlocking the secrets of our universe." Walkowicz's own interest in the field was piqued early when she fell in love with chemistry and physics in high school. She wanted a career that combined both of them, and in the summer after her junior year of high school, she participated in a research program at the New York Academy of Sciences that would point the way. She worked in a physics lab there during the week. "When the summer was over, I asked the woman who matched students to their host labs whether she knew if anyone would work with me during the school year. She suggested that astronomy might be something that would combine the sciences I liked. I went to work with a professor at New York University who studied the chemistry of planetary atmospheres, and I was hooked." As an astronomer today, there’s both a research and a public education component to her work. The research part includes things like writing computer code to analyze data, and writing papers that convey what she’s learned. On the public side, sometimes she’s speaking with planetarium guests. Last fall, she participated in the first Adler Galaxy Ride, a biking science road show from Chicago to St. Louis that included putting on free pop-up science events in cities and towns along the way. She’s also working on a new project called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which she says is "the flagship observatory for the next decade of astronomy." "The telescope itself is currently being built down in Chile, but there’s a lot to do to prepare for it," Walkowicz says. "I coordinate our science collaborations, the community of hundreds of scientists who will eventually use this amazing telescope to tackle some of the most challenging scientific questions we face. I also recently became the director of the LSST Data Science Fellowship Program; these schools will teach junior astronomers the skills they need to use the deluge of LSST data." Vinita Marwaha Madill, a consultant in space engineering and STEM outreach and the founder of Rocket Women, a website focused on women and space, likewise wants to encourage more women to enter the field. Madill's career included stints as an engineering manager leading the Intelligent Transportation Systems Engineering Team in Canada, and as an International Space Station operations engineer at the German Aerospace Center, among other things. "Being a consultant, my typical day varies, depending on the projects I’m working on," Madill says, "from writing a parabolic flight grant proposal, to explaining the nuances of Apollo era spacesuit design—and even discussing diversity." Her fascination with space goes back to when she was 6 and growing up in London, when she learned about Helen Sharman, a chemist and the first British astronaut, who flew to Mir. Her parents also helped, taking her to places like the National Space Center in Leicester, England, on the weekends. One suggestion she has for how to encourage more young women to think about careers in space, science, and related fields that involve technology is to focus on the impact of that technology on people. She points to the design of a satellite, which "as my brilliant and late International Space University professor put it, is ‘an ugly white box.’" Nevertheless, she goes on, initiatives around the world are being pursued to spread affordable Internet access through constellations of micro satellites, giving rural communities a chance at high-speed Internet access and access to better education and knowledge. "The impact of the project," she says, "is where I believe you can inspire an increasing number of girls to study engineering and space." On Rocket Women, she posts interviews with women around the world in STEM fields, especially space-related, as well as advice to encourage girls to become involved in STEM. "Watching Helen Sharman’s Soyuz launch on BBC News at a young age, and knowing that there had been a British female astronaut, helped me push through any negativity around my chosen career path when I was younger," Madill says. "I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut, or at least work in human space flight. And eventually I did. But I wouldn’t have had that impetus and drive if I hadn’t known that someone had come before me. There had been a female British astronaut, and maybe there could be again. It was possible. Through featuring advice and stories of women in STEM, I want Rocket Women to give other girls and women that same realization."


Grant
Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-FP | Phase: SPA.2012.2.2-02 | Award Amount: 2.63M | Year: 2013

The main objective of the SHEE project is the exploration of an effective integration of architecture and robotics for space applications. The goal is to develop a robotically-deployable habitat design introducing generic principles which would help in defining main themes for further development of the standards for robotics integrated into the architecture regarding safety and for the development and design of larger robotic structures. Self-deployable autonomous habitats are needed in particular in extreme environments without infrastructure and heavy machinery. The SHEE type of habitat will provide significant background for further development and evolution of extra-terrestrial habitable structures and will provide a methodology and results that can be translated into more normal conditions, to achieving a more efficient, high-tech sector on earth. The final product will have a form of an example of a functional habitat for further testing and development. The concept is developed with a vision to correspond with an analogue testing habitat. The results of the SHEE project will be applicable in both space and terrestrial conditions, such as in extreme environments on Earth or during disaster mitigation.


