Interview: Decolonise Space

Sirenum fossae, a qudrangle of Mars. It looks like a giant crator on the bright red landscape

I was interviewed by Newsweek on the inequalities embedded into the way people imagine colonising other planets. I discussed how the language we use about ‘colonising’ Mars whitewashes the history of colonialism on Earth:

‘“Language is one of the ways in which we shape our social reality,” Zuleyka Zevallos, a sociologist at Swinburne University in Australia, told Newsweek. That means using terms like colonise carries real risks. “The history of colonialism has taught us that there is no democratic way to colonise other lands,” she said. “It is about profit, and profit always marginalises minorities.”’

Read this insightful article featuring other experts, here.

Interview: Making New Worlds

Close up of astronaut's reflection on their helmet, as they work in space

I’m featured in the first episode of Making New Worlds, a podcast inviting experts from different fields to discuss the ethics of colonising other planets.

The issue we discuss is not about scientific space exploration (collecting data about other planets), but whether it is ethical for humans to settle in Mars or other planets. My responses represent sociological considerations about the inequality that is inherent in colonialism. The quotes below are excerpts from me; listen to the entire podcast in the link.

Picture of terrain on Mars, showing an aerial view of what appears to be sea, land and clouds. A quote from me is overlaid over the top, from the article, “And there is something profoundly unethical ... on our own planet.”
Ethics of colonising other planets

Continue reading Interview: Making New Worlds

STEM Women in Space Engineering: Candy Torres

I’m super excited to be talking with fellow Latina and STEM woman Candy Torres! I’m co-hosting this with Buddhini Samarasinghe. Join us at STEM Women to learn more about Candy’s career and her advocacy for Latina youth in engineering and the space program!

What are you doing to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Spend it with us and a veteran woman engineer of the space program! On Sunday, at 2.30pm Pacific, we’ll be talking with Candy Torres, a Puerto Rican engineer who went from being one of only 10 women in her astrophysics classes at Rutgers University, to getting a job at Princeton University to work on the Copernicus OAO-3C Satellite and later, as a software programmer for NASA.

Candy was a STEM trailblazer from an early age. She had a firm dream to join the space program, but she encountered much push-back from her family and friends in the Bronx, where she was born. Latina women were simply not meant to have a career in STEM, or so she was told, let alone dream of contributing to the space race.

At age 14, Candy joined the Civil Air Patrol and she was flying a plane before she could drive. She encountered sexism early on, however, when she learned that girl cadets were not allowed to participate in some training sessions. She tells CNN: “We were supposed to go find a businessman who was lost in the woods, but the girls were not allowed.” 

This attitude continued. At university in the 1970s, her classmates were less than welcoming of women. She tells CNN: “They were definitely not happy about having women in the class… I didn’t have any kind of support system. I didn’t get to know any of the other women, and the guys basically ignored me.”

Overcoming exclusion based on her gender and ethnicity, Candy would go on to use her computer programming skills to organise files for NASA. She later went on to work at Johnson Space Center on software for the Space Shuttle as well as the International Space Station. She worked on various other space programs over the years, such as human factors.

Candy has been featured in various high-profile publications like The Atlantic, where she noted: “People don’t realize how many thousands of us worked on these programs… I loved being part of something big, and I knew that I had worked hard to be there.” 

Candy has continued her work in recent years by educating the public on space history, and supporting the inclusion of minority women in space programs. She is passionate about encouraging Latino youth to pursue engineering and science. She tells Latino USA: “When you’re first starting out you really have to know what you want and it’s not necessarily other people that are going to keep you from doing what you’re going to do, it’s yourself.” And to Latina and other minority women, Candy’s message is about being passionate, curious and tenacious. “You can do it, it’s exciting, its fun, it’s understanding the universe and it’s being connected to the universe and making the world a better place.”

Join us as we chat to Candy about her amazing journey through various space programs, and hear her advice for young girls and women who want to follow in her footsteps.

A write up of the video is on the STEM Women website.

STEM Women in Mathematics: Evelyn Boyd Granville

On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM. Continue reading STEM Women in Mathematics: Evelyn Boyd Granville

Disasters Charter

Head to the BBC to hear Dr Alice Bunn from the UK Space Agency discuss how international collaboration between space agencies has assisted over 300 natural disasters in over 100 countries, including the Haiti and Japanese disasters.. This is known as the Disasters Charter.

Satellites have been useful in identifying other potential environmental threats, such as deforestation and illegal logging in Brazil, and it is also vital for research in difficult to reach terrains, such as the Antarctic.