Dr. Michaela Musilova, astrobiologist, analog astronaut, author and speaker, shares her experience as a woman at the forefront of space exploration and her quest for scientific and personal excellence To do.
When we talk about space adventures, our minds are likely to wander to famous astronauts. But it’s easy to forget that there’s more to space exploration than “just” a space shuttle and a crew of people in special spacesuits bouncing around in zero gravity.
In fact, space research and exploration is becoming increasingly important to life on Earth. Naturally, they rely on the world’s brightest minds in various fields, and their research not only pushes the frontiers of our knowledge, but ultimately solves some of the most serious challenges on earth. help overcome some of the
Their ranks include Dr. Mikaela Mussilova, an astrobiologist who studies the limits of life on Earth and, perhaps more importantly, looks for life in space.
Today is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. It is an international annual celebration of women, pioneers and trailblazers. We reached out to Dr. Mussilova to talk about not just women making history, but women making history. Let’s see what we can achieve with the help and talent of (female) scientists.
In addition, she has worked with NASA, ESA, and international astronomical observatories such as the University of London and telescopes in Canada, France, and Hawaii.
Mikaela was Director of HI-SEAS and commander of over 30 simulated missions to the Moon and Mars, working with NASA, ESA, and many international agencies.
She is currently Visiting Professor at the Slovak University of Technology, Global Faculty at the International Space University, and Head of Research at NEEDRONIX, a space technology company.
She has also been named one of the ESET Heroes of Progress in 2022.
Can you briefly describe your life story and what you do?
I’m an astrobiologist. In other words, we are looking for extraterrestrial life, but trying to understand the limits and origins of life on Earth. I’m also a so-called analog astronaut, having commanded over 30 simulated space missions. In addition to that, I love teaching, writing, doing outreach and educational projects, and currently lead my own Astro Seven Summit project. The goal of this project is for my team and I to climb the highest mountains on each continent while conducting research, teaching and outreach.
In a nutshell, I have studied at various universities around the world, such as Caltech (USA), Chiba University (Japan), UCL (UK), with numerous scholarships. I first worked for his NASA when he was 21, and since then he has worked with NASA on multiple projects. My research has led me to expeditions in various extreme environments around the world, including the Arctic, deserts, high mountains and volcanoes. We have worked on many space-related projects in cooperation with space agencies and agencies around the world.
I am from Slovakia so it was important for me to return to Slovakia and help move the space sector forward. This is when we launched the first Slovak satellite, skCUBE, and started a space engineering degree program at the University FEI STU in Bratislava (where I am visiting). Prof.) and we helped Slovakia move forward to become an associate member of the European Space Agency. Currently in Hawaii, he serves as Director of the HI-SEAS Space Research Station, and after conducting more than 30 of his simulated space missions to the Moon and Mars, he is primarily dedicated to the above activities.
For those who want to know more, I recently co-authored a book about my life, Žena z Marsu (Woman from Mars).
What inspired you to become an astrobiologist, and what steps have you taken to get there?
When I was eight years old, I first fell in love with space and began to wonder if there might be aliens there. It quickly developed into a hobby, combining different passions: space, writing, drawing, and fashion design. I wrote novels about aliens, drew pictures, designed clothes, and shared my stories with my elementary school classmates. I later got to meet the first (and so far only) Slovak cosmonaut, Ivan Bela. He made me realize how cool an astronaut job is and being able to search for aliens while doing missions in space would be perfect for me!
But by the time I turned 15, I realized it was almost impossible for me, a Slovak girl, to become an astronaut. At the moment, the Slovak can only become an astronaut if our country heavily funds her ESA, which she will be effective only after the end of 2022. Prior to that, there was absolutely no chance that the Slovak would become an astronaut for her ESA (still very slim). I wasn’t sure if I should embark on this near-impossible journey, but I decided to do it anyway.
