Swiss Space Centre’s IGLUNA Expert Team

The first ESA_Lab Demonstrator Project IGLUNA offered students opportunities to participate in an international, collaborative project on a visionary space topic: A Habitat in Ice.

IGLUNA is aimed at supporting and accelerating the ESA_Lab@ initiative. The Swiss Space Center coordinates IGLUNA project and leads the main systems engineering activities, coaches the students teams, organises the events, and communicates to the general public. IGLUNA is emulating European students and foster exchange through an international, interdisciplinary, and collaborative platform for demonstration of space technologies. During the project, university students apply their knowledge to solve a technical challenge, to sustain life in an extreme environment, increasing in parallel the maturity of technologies relevant to the space domain.

In one year, 20 student teams from various disciplines gathered their knowledge to design a habitat potentially suitable for an extreme environment, such as the Moon. More than 150 students from 9 European countries designed their prototypes during the autumn semester 2018 and built their modules in the spring semester 2019.

The IGLUNA is an exciting opportunity for students interested in space exploration. In this truly international, interdisciplinary, and collaborative project, the students can present and test their solutions to some of the real challenges of the space missions.

It has been a privilege to be one of the IGLUNA Experts for the 2019/2020 campaign and I am looking forward to working with the 2020/2021 campaign teams.

Exclusive to Madame Mars Newsletter: Sheltering in Place

As we adapt to life during the current global pandemic, many of our necessary mitigation practices suggest what living on Mars might be like. Most of our time is spent in isolation or in very small, familiar groups. Our range of activity is extremely limited; going outside could kill us. If we do leave home, we must wear PPE – on Earth a protective mask, on Mars a spacesuit. We are dependent on virtual communication, networked technologies, and remote support services – delivery from Amazon, supply ship from Earth. Madame Mars asked an interdisciplinary group of scientists, educators and artists to help envision how the shut-down, shelter-in-pace, mostly virtual lives we’re currently living might compare with living on Mars, and whether they’ve personally learned anything during this pandemic that might serve as useful advice for the humans who will someday settle there.

Here goes Klara’s contribution to the newsletter:

“Living in the times of a coronavirus pandemic with all the necessary restrictions and mitigation practices seems to suggest what interplanetary space flight and even living on Mars might be like in the future. But I believe it also works the other way round and that space exploration brings important know-how to our lives today. The knowledge we have about living in space and extreme terrestrial environments is very relevant these days, and can help us endure the constraints our daily lives demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ISS astronauts, crews in analogue space habitats, even personnel at Antarctic research stations can offer many ideas and tips on how to deal with confinement, prolonged periods of isolation, and psychological stress.”

For example, the ESA Astronaut support engineer Romain Charles  has spent 520 days locked in a mockup spacecraft and is a true expert on the subject. Here are his nine tips on how to live in isolation: 

Madame Mars is a transmedia production designed to prepare all of us for our futures in space, whether orbiting Earth, returning to the moon, or colonising Mars – and worlds beyond. Full newsletter available online!

Women of ESA salute the women making history on first all-female spacewalk

Happy and proud to be a part of the ESA team at the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) and support the first all-women spacewalk on Friday 18 October 2019. The picture shows more than fifty women working at ESA’s technical heart ESTEC in the Netherlands, many working in daily Space Station support roles who gathered to show their support and highlight the role of women in space. Full story available from ESA website.

esa estec human robotic space exploration klara anna capova
Women of ESA salute the women making history on first all-female spacewalk.

‘Life. Extraterrestrial, Artificial and Synthetic’ book available online in Swedish

LIFE Extraterrestrial, Artificial and SyntheticThis book is the result of an interdisciplinary project at the Pufendorf Institute, Lund University. Twelve researchers from the same number of disciplines have been included in the project. The purpose has been to highlight the challenges that come with extraterrestrial, artificial and synthetic life. The interdisciplinary approach has given us the opportunity to highlight the questions from every conceivable angle, but also to find completely new combinations of methods and approaches.

Our hope is that the book will inspire new thoughts and discussions about life. The book addresses both those who are already interested and those who have not yet begun to ponder the challenges of extraterrestrial, artificial and synthetic life.

