Dream of the Stars but Thrive on Earth

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The stars have been a source of inspiration since before humans knew that a few of the lights in the night sky were actually planets in our own solar system. Fast forward to today, and despite the vast improvement in our understanding of our universe, there are many who still look up and dream.

Definitively in this group of dreamers are Richard Blake, Niamh Shaw and Michaela Musilova, representatives of three different nations whose multi-skills in fields as diverse as engineering, the arts, and biology have also made it possible for them to pursue their dreams to become analogue Astronauts in Crew 173 and team-mates at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah, USA.

MDRS team pic (Richard at bottom, Michaela 2nd from right, Niamh at right)

In a future where perhaps 40-60% of today’s jobs may be displaced by developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics, the way experts such as these combine varied skills represents one of the best chances for humans to prosper in an era dominated by digital and automation technologies.

Five Human Intelligences

Certainly Space Nation’s work is supporting people in this direction. In addition, the Future Literacies framework behind Australia’s First On Mars project posits five human intelligences: Creativity, Community and Teamwork, Thinking Skills, Project Delivery and Storytelling. This framework has been prepared to help explain this transitional era. Michaela, Richard and Niamh are each successfully displaying these intelligences.

A Slovokian Astrobiologist

Michaela Musilova didn’t let the fact that her small European nation of Slovakia had no space agency stop her from combining the usually separate studies of ‘astro’ (meaning space) and ‘bio’ (meaning life) to join the entirely new field of Astrobiology. This kind of adaptive mindset has also allowed her to think big enough to found the Slovak Organization for Space Activities, providing amazing new opportunities for her country-folk to join the space industry. To succeed in this role she has also developed skills in community leadership, storytelling and lecturing, and project delivery. These skills, when combined with her technical experience in museum work, food production and engineering have seen her accepted to NASA’s 2018 cohort at the prestigious HI-SEAS Mars study on the volcanic slopes of Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

A Creative Australian

Richard Blake hails from a very different part of the world: Sydney, Australia. With a background that encompasses broad expertise including bush-land sustainability and being a pizza chef,  he also procured a degree in Paleontology, Biology and Geology to join the very elite ranks of Astrobiologists. He has the skills to search for extreme forms of life not just here on Earth, but potentially in space as well. His creative mindset enables him to take such traditional fields and re-apply them, as well as other future literacies he combines with them such as project management, show the way for all learners to adapt so they can make their own paths.

A Performance Artist with a PhD.

Niamh Shaw may have originally begun her career as a full-time academic with two degrees in engineering and a PhD in science, but her prodigious interest in the Arts saw her embark on a new career path that combines performance, theatre, communication, art, and technology. The ability to even dream of such a blend comes about from her mindset of pushing boundaries and a desire to tell stories in a way never attempted before. The result has been an ongoing series of performances that showcase her enthusiasm while inspiring people of all backgrounds and professions to think differently about how their backgrounds and skills can combine to make an impact.

These three unique professionals are an inspiration not only towards exploring the stars, but also exploring how to mix skills and interests in a great formula for thriving on Earth. All three individuals are also contributors to the informal Mars Education Alliance of professionals who support the Future-U community’s mission of pointing the way forward for learners of all ages.