‘A lady from Mars’: Life within the pursuit of house exploration

An astrobiologist, analog astronaut, creator and speaker, Dr. Michaela Musilova shares her expertise as a girl on the forefront of house exploration and from her quest for scientific and private excellence

After we discuss house adventures, our minds are prone to wander to famed astronauts. Nevertheless, we regularly overlook that there’s a lot extra to house exploration than “simply” house shuttles and the crews of individuals clad in particular house fits and bouncing round in zero gravity.

Certainly, house analysis and exploration are more and more very important for all times on Earth. Naturally, then, they depend on a few of the world’s brightest minds in numerous fields whose analysis not solely pushes the frontiers of our information, however finally helps us overcome a few of the most acute challenges right here on our planet and brings great and sensible advantages to humanity.

Their ranks embrace Dr. Michaela Musilova, an astrobiologist who research the bounds of life on Earth and, maybe much more importantly, searches for all times in outer house.

In the present day is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month, a world annual celebration of ladies, pioneers and trailblazers, and we reached out to Dr. Musilova, to speak not nearly girls making historical past, but additionally use it as a possibility to look forward and see what we will accomplish with the assistance and brilliance of (girls) scientists.

xyzDr. Michaela Musilova has been conducting space-related analysis at establishments around the globe, together with: CalTech, College Faculty London, College of Bristol, Chiba College and others.

Moreover, she has been working with NASA, ESA and worldwide observatories, such because the College of London and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes.

Michaela was the Director of HI-SEAS and Commander of over 30 simulated missions to the Moon and Mars, in collaboration with NASA, ESA and plenty of worldwide organizations.

She is presently a visiting Professor on the Slovak College of Know-how, World College on the Worldwide Area College and Head of Analysis of the house know-how firm NEEDRONIX.

She was additionally voted one of many ESET Heroes of Progress in 2022.  

Are you able to briefly describe your life story and what you do?

I’m an astrobiologist – which means I seek for extraterrestrial life, however I additionally attempt to perceive the bounds and origins of life on Earth. I’m additionally a so-called analog astronaut and  have been the commander of over 30 simulated house missions. On high of that, I really like to show, write, carry out outreach and academic tasks, and I’m presently main my very own Astro Seven Summits undertaking. The purpose of the undertaking is for my crew and I to do analysis, instructional and outreach actions whereas climbing up the tallest mountain on every continent.

In a nutshell, I studied by means of quite a few scholarships at numerous universities around the globe, together with Caltech (USA), Chiba College (Japan) and UCL (UK). I first labored at NASA once I was 21 years outdated and I’ve collaborated with NASA on a number of tasks since then. My analysis has led me on expeditions in numerous excessive environments around the globe, similar to Arctic areas, deserts, tall mountains and volcanoes. I’ve labored on quite a few space-related tasks with house organizations and establishments worldwide, together with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope.

Since I’m from Slovakia, it was necessary for me to return again to Slovakia and assist transfer the house sector ahead there as effectively. I spent a few years in Slovakia because the Chair of the Slovak Organization for Space Activities, which is once we launched the primary Slovak satellite tv for pc skCUBE, began an area engineering diploma program on the College FEI STU in Bratislava (the place I’m a visiting professor) and we helped make progress in direction of Slovakia changing into an Affiliate Member of the European Area Company. Now, I’m focusing primarily on the actions I discussed above, after retiring from being the Director of the HI-SEAS house analysis station in Hawaii, the place I ran over 30 simulated house missions to the Moon and Mars.

If you need to know extra, I just lately co-wrote a ebook about my life caled Žena z Marsu (A Girl from Mars).

What made you wish to change into an astrobiologist? And what steps did it’s important to take to get to the place you at the moment are?

After I was eight years outdated, I first grew to become captivated with house and I began questioning whether or not there might be aliens on the market. That rapidly developed right into a passion, by means of which I mixed my completely different passions: house, writing, drawing and trend design. I might write novels about aliens, draw them and design garments for them, after which I shared my tales with my classmates in elementary faculty. I used to be later capable of meet the primary (and up to now solely) Slovak astronaut, Ivan Bella. He made me understand how cool an astronaut’s job was and the way it will be excellent for me – I may seek for aliens whereas occurring missions in house!

Nevertheless, by the point I used to be 15 years outdated, I noticed that it’s virtually unattainable for me, a Slovak lady, to change into an astronaut. In the mean time, Slovakians can solely change into astronauts if our nation will contribute vital quantities of cash to ESA, and that’s solely legitimate because the finish of 2022. Earlier than then, there was no risk in any respect for Slovakians to change into ESA astronauts (and our possibilities nonetheless stay very slim). I hesitated whether or not to embark on this practically unattainable journey, however I made a decision to provide it a attempt anyway.

I began saving cash by means of quite a few part-time jobs throughout highschool and college. I additionally studied very laborious to get the very best grades and thus extra scholarships to totally self-fund all of my research. Even charities helped me out and since then, I’ve been serving to charities in any method that I can. It wasn’t a straightforward journey, as I used to be homeless and uncovered to all kind of troublesome conditions at instances (discrimination, harassment, folks in excessive up positions attempting to blackmail me, and so forth.). However, I saved attempting my greatest and each success motivated me to maintain going after my desires.

What’s the most enjoyable facet of your job? And what, then again, may you reside with out?