Life is a central concept in many areas of research, for example in biology, astrobiology, chemistry and medicine, as well as in law, theology and philosophy. Life is also a central theme of art. It is treated and pondered in numerous works of art, in poetry, novel and film. How we understand, value and protect life is extremely fundamental. In the future, these issues will become even more difficult and, if possible, even more important. Research groups from all over the world today work to create life in the laboratory, look for life in space and provide machines with properties that have previously only been living creatures, and development is fast. It is important that we at the same time consider the challenges that this entails. It will take time to find ways to live in a world where life exists in forms we can hardly imagine today and where the boundary between living beings and machines becomes increasingly blurred. The decisions we make today will also affect the development of society, research and development for a long time to come.

The pre-print of the White Paper available online

astrobiology and society white paper capova persson duner milligan

I am happy to announce that the free preprint version of the “Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today” white paper is now available for download from the European Astrobiology Institute website, section documents. The White paper, edited by K.A. Capova, E. Persson, T. Milligan, D. Dunér, was recently published through the SpringerBriefs in Astronomy book series, Springer, Cham (2018). The final authenticated version is available online from Springer’s Briefs in Astronomy series: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-96265-8

The European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) aspires to become a primary forum for the development of European Astrobiology ensuring that this relatively new interdisciplinary research field is established across Europe. The European Astrobiology Institute will be a consortium of European research and higher education institutions and organisations as well as other stakeholders aiming to carry out research, training, outreach and dissemination activities in astrobiology in a comprehensive and coordinated manner and thereby securing a leading role for the European Research Area in the field.

Plans for European Astrobiology Institute announced

eai, european astrobiology institute, astrobiology and society, epsc, berlin, klara anna capova
The “Flammarion Engraving”, a woodcut engraving by unknown first documented in Camille Flammarion‘s 1888 book “L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire”.

Source: Europlanet Society Press Releases

Astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution and future of life on Earth and beyond, is a multidisciplinary field that has expanded rapidly over the last two decades. Now, a consortium of organisations has announced plans to establish a European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) to coordinate astrobiology research in Europe. The new institute is being created in accordance with the recommendations of a White Paper addressing the scientific and social implications of astrobiology research in Europe, presented today at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin.

The White Paper includes contributions from authors in twenty countries and over thirty scientific institutions worldwide. The contributions draw on the experiences of other astrobiology research communities around the world and recognise the societal implications of the field as well as addressing the scientific goals.

“We are increasingly well-placed to answer major questions concerning the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the origins of life on Earth and the evolution of our planet,” said Wolf Geppert, co-author of the White Paper chapter on leading the future of astrobiology in Europe. “By its nature, astrobiology is multidisciplinary field that requires collaboration. This White Paper shows that Astrobiology has the potential to be a flagship of European cooperation. The formation of the EAI will provide a structure that will bring together many organisations involved in the field to coordinate research and provide a proactive voice for the community.”

Missions and research programmes related to astrobiology have led to some of the most significant and high-profile discoveries in recent years. Thousands of planets have been discovered in other solar systems. The Rosetta mission confirmed a connection between comets an the life-supporting atmosphere on Earth. There is the potential that, in the near future, we will discover living or fossilized microbes on planets or moons within our own Solar System, or we could find signs of biological processes in exoplanetary systems.

“Regardless of whether or not we find evidence for life beyond Earth, astrobiology can provide paradigm-changing scientific advances in our understanding of our origins and our place in the Universe,” said Nigel Mason, who edited and co-authored the White Paper chapter on science and research. “Key areas of research identified in the White Paper include understanding the formation of habitable planets and moons, the pathway to produce the complex organics needed for life from simple molecules, how the conditions for life evolved on the early Earth and the study of life under extreme conditions.”

The White Paper includes sections on environmental protection and sustainability, current regulation, education, training, careers, technical innovation and commerce. In particular, the White Paper emphasises the role of social sciences and humanities in astrobiology and how the field has the capacity to change the view of how humans look at themselves and what it means to be alive.

“Astrobiology has clear existential implications. The social sciences and humanities can play a key role in helping us to prepare for the discovery of life beyond Earth, whether microbial or intelligent, and to understand the likely theological, ethical and worldview impacts on society,” said Klara Anna Čápová, co-editor of the White Paper and author of chapters on the social study of astrobiology as a science and public understanding of astrobiology. “Astrobiology is a subject of intrinsic interest to the general public and to school students but it is also vulnerable to misinterpretation. The formation of the EAI will enable us to make sure that reliable information is distributed to Europe’s citizens and classrooms and that they are actively engaged with the field.”

