One of the best and brightest European Space Agency astronauts, Timothy Peake, 41, has been selected to be the first British astronaut to fly in space in 20 years. In November 2015, Britain will proudly wave to the sky when Timothy Peake launches aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in order to conduct space research that covers experiments in biomedicine, human physiology and the space environment. Astronauts, like Timothy Peake, are connecting the dots between the past, the present and the future of humanity and inspire generations to dream of a better, high-tech and interconnected world.
Major Timothy Peake, 41, will live and work on the space station for six months in a mission to launch in November 2015.
Can you imagine how space research can transform the future? Every day millions of people will pop into space on suborbital flights in order to go to work on Mars or enjoy their vacations to the Moon, we will have an overabundance of iron and gold by lasso-ing asteroids to exploit their resources, our space vehicles will explore the most distant Lagrange points and we will solve the mysteries of both dark matter and dark energy and everyone will be an astronaut in our intergalactic village!
Throughout the past century, space missions have inspired such awe that astronauts were hailed as heroes; nowadays, besides the most avid space fanatic, very few people support space exploration and even fewer can name one astronaut or space scientist in service. For a long time, I couldn't help but wonder what made all these people decry the importance of space research outcomes and disregard the fact that space research and exploration has contributed into the development of thousands of technologies that are used by everyone of us every single day.
At 05:17:57.3 UTC on August 6, 2012 the Mars Curiosity rover, the largest ever vehicle sent to the Red planet, successfully landed in Gale Crater after travelling for 253 days to cover a distance of 560 million kilometers (350 million miles). A few hours before the landing, I had the pleasure of presenting this $2.5 billion mission at the NASA Ames exploration center in front of thousands of space enthusiasts while waiting for the historic landing. At the end of the presentation, while many people, mostly children and teens, were overwhelmed and even in tears by the phenomenal mission, a man from the audience in his late '60s asked me if it was ethical to spend so much money on space-related ventures when there are millions of people in need on earth. At that moment, it struck me that the majority of the audience was unaware of the thousands of technological inventions and medical therapies that have been developed due to space research. Space exploration has created new markets and new technologies that have spurred our economy and changed our lives in many ways, including infrared ear thermometers, artificial limbs, ventricular assist devices, the WARP-75 used to relieve pain in bone marrow transplant patients based on the LED technologies, enriched baby food formulas, assistive satellites to combat climate change and environmental problems, water purification devices and many more. Most importantly, space exploration promoted science education, inspired generations to optimistically confront issues related to earth overpopulation, limitations in natural resources and essentially helped us to put ourselves into perspective and dare to think of alternative potential habitats away from our small and fragile earth.
Eleni Antoniadou at JPL's Martian terrain where the Mars Curiosity Rover is tested on Martian landscape.
I strongly believe that our generation will appreciate the importance of space exploration, push our boundaries of knowledge even further and take the bold steps to emphasize the necessity of bypassing the limitations of earth habitation and start space colonization. I can only hope that several decades from now, we will highlight the Curiosity Mars landing event as the spark for a scientific and technological revolution that transformed our society as we know it today; and it would start like this: "Once upon a time, the brightest scientists on earth worked together to develop the most complicated and promising mission, which inspired us to develop a series of scientific advances and leave the restrictive boundaries of earth in order to preserve the human race--it was called the Mars Curiosity mission." Follow your curiosity.
Eleni Antoniadou is shortlisted for the 2013 First Women Awards.
The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 12 June and is hosted by Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group.
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