Space and Public Health from the Perspective of Three Astronauts at ISP20

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What can perspectives from space teach us about thriving on Earth? What does it take to be an astronaut or cosmonaut?

The Interactive Space Program ISP20 crew had a chance to interact with three individuals who have travelled – for cosmonaut Oleg Atkov to the Salyut Space Station, and astronaut Bob Thirsk (@RobertThirsk) and recently returned NASA astronaut and ISU alumna Jessica Meir (MSS2000; @astro_jessica) to the International Space Station.

The panel on July 27, themed Space and public health from the perspective of the astronauts, was moderated by ISU alumnus Dr. Kris Lehnhardt (SSP 2008; @AerospaceDr) the Lead Scientist for exploration medical capability for the NASA human research program.

Parallels were drawn between fundamentals at the International Space University (ISU) and daily operations on the International Space Station: International, Intercultural and Interdisciplinary. Several themes resonated with me throughout the session.

Earth as a Global Community – We are all in this together

Earth is a special and beautiful planet. Being able to look at Earth from space changes you as a person. The view from space reinforces our interconnectivity. The fragility of Earth is also evident, in watching forest fires rage across the Amazon, 

 it “makes your heart bleed” as these are not just local tragedies but affect the whole world.

In the current context of the pandemic there was a caution against isolationism, we are stronger together, and need to work together to solve present and future problems.

In the words of Loren Acton, “When you look out the other way toward the stars you realize it’s an awful long way to the next watering hole”

Space as a unifying force and lessons learned from practice.

In space and at the space university, the participants come from different cultures and background but are all united by their common interest. 

With respect to preparedness and problem solving, we are one team. This should lead to the necessity of an awareness of the ramifications of our individual actions – we are all in this together. Emergency response teams could learn from space simulations prior to flight using to help with prediction and practice over and over again. 

Advice on following your dreams?

  1. Be Yourself. Allow what is unique about you, to shine thru. Don’t be who you think someone else wants you to be.
  2. Get past your self-imposed pressure.
  3. Don’t hold your dream to yourself. Share you dream mentors who can act as rudders along the way.
  4. Have a back-up plan.


These are just a few nuggets of sagaciousness from members of the Space Family. As with many International Space University events I’ve struck by the ability of space to bring together individuals from all over the world, time and time again across disciplines.  My own ISU journey began in 2006 when my father shared stories of his Summer Space Program (SSP) in Strasbourg. Since then I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of his classmates and then attending the same program in 2013. This is my first time returning to ISU this year as the Humanities Officer.

In the words of Dr. Lehnhardt, wish we could all see this together! Maybe one day I can send you my thoughts from space! Over and out for now.

Kristyn Rodzinyak
ISP20 HUM Officer

Picture Credit: ISU – top left: cosmonaut Oleg Atkov, top right: NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (MSS2000; @astro_jessica), bottom left: Dr. Kris Lehnhardt (SSP 2008; @AerospaceDr), bottom right: astronaut Bob Thirsk (@RobertThirsk)

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