Astrobiology also presents environmental challenges in ensuring that any extraterrestrial life forms or remains are not compromised by scientific investigations (forward planetary protection), and protecting the Earth from contamination by potentially harmful biological material of extraterrestrial origin (backward planetary protection).

“The preservation of biodiversity and of pristine environments on Earth is of the greatest importance for our ability to study life, its origin, distribution and future. Both forward and backward planetary protection must be understood within a broader context of ensuring the sustainability of scientific and commercial practices,” said Erik Persson, co-editor of the White Paper and author of chapters on the international context of astrobiology and environment and sustainability.

An interim board has been established to map out the tasks, structure, governing bodies, activities, funding and administration of a EAI. The presentation of the White Paper at EPSC 2018 is the first step in a community consultation on its recommendations and plans for the EAI. The formal launch of the EAI is planned for the spring of 2019.

The White Paper “Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today”, edited by K. Capova, E. Persson, T. Milligan, D. Dunér, is published through the SpringerBriefs in Astronomy book series, Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-96265-8

Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today published

This White Paper describes the state of astrobiology in Europe today and its relation to the European society at large. With contributions from authors in twenty countries and over thirty scientific institutions worldwide, the document illustrates the societal implications of astrobiology and the positive contribution that astrobiology can make to European society.
astrobiology and society in europe today capova persson duner milligan

The White Paper:

  • Presents an overview of the status of astrobiology today
  • Places astrobiology in a societal context
  • Written by the leading European scientists and scholars in the field
  • Strongly oriented towards policy formation
  • Helps the reader make informed decisions about science and policy

The White paper has two main objectives: 1. It recommends the establishment of a European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) as an answer to a series of challenges relating to astrobiology but also European research, education and the society at large. 2. It also acknowledges the societal implications of astrobiology, and thus the role of the social sciences and humanities in optimizing the positive contribution that astrobiology can make to the lives of the people of Europe and the challenges they face.

klara anna capova astrobiology and society in europe today

This book is recommended reading for science policymakers, the interested public, and the astrobiology community.

The White Paper “Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today”, edited by K.A. Capova, E. Persson, T. Milligan, D. Dunér, is published through the SpringerBriefs in Astronomy book series, Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-96265-8

To buy the book from Amazon please go to Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today (SpringerBriefs in Astronomy) Paperback – September 24, 2018

Getting the Message Across. Science in search for life beyond Earth.

Getting the Message Across. Science in Search for Life Beyond Earth, a poster presented at the Postgraduate Anthropology Conference (May 9, 2014) Durham University, Department of Anthropology, UK. The poster introduces the science in search for life beyond earth as a case study of a dynamic scientific practice and presents reflections on this practice in global popular culture and mass media. The ‘search’ is a temporal practice that is also culturally biased and takes place in societal context. The poster presents a case study of how the visual evidence can be used and utilised in writing about science and global popular culture.

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My work got a mention in ‘Anthropology and science fiction: history of a strong bond’ article

‘Anthropology and science fiction: history of a strong bond’, article that mentioned my doctoral work, discusses the premise that science fiction is not an exercise in the imagination of the future, but it is a story of the Man of the present, of his fears, of his dreams. To read the original text of the article in Italian please go to Antropologia e fantascienza: storia di un forte legame

‘Introducing humans to the extraterrestrials’ published in Swedish

A book chapter entitled Introducing humans to the extraterrestrials was published by the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Study in the Multidisciplinary Writing Series on December 11, 2017. The book ‘Liv: Utomjordiskt, Syntetiskt, Artificiellt’ (Life: Extraterrestrial, Synthetic, Artificial) is based on the research work of A Plurality of Lives theme. The book was edited project coordinators Jessica Abbott and Erik Persson. Many thanks to Anna Cabak Redei for translating my English text into Swedish: Att presentera människan för utomjordingar.

livMy chapter gives a brief overview of representations of human life on NASA’s 1972 Pioneer Plaque and the 1977 Voyager Golden Record. These spacecrafts carry messages informing about life on Earth. What information was included? How were humans introduced? What methods were used to communicate the message? And, do those messages really speak on behalf of humans of our planet? After the overview of NASA’s two interstellar messages, the chapter examines the message designs and analyses ‘story of human life’. Using the anthropology of science approach, the chapter shows that is was science as the fundamental concept that shaped the composition of both the Pioneer and Voyager messages.