Leonard Nimoy Influenced Us All

As Spock, Leonard Nimoy played a pivotal role on the original Star Trek series and movies. Star Trek painted a picture of diversity - different races, cultures, and species working together to make things right in the universe.  It served as a great example of the power of science fiction, especially as a young African American geek that struggled to see diversity in other forms of media that I love. 

Sci-fi author Cerece Rennie Murphy had a great point about the power of sci=fi on the latest Black Girl Nerds podcast:

 "It's all about what it means to truly be human, or to truly be a part of a community. What it means to stand alone and stand together. It's all this stuff that we are grappling with - cut straight to the chase. There may be aliens and space chases, but that's all window dressing. Science fiction is all about who you are, discovering you are, finding a way to be who you are in a world that's telling you to be something else.

That's something that we can all identify with. It can be hard to truly find yourself .Nimoy's characters always excels at displaying that struggle, whether as Spock or William Bell.

Even modern astronauts are influenced by this, especially given the international cooperation required in projects such as the International Space Station.

NASA Astronaut Mike Fincke and ESA European Space Agency Astronaut Luca Parmitano reflect on the inspiration that actor Leonard Nimoy's character Mr. Spock in the television series Star Trek had on scientists, engineers, space explorers and fans around the globe. For a high-resolution version:

Check out some other great images shared on Twitter to celebrate the passing of Leonard Nimoy.

Apollo 14 & The Future of Astronaut Diversity

Image Credit: NASA.  In this photo, Alan Shepard stands by the Modular Equipment Transporter (MET)

Image Credit: NASA. In this photo, Alan Shepard stands by the Modular Equipment Transporter (MET)

44 years ago, the Apollo 14 mission landed on the surface of the moon. Captain Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr, Major Stuart Allen Roosa, and Commander Edgar Dean Mitchell helped reestablish confidence in our space program after the prior mission, Apollo 13, suffered an explosion on board and had to return to Earth.

This group of brave astronauts, like most from the early NASA days, were white men.  As our astronaut pool becomes more diverse, there is more of a chance for space missions to truly reflect the diversity of our population.

Image Credit: NASA.  Pictured clockwise, starting from top L: Mae Jemison, Jeanette Epps, Yvonnne Cagle, Stephanie Wilson, and Joan Higginbotham.

Image Credit: NASA.  Pictured clockwise, starting from top L: Mae Jemison, Jeanette Epps, Yvonnne Cagle, Stephanie Wilson, and Joan Higginbotham.

I found a great profile of these women featured at a few sites - check them out! Some excerpts

  • Mae Jemison (retired) - served as a science mission specialist during her historic flight to become the first Black woman in space in 1992 (yes, almost 30 years after we started sending people in space).
  • Jeanette J. Epps, Ph.D. has experience as a technical intelligence officer in the CIA
  • Yvonne Cagle, M.D. has served as a flight surgeon and has helped to establish astronaut medical standards and procedures 
  • Stephanie D. Wilson served a the robotic "Canada" arm  operator, flight engineer, and space walking support for three different space shuttle missions
  • Joan Higginbotham (retired) - worked on the shuttle payload bay reconfiguration for all shuttle missions and conducted electrical compatibility tests for all payloads flown aboard the shuttle.

Imagine looking at a NASA photo in the future with these women walking on the surface of another planet or moon. It will happen, and it will be as inspirational as seeing an African American US president.  Diversity matters - let's make it happen!

Wanderers - Check Out This Short Film!


Wanderers is a beautiful short film that explores would life may look like when we colonize other planets. I'll let the film's author, Erik Wernquist, speak for himself:

"In ancient greek, the planets visible in the sky were collectively called "aster planetes" which means "wandering star". It also refers to ourselves; for hundreds of thousands of years - the wanderers of the Earth. In time I hope we take that leap off the ground and permanently become wanderers of the sky. Wanderers among the wanderers."

. Check it out!

Time Is Not the Same for Everyone #Interstellar (Spoiler Free)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The movie Interstellar involves many interesting scientific concepts, including the fluidity of time. On Earth, time moves at the same speed for all of us – otherwise our watches would constantly need to change how fast they move.  However, time can change in two specific scenarios.

If someone is moving significantly faster than us on Earth

If someone is under the effects of more gravity than us on Earth

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) experience this.  As they orbit the Earth, the gravitational pull keeps them in orbit, and makes them move much faster than we are on Earth.  As a result, they age less than us.

If the same astronauts wanted to head away from Earth at an extremely fast speed – near the speed of light – they would age slower than us during the trip.  If the destination was an object with more significantly more gravity than the Earth – like a black hole – they would continue to age slower while under the effects of increased gravity.

That’s the genius of media – you can enjoy the adventure and emotion presented in the movie, and OPTIONALLY it can spark a light of curiosity that leads one to further research.

Shouldn't that be what science education is about?

R.I.P. Michael Alsbury #SpaceShipTwo

(Note: Please donate to the Mike Alsbury Memorial Fund, as he leaves behind a wife and two small children ages 10 and 17.)

It's been a rough week for space travel. First, an unmanned ISS resupply rocket launched erratically and had to be destroyed by NASA safety operators. Next, the Virgin Galactic spacecraft SpaceShipTwo suffered a mishap that resulted in the loss of life. Pilot Michael Alsbury was killed when SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert while attempting to land.

Heroes like Alsbury put their lives on the line to push forward space research. It's critical that we not take this loss for granted, and they we can continue to push forward to support what Alsbury lived for - taking space exploration to the next level.

The Guardian has a nice writeup of Alsbury's accomplishments. From that article:

Alsbury earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He was the recipient of Northrop Grumman’s President’s Award for Innovation-for-Affordability Excellence this year.

Alsbury was a “home-schooled, home-brewed” pilot who earned his way up through the ranks at the company, starting as an engineer. Alsbury had also put himself through commercial pilot school and was certified as a flight instructor.

Scaled Composite, Alsbury's company of 15 years, released a short statement in his honor