Probably the most thrilling a part of my job is to have the ability to go on expeditions to completely different excessive and distant environments around the globe, in addition to to simulated different planets throughout my analog lunar and martian missions. I actually love that about my analysis tasks and I joke that in a method it’s an superior “workplace with a view” 😉.

I really like doing outreach and I believe it’s an important a part of my work. I imagine scientists ought to attempt interacting with the general public extra if doable, and assist others perceive what the importance of their analysis is. Nevertheless, I want there was a technique to carry out outreach and academic actions with out social media. These days, social media platforms dictate what to publish, the best way to publish it and when to publish it, on high of different issues. The algorithms are likely to favor sure varieties of posts and influencers, so organizations that simply wish to share, for instance, instructional content material are likely to get marginalized, particularly if they’ll’t afford to pay for advertising help.

What’s your largest ardour exterior of labor and what retains you motivated in your journey?

My largest non-work associated ardour is dancing. I’ve been dancing since I used to be three and I enormously get pleasure from it. It’s one thing that brings me lots of pleasure and it’s nice train too. I’ve tried a wide range of dance kinds: hip hop, ballet, lyrical, flamenco, breakdancing, acrobatic dancing, stomach dancing, ballroom dancing and plenty of others. I presently dance West Coast Swing with my associate, and I hope to get again into lyrical and avenue dancing within the close to future.

Did you might have a position mannequin rising up? And do you suppose younger individuals are being inspired and motivated to enter sciences sufficient these days?

No, I didn’t have a job mannequin rising up. I admired astronauts as an example, however not often may I relate to them due to my background and circumstances. As a substitute, I drew inspiration from people who I knew or met, whose tales motivated me to purpose excessive and pursue my desires. These folks included social activists, lecturers, individuals who persevered regardless of adversity and my dad and mom.

I believe scientists and the sciences are hopefully changing into extra approachable today due to numerous outreach actions. Prior to now, scientific topics was offered as one thing masculine that solely sure varieties of folks had been regarded as inquisitive about. Girls and other people of various minorities had been typically subconsciously and someday consciously dissuaded from going into STEM topics. The extra girls and minorities are capable of entry schooling in sciences, after which share their tales, the extra girls and minorities might be impressed to pursue some of these careers. Additionally, exhibiting the enjoyable and artistic aspect of STEM topics by means of outreach and academic actions may help younger folks be extra motivated to pursue these areas. There’s nonetheless lots of progress to be made, however no less than issues are a bit higher than they was once I began my profession 15 years in the past.

Michaela Musilova on a ship travelling to a glacier in Svalbard (Credit score: Libor Lenza)

How does it really feel being that position mannequin for younger women from Slovakia and elsewhere pondering of pursuing sciences? In the event you may give them one piece of recommendation what wouldn’t it be?

I’m very honored that some folks think about me a job mannequin and I don’t take that flippantly. It’s a large accountability and I wish to do it justice. Meaning I share each the nice and the dangerous sides of my private story, so that folks can perceive the hardships and disadvantages of pursuing a profession like mine. I additionally attempt to share data that may be helpful to others. By way of recommendation, if I can simply share one factor, then I’d say: persist with your instinct and intestine feeling. In the event that they’re telling you one thing is improper, hearken to them and vice versa. My instinct has by no means let me down and it has saved my life a number of instances, actually. That implies that when you really feel strongly about pursuing a sure ardour or in case you have a nasty feeling a couple of sure job supply or individual, hearken to that “voice” in your head. It may be a life-saver or it may possibly merely assist you pursue one thing that may carry you happiness in life.

What are the following steps in your profession?

At present, my fundamental focus is on my Astro Seven Summits project. My crew and I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro final yr and we’re now on the point of climb the following mountain, Aconcagua. The primary expedition went very effectively and we’re wanting ahead to the following one, with instructional and outreach actions that we’ll be conducting. In the mean time, we’re on the lookout for sponsors and companions of the undertaking. If all goes effectively, then we’ll be climbing Mount Everest in 2025 and I’ll change into the primary Slovak girl to summit Everest, in addition to the primary Slovak girl to finish the Seven Summits.

I’m additionally persevering with with space-related analysis, instructing and presenting worldwide, in addition to writing extra quick tales and novels. I haven’t given up on my dream to do analysis in house and I hope that my Astro Seven Summits undertaking will really assist me with my astronaut prospects. However, if it doesn’t work out ultimately and I’m not capable of change into an astronaut, I hope that my work will no less than assist others obtain this purpose.

In the event you may inform girls and women one factor, this Worldwide Girls´s day, what wouldn’t it be?

Maintain pursuing your passions and arise for what you imagine in. It’s not at all times simple or doable to do this in fact, and generally it takes time and the fitting circumstances. I simply imagine that it’s necessary to not overlook about your individual desires and issues that make you cheerful, regardless of obstacles in the way in which. There are nonetheless many points with gender inequality on the planet, for instance with unfair pay gaps, discrimination and sexual harassment. Sadly, these issues gained’t change for the higher until folks of all genders work collectively to cease these injustices from occurring and set honest requirements in each skilled and personal points of their lives. I stay hopeful that issues will proceed to vary for the higher, so I’m attempting my greatest to do my half and I hope others will be a part of me 😊.

Thanks on your time.

Blissful Girls’s Historical past Month!