Clement G.,University of Strasbourg | Clement G.,International Space University | Wood S.J.,NASA
Journal of Vestibular Research: Equilibrium and Orientation | Year: 2013

Constant velocity off-vertical axis rotation (OVAR) provides dynamic linear acceleration stimuli that can be used to assess otolith function. Eight astronauts were rotated in darkness about their longitudinal axis 20° off vertical at low (0.125 Hz) and high (0.5 Hz) frequencies and their responses were compared before and after spaceflight. Eye movements were recorded using infrared videography and perceived motion was evaluated using a joystick with four degrees of freedom-pitch and roll tilt, front-back and lateral translation. Low-frequency OVAR generates tilt otolith-induced responses-modulation of ocular counter-roll and counter-pitch with perceived conical motion path-whereas high-frequency OVAR generates translational otolith-induced responses-modulation of horizontal and vergence slow phase velocity with perceived cylindrical motion path. While there were transient changes in the amplitude of the translational ocular responses on landing day, there were no major changes in the tilt ocular reflexes after adaptation to weightlessness. However, there was an increase in sensitivity to motion perception after spaceflight. Direct comparisons of pre- and postflight stimuli suggested that OVAR on landing day was less provocative of motion sickness than before spaceflight. These results confirm that some otolith reflexes elicited during passive motion may not be altered by short-duration spaceflight-or may readapt very quickly-and that the resolution of sensory conflict associated with postflight recovery involves higher-order neural processes. © 2013 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.


Clement G.,International Space University | Ngo-Anh J.T.,European Space Agency
European Journal of Applied Physiology | Year: 2013

Experiments performed in orbit on the central nervous system have focused on the control of posture, eye movements, spatial orientation, as well as cognitive processes, such as three-dimensional visual perception and mental representation of space. Brain activity has also been recorded during and immediately after space flight for evaluating the changes in brain structure activation during tasks involving perception, attention, memory, decision, and action. Recent ground-based studies brought evidence that the inputs from the neurovestibular system also participate in orthostatic intolerance. It is, therefore, important to revisit the flight data of neuroscience studies in the light of new models of integrative physiology. The outcomes of this exercise will increase our knowledge on the adaptation of body functions to changing gravitational environment, vestibular disorders, aging, and our approach towards more effective countermeasures during human space flight and planetary exploration. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Pelton J.,International Space University
IEEE Communications Magazine | Year: 2010

The article following is perhaps unique among the many papers published thus far in this column. It covers not only the development of some of the technology required to turn the dream of commercial satellite communications into reality, but describes the policy decisions and politics involved in making this happen in the United States and elsewhere in the world as well. Policy questions raised and discussed include, first, the question of whether satellite communications in the United States should be government-run or a commercial enterprise; followed by the issue of how control should be manifested in international communication satellites. These policy questions in modern times are probably unique to satellite communication systems. Joe Pelton, the author, is well positioned to write an account of the early days of satellite communications in all of its ramifications, in both the policy and technical areas, having been present and working at Comsat Corporation, as well as later at Intelsat, during much of the period under discussion. We plan to follow this article with one focusing more on the communication technologies developed at Comsat during the early days of satellite communications. That article will be written by one of the engineers working at Comsat at the time. In the meantime, I am sure all readers will enjoy this article. Note that a number of readers of previous articles in this column have responded with letters to the editor commenting on, or expanding on, those articles. We urge you to send in your comments and or/questions about this article or any of the earlier articles as well. © 2010 IEEE.


Guzman M.,International Space University
Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC | Year: 2015

This paper addresses the Blue Marble project which investigates the present state of global freshwater management and how space is currently utilized. There are many areas where space could play a larger role. One such area is in managing shared, transboundary freshwater resources. In many parts of the globe, nations secure their water needs via exploitation of common resources, which can negatively impact neighboring states that also rely on that resource. The project methodology employs an interdisciplinary approach to identifying and assessing best practices from the space community which have a significant potential to contribute to the management of shared resources. Assessment of the effectiveness of implementing these practices is performed via a range of methods. Combinations of these best practices are then used to produce interdisciplinary recommendations for managing specific scenarios that arise as part of conflict over water sharing. These recommendations include the use of scientific and engineering applications from the space community, examples of management models as well as legal and political frameworks for cooperation, and methods of outreach for further increasing knowledge transfer between the water and space communities. The Blue Marble project was undertaken by a group of students from a diverse range of backgrounds and nationalities, as part of the International Space University (ISU) Master of Space Studies (MSS) program during the academic year 2014/2015. Copyright © 2015 by the International Astronautical Federation, All rights reserved.


