Exploring beyond our planet will require technology for extreme environments, which can also help advance complex projects to be sustainable here on Earth in an era of extreme change. It will be about thriving, engaging in, and leading risky business ventures that no one in the world has done yet; revolutionary firsts like MDA’s Next Generation Canadarm for on-orbit satellite servicing, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Phoenix program for sustainable satellite re-purposing, or Planetary Resources vision to mine an asteroid.

MarsIn the next era of space exploration, we will be leading a movement and doing so by teaching Gen Y, especially the women of Gen Y, that adventure and exploration are part of human nature; recognizing the positive impacts that technology can have on society as result of exploration. How we can revolutionize the way we live and work using innovation. Spreading an idea in an instant as if it were contagious, thereby engaging the next generation to propel progress.

The next generation of space explorers, travelling on what is possibly a one-way ticket to Mars, understand the true meaning of courage. Many Martian missions plan for crew members to construct and live in a habitat on the surface of the planet. But what if instead crew members lived in the pathway of lava tubes or caves under the surface of the planet? This would protect them from volatile dust storms or radiation, like Solar Proton Events or Galactic Cosmic Radiation. Leaving our home planet behind will force explorers to draw courage in the moments when the mission becomes bigger than her or himself, a part of the universal.

The first missions to the moon embodied the Foundations of Mission Control, created by NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz. These were foundations of teamwork, competence, toughness, discipline, responsibility, and confidence.  Believing in one-self, mastering both hesitation and self-doubt to lead and succeed.  Following a roadmap for living a life full of peak moments; constantly challenged and always learning. Working side by side to change the face of space and foster the international relationships that will make future space exploration successful. Exploring beyond our world cannot be an endeavour undertaken by one country alone. It is going to be multi-national and therefore we must cultivate a global sense of adventure.

Most importantly, our quest for knowledge will depend on past experiences and the lessons from past generations of adventurers to feed forward into future growth. We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future. Identifying our goals and the resources we need to achieve them, recognizing opportunities when presented to us, and seizing them. Seeing beyond anything the incredible value that insight, creativity, and perspective can bring, because perspective fosters objectivity, which ultimately gives way to progress. This next generation of explorers thrives on the moment that you step outside of the known and the bounds of your comfort zone and into the world of creativity, discovery, and innovation. These will be the stories of the next generation of space explorers.

So as time passes here on Mars, the sky transforms into a brilliant ruby red backdrop, caressing the horizon like velvet and hanging delicately over the rocky outcrops. There is something about being here on this planet, the first humans to explore this world, which emphasizes the intricate balance between human progress and an entire universe waiting for discovery.


Sunset on Mars_Image provided by Natalie Panek

About This Guest Contributor:

WYSK would like to thank Rocket Scientist and STEM rock star Natalie Panek for sharing this piece on The Next Generation of (Space) Explorers with us. It is a reprint of the talk she gave just this past weekend, on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at the Walrus Foundation’s Walrus Talks: Experimentation at the Beakerhead Festival, Calgary’s first city-wide spectacle of arts and engineering.

natalie_panekAt just 28 years old, Natalie is a robotic operator and aerospace engineer at MDA Space Missions in Canada. Among countless other achievements, this accomplished Woman You Should Know drove a solar-powered car across North America, co-authored papers on flames burning in microgravity and repairing broken satellites in space, has a pilot’s license, and skydived with Korea’s first Astronaut (a woman). She’s also a spirited advocate for encouraging women to take risks and dive head-on into challenging careers.

To that end, Natalie regularly speaks at events on leadership, women in technology, and space exploration. In addition, she founded The Panek Room, a digital destination of resources that promises “Revolution.Inspiration.Adventure.” from science, engineering, and technology.

To learn more about Natalie, our latest brain crush, be sure to check out her WYSK profile.

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