The Day I met an Astronaut – Day #3 SXSW Highlights
22nd March 2016

By Emma Perkins, ECD MullenLowe Open

NASAs James Webb Space Telescope: Is there another Earth out there? #JWST

Today we spent the morning in space. To hear a panel of astro physicists and aerospace engineers talk about the work they do for NASA and the European Space agency is of course incredible. But what was also incredible was that out of a panel of 6 experts (four in the room and two we face timed) four were women. So a group of women and their male colleagues talked about extreme engineering for an hour and I was utterly enthralled.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a cultural Icon that for 26 years captured the imagination of the public and revolutionised our understanding of the Universe. It was the most scientifically significant instrument NASA had built. Until then we thought of space as dark and black, the Hubble showed us space was full of beautiful colourful things. As the panel showed us images that the Hubble had taken, it literally took our breath away. The talk was centred around the limitations of what the technology could do and the need for a bigger, better telescope. The aerospace engineers talked us through how they are building a telescope so big it wont even fit in a rocket, so it would have to fold, stow and deploy in space! It is the absolute cutting edge of engineering.

What questions do the panel hope the telescope will help answer? Are we alone? How do you build a planet? The Universe is just waiting to surprise us.

You can take a look at Amber Straughn the NASA astrophysicist (pictured above) on twitter @astraughnomer.

Astronaut Ron Garan: Earthgazing 101

The famous ‘Blue Marble’ shot was the first photograph in which Earth was shown in full view. The picture was taken on December 7, 1972, as the Apollo 17 crew left Earth’s orbit for the moon. Can you believe that!! Before 1972 nobody had seen the Earth in full view. No wonder the Image became one of Life Magazines 100 photographs that changed the World.

The first quote that was read to us, set the tone for the discussion and tears were already starting to well across the audience. The Apollo Astronaut William Anders said ‘We went all the way to the Moon and the most important thing we discovered was Earth’.

Ron Garan retired from NASA two years ago, and wrote the book ‘The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles’ and the forward is written by a Nobel Peace Laureate (mine is on order). His life’s work is now to get as many people as possible to understand what he learned from going into space and the profound implications for how we treat each other as human beings. Garan said ‘I don’t know anyone who’s been to space who doesn’t feel a greater kinship for all the people on Earth’. The film maker Guy Reid, who was also on the panel, shared Martin Luther Kings Christmas Sermon, another moment of goose bumps and teary eyes.

The key advice from the panel: Lets be less Blade Runner and more Star Trek with a more radical and visionary view of the future. Lets preserve the pale blue dot, it’s the only home we have… for now.