When I was in high school and college, I started to save money by doing a lot of part-time jobs. I also studied hard to get the best possible grades, which led to more scholarships to fully self-fund all my studies. Even charity helped me. Since then, I have supported charities wherever I can. It was not an easy road because I was homeless and subjected to all kinds of difficult situations (discrimination, harassment, people in high positions trying to intimidate me, etc.). Nevertheless, I continued to do my best and every success motivated me to continue chasing my dreams.
What is the most exciting aspect of your job? On the other hand, what can you live without?
The most exciting part of my job is being able to go on expeditions to various extreme and remote environments around the world, as well as to other simulated planets, during analog Moon and Mars missions. I love my research project and joke that it’s kind of a great ‘office with a view’ 😉.
I love doing outreach and I think it’s a very important part of my job. I think people should understand. But I wish there was a way to do outreach and educational work without social media. Today, social media platforms determine what you post, how you post it, when you post it, and more. Algorithms tend to favor certain types of posts and influencers, so organizations that just want to share educational content, for example, tend to be marginalized, especially if they can’t afford to pay for marketing help.
What are you most passionate about outside of work, and what keeps you motivated on this journey?
My biggest non-work related passion is dancing. I have been dancing with her since she was 3 years old and enjoy it very much. It brings me a lot of joy and it’s also a great exercise. I currently dance West Coast Swing with my partner, but hope to return to lyrical street dance in the near future.
Did you have a role model growing up? And do you think young people these days are sufficiently encouraged and motivated to pursue science?
No, I didn’t have a role model. For example, I admired astronauts, but I rarely empathized with them because of my background and environment. Instead, I drew inspiration from people I know or have met. rice field.
I hope that these days, various outreach activities are bringing scientists and science closer together. Previously, science subjects were presented as masculine and thought to be of interest only to certain types of people. Women and people of various minorities were often subconsciously and sometimes consciously discouraged from participating in her STEM subjects. The more women and minorities are educated in science and able to share their stories, the more women and minorities will be inspired to pursue these types of careers. Also, demonstrating the fun and creativity of her STEM subjects through outreach and teaching activities helps motivate young people to pursue these fields. Still needs a lot of progress, but at least she’s a little better than when she started her career 15 years ago.
How does it feel to be a role model for girls in Slovakia and elsewhere who want to pursue science? If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
I am very honored that some people see me as a role model. It’s a huge responsibility and I want to justify it. I’m trying to make it easier for people to understand. I also try to share useful information for others. As a piece of advice, if I can say one thing, it is to trust your intuition and intuition. If they say something is wrong, listen to them and vice versa. My intuition has never let me down and has literally saved my life several times. So, if you have a strong desire to pursue a particular passion, or have a bad hunch about a particular job or person, listen to that voice in your head. It can be a lifesaver, or it can help you pursue something that brings happiness into your life.
What’s the next step in your career?
My main focus right now is the ASTRO Seven Summit project. My team and I climbed Kilimanjaro last year and are preparing to climb the next mountain, Aconcagua. The first expedition went very well. I look forward to my next expedition. We plan to conduct education and outreach activities. We are currently looking for project sponsors and partners. If all goes well, I will climb Everest in 2025 and I may be the first Slovak woman to climb Everest and the first Slovak woman to conquer the highest peaks of her 7 continents. yeah.
He also continues to do space-related research, teaching and presenting around the world, and writing short stories and novels. I haven’t given up on my dream of doing research in space. I hope my Astro Seven Summit project will actually help my astronauts in the future. Even so, even if things don’t go well and I can’t become an astronaut myself, I hope that my work will help someone achieve this goal.
If you could say one thing to women and girls, what would it be this International Women’s Day?
Continue to pursue your passion and stand up for what you believe in. Of course, it’s not always easy, and sometimes it takes time and the right circumstances. However, I think it is important not to forget your dreams and happiness even if you have a disability. There are still many issues of gender inequality in the world, such as unfair pay gaps, discrimination and sexual harassment. Unfortunately, these conditions will not improve unless people of all genders work together to stop these injustices from happening and set fair standards in both their work and personal lives. I hope it continues to change, so I’m doing my best to play my part.
Thank you for your time.
Happy Women’s History Month!