Shar M.,International Space University
Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC | Year: 2015

With the increased strain being placed on terrestrial resources and the rise in global space activity, an opportunity for extra-terrestrial resource mining presents itself. This paper examines the prospects of asteroid mining and looks at the business case from a European perspective. The abundance of asteroids is clear with the discovery rate of near Earth asteroids (NEAs) growing rapidly in recent years to over one thousand per year. Numerous studies and concepts exist for mining NEAs, and this interest has substantially increased recently with the rise of commercial ventures. Most of these concepts, however, have a significantly non-European bias, and therefore do not cater for the intricacies of the European market from an economic feasibility and business viability perspective. This paper seeks to help fill this gap and forms a feasibility study for a European asteroid mining business, with the motive to ensure European competitiveness in a potentially lucrative new industry. Existing asteroid mining companies are explored and analyzed. The paper looks at the market potential, ROI analysis, business location, and identifies potential sources of funding for financing the venture.


Clement G.,International Space University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

When an observer lifts two objects with the same weight but different sizes, the smaller object is consistently reported to feel heavier than the larger object even after repeated trials. Here we explored the effect of reduced and increased gravity on this perceptual size-mass illusion. Experiments were performed on board the CNES Airbus A300 Zero-G during parabolic flights eliciting repeated exposures to short periods of zero g, 0.16 g, 0.38 g, one g, and 1.8 g. Subjects were asked to assess perceived heaviness by actively oscillating objects with various sizes and masses. The results showed that a perceptual size-mass illusion was clearly present at all gravity levels. During the oscillations, the peak arm acceleration varied as a function of the gravity level, irrespective of the mass and size of the objects. In other words we did not observe a sensorimotor size-mass illusion. These findings confirm dissociation between the sensorimotor and perceptual systems for determining object mass. In addition, they suggest that astronauts on the Moon or Mars with the eyes closed will be able to accurately determine the relative difference in mass between objects. © 2014 Gilles Clément.


Clement G.,International Space University | Clement G.,Lyon Neuroscience Research Center | Wood S.J.,Azusa Pacific University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

The central nervous system must resolve the ambiguity of inertial motion sensory cues in order to derive an accurate representation of spatial orientation. Adaptive changes during spaceflight in how the brain integrates vestibular cues with other sensory information can lead to impaired movement coordination, vertigo, spatial disorientation, and perceptual illusions after return to Earth. The purpose of this study was to compare tilt and translation motion perception in astronauts before and after returning from spaceflight. We hypothesized that these stimuli would be the most ambiguous in the lowfrequency range (i.e., at about 0.3 Hz) where the linear acceleration can be interpreted either as a translation or as a tilt relative to gravity. Verbal reports were obtained in eleven astronauts tested using a motion-based tilt-translation device and a variable radius centrifuge before and after flying for two weeks on board the Space Shuttle. Consistent with previous studies, roll tilt perception was overestimated shortly after spaceflight and then recovered with 1-2 days. During dynamic linear acceleration (0.15-0.6 Hz, 61.7 m/s2) perception of translation was also overestimated immediately after flight. Recovery to baseline was observed after 2 days for lateral translation and 8 days for fore-aft translation. These results suggest that there was a shift in the frequency dynamic of tilt-translation motion perception after adaptation to weightlessness. These results have implications for manual control during landing of a space vehicle after exposure to microgravity, as it will be the case for human asteroid and Mars missions. Copyright: © 2014 Zhou et al.


Grant
Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CSA-SA | Phase: SPA.2009.2.4.01 | Award Amount: 741.07K | Year: 2010

The general objective of the current project is to create the necessary conditions for utilizing the existing and emerging potential of the consortium partners in Nordic-Baltic dimension for continuous and sustainable contribution in major on-going and planned European space programmes. There is urgent need in emerging space countries for national space programme. For emerging space countries it could be primarily financed by the ESA PECS Charter but also by key governmental agencies. The NordicBaltSat has mission-oriented approach to build a bridge for successful integration into space industry in Europe. As a result of this project and as an overall impact emerging space countries are expected to raise their space capacities in order to access to ESA and to have contribution to European space programmes in future. There are several specific actions contributing to achieve the objectives of the project. The main actions intend to chart space potential and create joint technology programme; to build capacity and develop cooperation between emerging space countries and ESA; and to shape national space governance systems in emerging space countries. The activities include also dissemination and exploitation. These actions will enhance the potential of FP7 States to make a continuous and sustainable contribution to major on-going and planned European space programs. Capacity building and cooperation promotion between emerging space countries and ESA will strengthen the relationship with ESA and it also gives opportunity for future cooperation and adhesion to ESA. The actions will foster dialogue and debate on space science and research with the public beyond the research community, aiming at embracing a new generation of scientists and engineers.

Loading International Space University collaborators
Loading International Space University collaborators