An astrobiologist, analog astronaut, creator and speaker, Dr. Michaela Musilova shares her expertise as a lady on the forefront of area exploration and from her quest for scientific and private excellence
After we discuss area adventures, our minds are more likely to wander to famed astronauts. Nevertheless, we regularly overlook that there’s a lot extra to area exploration than “simply” area shuttles and the crews of individuals clad in particular area fits and bouncing round in zero gravity.
Certainly, area 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 area.
At this time is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month, a global annual celebration of girls, pioneers and trailblazers, and we reached out to Dr. Musilova, to speak not nearly girls making historical past, but additionally use it as a chance to look forward and see what we will accomplish with the assistance and brilliance of (girls) scientists.
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 40 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 Expertise, World College on the Worldwide House College and Head of Analysis of the area expertise 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 40 simulated area missions. On prime of that, I really like to show, write, carry out outreach and academic initiatives, and I’m presently main my very own Astro Seven Summits undertaking. The purpose of the undertaking is for my staff and I to do analysis, instructional and outreach actions whereas climbing up the tallest mountain on every continent.
In a nutshell, I studied via quite a few scholarships at numerous universities all over the world, 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 initiatives since then. My analysis has led me on expeditions in numerous excessive environments all over the world, reminiscent of Arctic areas, deserts, tall mountains and volcanoes. I’ve labored on a variety of space-related initiatives with area 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 come back again to Slovakia and assist transfer the area 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 the direction of Slovakia turning into an Affiliate Member of the European House Company. Now, I’m focusing primarily on the actions I discussed above, after retiring from being the Director of the HI-SEAS area analysis station in Hawaii, the place I ran over 40 simulated area missions to the Moon and Mars.
If you need to know extra, I not too long ago co-wrote a e book about my life caled Žena z Marsu (A Girl from Mars).
What made you need to turn out to be an astrobiologist? And what steps did you must take to get to the place you at the moment are?
After I was eight years previous, I first turned captivated with area and I began questioning whether or not there could possibly be aliens on the market. That rapidly developed right into a passion, via which I mixed my totally different passions: area, writing, drawing and vogue 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 college. I used to be later in a position to meet the primary (and to date solely) Slovak astronaut, Ivan Bella. He made me notice how cool an astronaut’s job was and the way it will be good for me – I may seek for aliens whereas occurring missions in area!
Nevertheless, by the point I used to be 15 years previous, I spotted that it’s virtually unimaginable for me, a Slovak woman, to turn out to be an astronaut. In the mean time, Slovakians can solely turn out to be astronauts if our nation will contribute important quantities of cash to ESA, and that’s solely legitimate for the reason that finish of 2022. Earlier than then, there was no risk in any respect for Slovakians to turn out to be ESA astronauts (and our probabilities 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 attempt anyway.
I began saving cash via 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 totally 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 simple 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 forth.). Nonetheless, I stored making an attempt my greatest and each success motivated me to maintain going after my desires.
What’s the most enjoyable facet of your job? And what, alternatively, may you reside with out?
Essentially the most thrilling a part of my job is to have the ability to go on expeditions to totally different excessive and distant environments all over the world, in addition to to simulated different planets throughout my analog lunar and martian missions. I actually love that about my analysis initiatives 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 attempt interacting with the general public extra if potential, 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, find out how to put up it and when to put up it, on prime of different issues. The algorithms are likely to favor sure forms of posts and influencers, so organizations that simply need to share, for instance, instructional content material are likely to get marginalized, particularly if they will’t afford to pay for advertising and marketing help.
What’s your greatest ardour outdoors of labor and what retains you motivated in your journey?
My greatest non-work associated ardour is dancing. I’ve been dancing since I used to be three and I significantly 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 companion, and I hope to get again into lyrical and road dancing within the close to future.
Did you may have a position mannequin rising up? And do you suppose younger persons 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 hardly ever 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 purpose excessive and pursue my desires. 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 lately due to numerous outreach actions. Previously, scientific topics was once introduced as one thing masculine that solely sure forms of folks have been considered fascinated about. Girls and folks of various minorities have been usually subconsciously and someday consciously dissuaded from going into STEM topics. The extra girls and minorities are in a position to entry schooling in sciences, after which share their tales, the extra girls and minorities will probably be impressed to pursue a lot of these careers. Additionally, displaying the enjoyable and artistic facet of STEM topics via 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.
How does it really feel being that position mannequin for younger women from Slovakia and elsewhere pondering of pursuing sciences? When you may give them one piece of recommendation what would it not be?
I’m very honored that some folks think about me a job mannequin and I don’t take that calmly. It’s a huge accountability and I need to do it justice. Meaning I share each the nice and the unhealthy sides of my private story, so that individuals 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 fallacious, 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 in the event you really feel strongly about pursuing a sure ardour or if in case you have a foul feeling a few sure job provide or particular person, hearken to that “voice” in your head. It may be a life-saver or it might probably merely provide help to pursue one thing that can convey you happiness in life.
What are the following steps in your profession?
At the moment, my fundamental focus is on my Astro Seven Summits project. My staff and I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro final yr and we’re now on the brink of climb the following mountain, Aconcagua. The primary expedition went very effectively and we’re trying ahead to the following one, with instructional and outreach actions that we’ll be conducting. In the mean time, we’re searching for sponsors and companions of the undertaking. If all goes effectively, then we’ll be climbing Mount Everest in 2025 and I could turn out to be the primary Slovak lady to summit Everest, in addition to the primary Slovak lady 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 area and I hope that my Astro Seven Summits undertaking will truly assist me with my astronaut prospects. Nonetheless, if it doesn’t work out ultimately and I’m not in a position to turn out to be an astronaut, I hope that my work will not less than assist others obtain this purpose.
When you may inform girls and women one factor, this Worldwide Girls´s day, what would it not be?
Preserve pursuing your passions and arise for what you consider in. It’s not at all times straightforward or potential to try this in fact, and generally it takes time and the fitting circumstances. I simply consider that it’s necessary to not overlook about your personal desires 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 occurring and set truthful requirements in each skilled and personal facets of their lives. I stay hopeful that issues will proceed to vary for the higher, so I’m making an attempt my greatest to do my half and I hope others will be a part of me 😊.
Thanks in your time.
Completely happy Girls’s Historical past Month!