Three Inspirational Humans Who Dream of the Stars

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Since the study of Space first began, there have been benefits for the rest of society. We all appreciate how much better our world is thanks to telescopes, non-stick frying pans, and the way that ‘pale blue dot’ images have helped us understand just how precious our planet really is. The benefits have also flowed not just from the tech developed to aid space science, but also from the individuals who have been inspired by the exploration itself.

In my previous article we learned about three professionals for whom dreaming of the stars has been a key source of inspiration for their successes here on Earth, and how this maps to skills in areas like creativity, community, entrepreneurial projects and storytelling that may help everyone thrive in a far more digitized future. In part two, we meet a French-Moroccan member of Crew173, a teacher in Florida USA, and comedian from Australia.

Idriss Sissaid was drawn to the stars as a child when sleeping on roofs in the Atlas mountains of Morocco gave him plentiful time to look up and stargaze. Like his Mars Desert Research Station Crew 173 teammates, Idriss spent 3 weeks as an analogue astronaut in the Utah desert in early 2017. Idriss’s career has also encompassed mechanical engineering, astronomy, business classes and youth development.

Idriss has recently co-founded a space industry start-up called O’SOL. Its mission is to take the benefits afforded by the foldable solar arrays deployed on tightly-packed satellites, and make them available to anyone on Earth who needs power that can be easily transported to where its most needed. Success  in using such space-thinking to help Earthlings depends on being able to draw on a range of skills across creative problem solving, team-work, project engineering and marketing. Idriss and team are certainly demonstrating these with production already scheduled to begin in 2018.

Inspiring young learners to dream big is a goal everyone would agree teachers aim for, yet anyone who has stood in a classroom trying to balance the needs of 25+ young minds with the demands of curriculum and assessment knows this is an challenging task. For Gulliver Schools Science teacher Valeria Rodriguez though, it has been Space that has made all the difference.

In the classroom, Valeria has become known for ‘Flight-suit Fridays’, an idea that comes out of Houston Space Centre’s educator program that sees her wear a bright orange NASA-themed flight suit to class every Friday. With this playful atmosphere in place, Valeria’s class makes models of solutions for space exploration, Skype’s with NASA engineers and grows plants in semi-space conditions – all in ways that link to the everyday curriculum, while also going so far beyond that students can’t help but be inspired to dream big. Valeria’s own diverse background as a creative children’s author and illustrator, Peace Corp community volunteer, and business woman has played a key role in helping her think differently enough to bring such a space-focused approach to her school.

Australian Josh Richards has spent nearly five years living and breathing Mars, since taking the leap to apply for the Mars One program. His passion has since led to him to write Becoming Martian, a book exploring how colonizing Mars may change humans in body, mind and soul. But how did he get to this place after having begun his professional life as an engineer in the Australian Army?

Josh first knew he wanted to explore space in 1992 at age 7 when he saw that Australia’s first astronaut Andy Thomas had been accepted to NASA. Since then, it has been the incredibly diverse paths he has explored, from serving in the military, becoming a physicist, touring the world as a popular stand up comic, and working to educate students about space exploration – that has given him the platform on which to build his dreams of going to Mars. The creative writing and stand up, understanding of team dynamics and humor, and military planning are just a few of the elements that enabled him to succeed in being accepted as one of the final 100 candidates out of an original 200,000 Mars One applicants.

Despite it being 45 years since humans last left Earth’s orbit, professionals like Idriss, Valeria and Josh are everyday harnessing their passion for what lies beyond to empower not only their own lives, but those of the students, colleagues and wider public who are touched by their work. Their diverse interests and backgrounds are a huge part of what makes this possible, and, as a new era of off-Earth exploration looks set to begin, who knows how far their enthusiasm will spread?

 

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