Wednesday, 31 December 2014


WANDERLUST: (N) 'A strong desire or lust or urge to wander or travel and explore the world.'

 From living in Munich and working at the European Southern Observatory, to spending the summer and autumn months in Canada - 2014 has been filled with incredible memories for life. 

In particular, the 13541 kilometre road trip that I took is one that I will always remember. Driving from Montreal on the east coast of Canada, across to Vancouver and down through the US and east until Toronto - I saw and tried countless new things. One line that I think fits this incredible journey best is from one of my favourite books, Stephen Chbosky's  'The Perks of Being A Wallflower'. Driving through a tunnel full of lights, the wallflower said, "And in that moment, I swear we were infinite". 

Below is a (large) selection of what I saw along the way :) 

2014 was incredible. I'm looking forward to the adventures that 2015 holds :)

- Nikita

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Space Generation Advisory Council

You may have seen my blog post on the Space Generation Congress (SGC) back in October in Toronto this year. Organised by the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), it's the place to be if you're a student or young professional interested in the key issues in space of this generation. 

I am happy to say that I have recently been selected as one of the organisation's Copy Editors. Joined by 5 other peers, we will work alongside the existing Copy Editors to shape the documents and papers presented around the world on behalf of space professionals and students. 

Comprised of volunteer students and young professionals in the space industry from over 100 countries across the globe, SGAC is the voice of the space generation of today - the space sector leaders of tomorrow. The network connects us to leaders in the United Nations (UN), space agencies and academia. Working in conjunction with the United Nations Committee  on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPOUS), SGAC has the power to communicate ideas across disciplines, generations and oceans. 

I'm very happy to join the SGAC team and help to shape the innovative work that is being done here.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I Love to Sail Forbidden Seas

This famous quote by Herman Melville in Moby Dick is featured in this recently released short film named 'Wanderers'. Narrated by the legend that is Carl Sagan, the magical film by Erik Wernquist is a window into the future of humanity as we evolve into the space-faring species we are destined to one day become. It is inspiring, stunning and most of all makes me think I was born a century too early!


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunday Snippet

I've decided to start posting little Sunday snippets of inspiration every now and then. Sunday to me, is reflective of the week ahead. If you have a productive and positive Sunday, you're all set for the week. I think that working in any industry, not only in the field of space and science, requires constant self-improvement and self-awareness  something that I think is made easier by thought-provoking quotes such as the one above. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is how I find that I grow as a person and I enjoy reading the occasional inspiring quote or two to remind myself of my goals and ambitions both professionally and personally.

This quote in particular really does apply to space too, especially with the bittersweet last few weeks we have had. The challenges and achievements of the Rosetta Mission, the unfortunate Virgin Galactic test flight and the Antares rocket failure demonstrates our need as humans to attempt what we have not attempted before. Making changes and triggering innovation really does take  big, courageous leaps of faith in order to reach what lies beyond our shores.

- Nikita

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Catching a Comet - Rosetta Mission Landing Success!

Today, history has been made as the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta Mission becomes the first spacecraft to land on the surface of a comet. After separating from its comet-chasing companion, Rosetta, lander Philae touched down on the mysterious surface after a nail-biting 7 hour descent. Philae has boldy gone where no human-built spacecraft has ever gone before. 

Dotted with large cliffs, boulders and jets of gas and dust, landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was no easy feat and was the most critical milestone in the decade long mission. Now that Philae is safely on the surface, it will use its instruments to conduct science and provide experts on Earth with clues into not only the comet's history and origins but also our own. Humanity may well have begun with the help of comet seeding - the notion that a comet carrying water through the solar system collided into our planet, triggering life. We may soon be able to know the answer to this and many other secrets hidden in the treasure chest of knowledge that is comet 67P.

The possibilities are endless, and this mission marks the first of hopefully many momentous missions that really challenge us as a species and encourage us to work together as one to unlock the many mysteries of our Universe and protect our precious planet whilst we do so. Today I feel proud to not only be a part of this space-faring generation and a European, but most importantly to be human.

Now, that is one small step for Philae and one giant leap for mankind :)


Thursday, 6 November 2014

Köln - The Human Side of Space at DLR & ESA

 I recently visited the beautiful German city of Köln (or Cologne). Sitting on both sides of the River Rhine, Köln has always been on my list of favourite cities in the world. Its unique skyline is a blend of quaint, historical architecture and modern, high-rise buildings  making it a European city definitely worth visiting. 

As well as being a cool city, Köln is also home to the headquarters of the German Space Agency or Deutsches zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) and the European Space Agency's (ESA) European Astronaut Centre (EAC) -  making it that much cooler if you ask me :)

During my time in Cologne, I visited both DLR HQ and the EAC ESA centre. The last time I came here was during the ESA Space Medicine Workshop in 2011 when I was still a Biology student at the University of Birmingham. It was great to return over 3 years later now that I work in the space industry and to see it with new, more knowledgeable eyes. 

I paid a visit to the StABLE Study at DLR in particular. The study aims to investigate the impact of a changing rotational axis upon brain perfusion and fluid shift to the lower extremities. In essence, it is trying to figure out the extent to which the Short-Arm Human Centrifuge (SAHC) can be used as a potential countermeasure to the negative impacts of space on the human body. 

Ranging from muscle and bone loss to fluid shift, the SAHC is proposed as an ideal countermeasure to these space side-effects thanks to its short radius. Yet, the extent to which it may be so is still unknown. I watched subjects being spun for science at DLR  work that will better enable scientists to understand the effects of this centrifuge on the human body, especially when the central point of rotation is altered.

Next up on my space agency tour of Köln was the EAC. Home to all things astronaut — the ESA centre is in fact led by ESA astronaut Frank de Winne. As a powerhouse of human spaceflight, the EAC is where astronauts are selected, trained and provided with medical care & support for themselves as well as their families both before and during their time in space.

The Neutral Buoyancy Facility at the EAC is used to simulate weightlessness during astronaut training. It is a great way for astronauts to practice spacewalking and although you can still feel the pull of gravity whilst underwater, it is the closest you can get to microgravity on Earth.

 I also pretended to be Commander of the Soyuz spacecraft - the vehicle that carries astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Developed for the Soviet Space Program in the 1960s, it is still in use today!

My friend Antonio Fortunato works in the position of EUROCOM - or European Spacecraft Communicator. Here, he relays information to the International Space Station from the Columbus Flight Control Team in Munich. When I was there, the station was threatened by a piece of debris - a problem that is unfortunately ever increasing. Teams on Earth worked hard to ensure that the space station successfully dodged the debris - using the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to conduct a debris avoidance maneuver - boosting the station to a higher orbit. Science: 1, Real-life Gravity movie: 0 

Another example of the work conducted by people on Earth for life in space is demonstrated by my friend Romain Charles (pictured above). He spent 520 days in crew isolation from 2010-2011 as part of the first simulation of a manned mission to Mars and back. Named Mars 500 - the psychological experiment kept the crew of 6 locked in their spacecraft as they simulated a return trip to the Red Planet. An incredible achievement!

As a key player in European space activities, Germany definitely is the place to be to learn more about human spaceflight. My trip to DLR and the EAC was a unique insight into the process, people and research involved with putting a human in orbit around Earth. The human side of space is very much present in Germany and I believe that such work is not only important, but vital to advancing as a species together - here on Earth and beyond.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...