ISP20 Blog – Week 2

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The theme of week 2 at ISP20. The crew from each habitat have survived their first two weeks, collaborating not just with each other in their respective habitats (of Orbit, Moon, Mars) but across them as well, bridging gaps and providing shining examples of intercultural, interdisciplinary and international communication. Each day presents new technological, logistical, organisational and psychological challenges that crew, officers and commanders face together. Being isolated and virtual communication takes a toll on the mind as well as syncing 100+ members on a daily basis, yet we persevere!

This week on July 30th, also marked the launch of the Perseverance rover aboard an Atlas V rocket, heading for the Martian world. Rovers however, cannot yet provide the insights experienced in space by real life astronauts.

Outer Space Perspectives

The crew were able to interact (virtually, but directly) with living legends, Oleg Atkov (Professor of Medicine and former Russian Cosmonaut), Jessica Meir (active NASA astronaut and marine biologist) and Bob Thirsk (physician, engineer and former CSA astronaut) during a live streamed astronaut panel, moderated by ISU alum and lead scientist at NASA’s Human Research program, Dr. Kris Lenhart. Questions asked by Dr. Lenhart and crew probed the minds of these space walkers into their views on what equipped them for their astronaut career, what it’s like being up in the ISS, what did they learn from being in space that can help with COVID-19, and how venturing into space can equip humanity with protection from future pandemics. ISU alum ’00 Jessica Meir expressed how much of a different world she came back to in April 2020 (peak of pandemic) after her 205 day mission, which also marked the first all female spacewalk in history. A mark of perseverance in social change.

“We are humans and should be responsible for what we are doing to our home planet.”
Oleg Atkov

“Advice for national leaders? Ability to take quick action, respect for science, empathy and situational leadership.”
Bob Thirsk

“We are all in this pandemic together and each action of an individual has a consequence.”
Jessica Meir

Watch the full panel here.

Philosophy & Space…..crafts

The voyage to becoming an interplanetary species is never short of new challenges even in the face of existing ones. As such, the ISP20 crew were given their own habitat challenges amidst the rigorous program they are already undertaking. Crew were challenged with walking the same distance the sun is from the earth (relatively), where 1 step is 100 km. It will take a resilient team effort to achieve this goal of 150 million km. While collaboration is always beneficial, the individual should not be underestimated, the next challenge is for each habitat’s 28 members to perform a variety of tasks that tap into their unique, individual traits, hobbies or competencies, such as building an ISS model from Lego, capture the comet NEOWISE, singing a space song or making a 5-stage Rube Goldberg machine from kitchen items.

Tapping into the creative and philosophical side of the ISP20 crew, a humanities workshop conducted by space artist Hagen Betzwieser (google: scratch and sniff the moon) put forward the idea that you are at a crisis point. Perhaps your space mission has been hit by an extraterrestrial virus. Perhaps your communications systems are failing just as you try to make a hazardous landing on a new world. You have one opportunity to send a final message. What will you say? What feelings or emotions do you want to express? The responses (from individuals and groups of 2-3) were brilliant and broad. Challenging a multidisciplinary group with this type of critical introspection produced abstract yet beautiful drawings of astronauts, collages of space memorabilia, functional crafts for serving tea, original poems and some with the words of Carl Sagan, recordings of simulated flight logs and heartwarming postcards.

Medical Report

In the words of ISP20 Captain Goktuk “May the health be with you!” There was no shortage of lectures around health, medicine and their combination with communication technology. Space systems engineer Taiwo Tejumola and Geodetic engineer Dr. Danijela Stupar shared their knowledge on satellite telecommunications and GPS navigation respectively, while retired NASA and CSA flight surgeon, Doug Hamilton shared the state of the art of tele-medicine for astronauts on the ISS. Keeping things interdisciplinary, were lectures on economic aspects of space activities by former ISU President, Walter Peeters and the relationship between space and society by renowned freelance curator and space historian, Kerrie Dougherty. 

Crew members are hard at work on their team mission projects – Innovative Approaches of utilizing space for the monitoring, and mitigation of the COVID-19 crisis and for the preparedness and prevention of future pandemics. As an officer of the orbit habitat, it is inspiring to witness the approach to this endeavour. Teams of 28 with no previous relation, other than an interest in space, working together, remotely, to accomplish a lofty goal. Respecting opinions, backgrounds and cultures, asking for help, self-organisation and creating time for socialising, all while in quarantine. A mark of perseverance. As the ISU Founders wrote in our University’s Credo, “ISU is a place where students and faculty from all backgrounds are welcomed; where diversity of culture, philosophy, lifestyle, training and opinion are honored and nurtured.”

All this work and no play?!?! DON’T PANIC! We are heading for the restaurant at the end of the universe (bring your mask though). A mid-week space debate gave two teams of crew members a chance to share their insights, views and knowledge to the rest of the ISP20 command and crew on a controversial topic: Human Moon/Mars missions will only be successful if left to private enterprise vs. To ensure those missions will benefit all of humankind, they must be done by/with oversight of governmental entities. Who won? Let’s put a space pin in that for now. Crew also formed their own virtually social activities of showing their pin collections, Iranian dance classes and video game adventures.

Wrapping up the week, crew experienced a reversal of the magnetic field. Not quite. But roles did get reversed whereby crew members confidently fit into the roles of guest speakers to share their professional and personal experiences in the first of a series aptly named: Crew Talks.

Prepare for next phase

Looking forward to the upcoming week: starting with a political panel discussing Pandemics in the eyes of Space Agencies, the 2020 Alumni Conference Weekend (virtually hosted for the first time ever) with a plethora of distinguished speakers (more info here), and of course the Space Masquerade Ball. So get ready for some far out, spacified costumes and don’t forget your towel.

Reaching the restaurant, some final words….

HAPPY 87th BIRTHDAY to Russian astronomer, ISU faculty member and exceptional human being, Mikhail Marov, Nostrovia!

Through the pandemic…ISU continues. Through unforeseen challenges…the crew continues with their mission. Humans persevere.

“When something is important enough you do it even if the odds are not in your favor”
Elon Musk

Rishi Khan
Habitat Officer

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