‘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

Once we speak about 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 among the world’s brightest minds in varied fields whose analysis not solely pushes the frontiers of our data, however finally helps us overcome among the most acute challenges right here on our planet and brings great and sensible advantages to humanity.

Their ranks embody 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.

Right now is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month, a world annual celebration of girls, pioneers and trailblazers, and we reached out to Dr. Musilova, to speak not nearly ladies 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 (ladies) scientists.

xyzDr. Michaela Musilova has been conducting space-related analysis at establishments around the globe, together with: CalTech, College School 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 lots of worldwide organizations.

She is presently a visiting Professor on the Slovak College of Know-how, World School 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 – meaning 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 objective of the undertaking is for my workforce and I to do analysis, academic and outreach actions whereas climbing up the tallest mountain on every continent.

In a nutshell, I studied by way of quite a few scholarships at varied universities around the globe, together with Caltech (USA), Chiba College (Japan) and UCL (UK). I first labored at NASA after I was 21 years previous 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, equivalent to Arctic areas, deserts, tall mountains and volcanoes. I’ve labored on quite a lot of 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 essential for me to return again to Slovakia and assist transfer the house sector ahead there as nicely. I spent a few years in Slovakia because the Chair of the Slovak Organization for Space Activities, which is after 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 the direction of Slovakia turning 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 lately co-wrote a ebook about my life caled Žena z Marsu (A Girl from Mars).

What made you wish to grow to be an astrobiologist? And what steps did you must take to get to the place you at the moment are?

Once I was eight years previous, I first grew to become captivated with house and I began questioning whether or not there could possibly be aliens on the market. That shortly developed right into a interest, by way of which I mixed my totally different passions: house, writing, drawing and vogue design. I’d write novels about aliens, draw them and design garments for them, after which I shared my tales with my classmates in elementary college. I used to be later capable of meet the primary (and up to now solely) Slovak astronaut, Ivan Bella. He made me notice how cool an astronaut’s job was and the way it might be excellent for me – I may seek for aliens whereas happening missions in house!

Nevertheless, by the point I used to be 15 years previous, I spotted that it’s nearly unimaginable for me, a Slovak woman, to grow to be an astronaut. For the time being, Slovakians can solely grow to be 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 chance in any respect for Slovakians to grow to be ESA astronauts (and our possibilities nonetheless stay very slim). I hesitated whether or not to embark on this almost unimaginable journey, however I made a decision to provide it a strive anyway.

I began saving cash by way of quite a few part-time jobs throughout highschool and college. I additionally studied very onerous to get the absolute best grades and thus extra scholarships to completely self-fund all of my research. Even charities helped me out and since then, I’ve been serving to charities in any means that I can. It wasn’t a straightforward journey, as I used to be homeless and uncovered to all type of tough conditions at instances (discrimination, harassment, folks in excessive up positions making an attempt to blackmail me, and so on.). Nonetheless, I stored making an attempt my greatest and each success motivated me to maintain going after my goals.

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 totally 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 means it’s an superior “workplace with a view” 😉.

I really like doing outreach and I believe it’s a vital a part of my work. I consider scientists ought to strive 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 solution to carry out outreach and academic actions with out social media. These days, social media platforms dictate what to put up, learn how to put up it and when to put up it, on high of different issues. The algorithms are likely to favor sure sorts of posts and influencers, so organizations that simply wish to share, for instance, academic content material are likely to get marginalized, particularly if they will’t afford to pay for advertising and marketing help.

What’s your largest ardour outdoors 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 take pleasure in 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 lots of others. I presently dance West Coast Swing with my associate, and I hope to get again into lyrical and road dancing within the close to future.

Did you’ve got a position mannequin rising up? And do you assume younger persons are being inspired and motivated to enter sciences sufficient these days?

No, I didn’t have a task mannequin rising up. I admired astronauts for example, however not often may I relate to them due to my background and circumstances. As an alternative, I drew inspiration from those who I knew or met, whose tales motivated me to intention excessive and pursue my goals. These folks included social activists, academics, individuals who persevered regardless of adversity and my mother and father.

I believe scientists and the sciences are hopefully turning into extra approachable nowadays due to varied outreach actions. Prior to now, scientific topics was once introduced as one thing masculine that solely sure sorts of folks have been considered considering. Girls and folks of various minorities have been usually subconsciously and someday consciously dissuaded from going into STEM topics. The extra ladies and minorities are capable of entry schooling in sciences, after which share their tales, the extra ladies and minorities can be impressed to pursue all these careers. Additionally, exhibiting the enjoyable and artistic aspect of STEM topics by way of outreach and academic actions might help younger folks be extra motivated to pursue these areas. There’s nonetheless lots of progress to be made, however not less than issues are a bit higher than they was once after 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 ladies from Slovakia and elsewhere considering 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 contemplate me a task mannequin and I don’t take that flippantly. It’s a massive duty and I wish to do it justice. Which means I share each the nice and the dangerous sides of my private story, so that individuals can perceive the hardships and drawbacks of pursuing a profession like mine. I additionally attempt to share info 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 incorrect, hearken to them and vice versa. My instinct has by no means let me down and it has saved my life a couple of instances, actually. That signifies that for those who really feel strongly about pursuing a sure ardour or when you’ve got a foul feeling a couple of sure job supply or particular person, hearken to that “voice” in your head. It may be a life-saver or it could actually merely assist you pursue one thing that may convey you happiness in life.

What are the following steps in your profession?

At present, my important focus is on my Astro Seven Summits project. My workforce and I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro final 12 months and we’re now on the brink of climb the following mountain, Aconcagua. The primary expedition went very nicely and we’re trying ahead to the following one, with academic and outreach actions that we’ll be conducting. For the time being, we’re searching for sponsors and companions of the undertaking. If all goes nicely, then we’ll be climbing Mount Everest in 2025 and I could grow to be 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 brief 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. Nonetheless, if it doesn’t work out ultimately and I’m not capable of grow to be an astronaut, I hope that my work will not less than assist others obtain this objective.

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

Maintain pursuing your passions and rise up for what you consider in. It’s not at all times simple or doable to try this in fact, and typically it takes time and the best circumstances. I simply consider that it’s essential to not overlook about your individual goals and issues that make you cheerful, regardless of obstacles in the best way. 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 taking place and set truthful requirements in each skilled and personal elements of their lives. I stay hopeful that issues will proceed to alter for the higher, so I’m making an attempt my greatest to do my half and I hope others will be part of me 😊.

Thanks in your time.

Joyful Girls’s Historical past Month!