April 21, 2024

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

Once we discuss area adventures, our minds are more likely to wander to famed astronauts. Nonetheless, we frequently 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 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 information, 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 embrace Dr. Michaela Musilova, an astrobiologist who research the boundaries of life on Earth and, maybe much more importantly, searches for all times in outer area.

Right this moment 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 in addition use it as a chance 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 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 at present a visiting Professor on the Slovak College of Expertise, International College on the Worldwide House College and Head of Analysis of the area 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 boundaries and origins of life on Earth. I’m additionally a so-called analog astronaut and  have been the commander of over 30 simulated area missions. On high of that, I like to show, write, carry out outreach and academic initiatives, and I’m at present main my very own Astro Seven Summits challenge. The objective of the challenge 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 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 outdated and I’ve collaborated with NASA on a number of initiatives since then. My analysis has led me on expeditions in numerous excessive environments around the globe, corresponding to 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 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 direction of Slovakia changing 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 30 simulated area missions to the Moon and Mars.

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

What made you need to develop into an astrobiologist? And what steps did it’s a must to take to get to the place you at the moment are?

Once I was eight years outdated, I first turned keen about area and I began questioning whether or not there may very well be aliens on the market. That rapidly developed right into a interest, by which I mixed my completely different passions: area, writing, drawing and trend 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 in a position to meet the primary (and to date 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 area!

Nonetheless, by the point I used to be 15 years outdated, I spotted that it’s virtually not possible for me, a Slovak woman, to develop into an astronaut. In the meanwhile, Slovakians can solely develop into astronauts if our nation will contribute vital 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 develop into ESA astronauts (and our probabilities nonetheless stay very slim). I hesitated whether or not to embark on this practically not possible journey, however I made a decision to offer it a strive anyway.

I began saving cash by quite a few part-time jobs throughout highschool and college. I additionally studied very arduous 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 manner 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 attempting to blackmail me, and many others.). However, I saved attempting my finest and each success motivated me to maintain going after my desires.

What’s the most fun side of your job? And what, alternatively, 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 initiatives and I joke that in a manner it’s an superior “workplace with a view” 😉.

I like doing outreach and I feel it’s a vital a part of my work. I consider scientists ought to strive interacting with the general public extra if potential, and assist others perceive what the importance of their analysis is. Nonetheless, I want there was a method to carry out outreach and academic actions with out social media. These days, social media platforms dictate what to submit, submit it and when to submit it, on high of different issues. The algorithms are likely to favor sure sorts of posts and influencers, so organizations that simply need to share, for instance, academic content material are likely to get marginalized, particularly if they’ll’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 drastically take pleasure in it. It’s one thing that brings me plenty of pleasure and it’s nice train too. I’ve tried quite a lot of dance types: hip hop, ballet, lyrical, flamenco, breakdancing, acrobatic dancing, stomach dancing, ballroom dancing and lots of others. I at present dance West Coast Swing with my accomplice, and I hope to get again into lyrical and avenue dancing within the close to future.

Did you have got 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 task 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 folks that I knew or met, whose tales motivated me to goal excessive and pursue my desires. These folks included social activists, lecturers, individuals who persevered regardless of adversity and my mother and father.

I feel scientists and the sciences are hopefully changing into extra approachable as of late due to varied outreach actions. Prior to now, scientific topics was once offered as one thing masculine that solely sure sorts of folks had been considered excited by. Ladies and folks of various minorities had been typically 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 by outreach and academic actions may also help younger folks be extra motivated to pursue these areas. There’s nonetheless plenty 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 would it not be?

I’m very honored that some folks take into account me a task mannequin and I don’t take that frivolously. It’s a huge accountability and I need to do it justice. Meaning I share each the great 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 info that may be helpful to others. By way of recommendation, if I can simply share one factor, then I’d say: keep on with your instinct and intestine feeling. In the event that they’re telling you one thing is flawed, take heed to them and vice versa. My instinct has by no means let me down and it has saved my life just a few instances, actually. That signifies that for those who really feel strongly about pursuing a sure ardour or in case you have a foul feeling a couple of sure job supply or individual, take heed to that “voice” in your head. It may be a life-saver or it will possibly merely assist you to pursue one thing that may deliver you happiness in life.

What are the following steps in your profession?

At present, my primary focus is on my Astro Seven Summits project. My workforce and I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro final 12 months and we’re now on the point of climb the following mountain, Aconcagua. The primary expedition went very effectively and we’re trying ahead to the following one, with academic and outreach actions that we’ll be conducting. In the meanwhile, we’re in search of sponsors and companions of the challenge. If all goes effectively, then we’ll be climbing Mount Everest in 2025 and I’ll develop into 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 brief tales and novels. I haven’t given up on my dream to do analysis in area and I hope that my Astro Seven Summits challenge will really assist me with my astronaut prospects. However, if it doesn’t work out in the long run and I’m not in a position to develop into an astronaut, I hope that my work will not less than assist others obtain this objective.

In the event you may inform girls and ladies one factor, this Worldwide Ladies´s day, what would it not be?

Maintain pursuing your passions and rise up for what you consider in. It’s not all the time straightforward or potential to try this after all, and generally it takes time and the appropriate circumstances. I simply consider that it’s necessary to not overlook about your individual desires and issues that make you content, regardless of obstacles in the best way. There are nonetheless many points with gender inequality on this 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 attempting my finest to do my half and I hope others will be a part of me 😊.

Thanks in your time.

Pleased Ladies’s Historical past Month!