It’s been a busy week in Tucson. In addition to playing tourist and taking a lot of notes, I presented my poster and ended up presenting a summary of a working group.
The poster session was lightly attended, but I did encounter some interesting folks. I gave my presentation on camera to some people from the Alternative Propulsion Engineering Conference (APEC). I’ll tweet a link to that video when I find it.
The gentleman with the poster next to mine was Gonzalo Munevar, an educator, author, and space philosopher I met at my very first space conference in 1997. His talk in ‘97 made a major impression on me at the time, so it was nice to thank him and get caught up.
Perhaps the most exciting discussion I had was with Mark Shelhamer, who was in charge of NASA’s human factors research on the International Space Station from 2013 to 2016. He warmed to my topic, saying that “NASA ignores this (the need for arts and recreation in space) at their peril.” He suggested other topics I could pursue in my forthcoming book on the same topic. That was immensely gratifying because I was definitely a minority in the room, both as a liberal arts person and as a presenter on human factors.
The second speaking opportunity came because I volunteered to be “scribe” for a working group that met a couple of evenings during the conference to discuss the locating of habitable planets beyond this solar system. The leader of the group had to leave early, so I volunteered to report out on our group. The bottom line of our discussions was that if we send a crewed spacecraft (alternately an “ark” or “world ship”) to another solar system, we need to find a system with multiple types of planets and asteroids. This is important because it’s always possible that the Earth-like planet the crew encounters will not be suitable for human habitation for any number of reasons. I consider a presentation in front of a group a “win” if I stay calm, stay on topic, and keep my tone level. This was a win.
What comes next? An article (or several) about the conference. Lots to think about!