7 Minutes of Terror on Mars

with Wanda Harding

7 Minutes of Terror on Mars

with Wanda harding

This week we speak to a NASA veteran Wanda Harding about the future of space exploration, human boots on Mars (and back on the moon, and educating people to be passionate about the universe and exploring our solar system. Will Musk beat NASA to Mars? This week on the Futurists   Follow @wandajharding

this week on the futurists if anything i think covet probably gave us permission to say stop we have got to do things differently here in america and by different it’s getting away from that industrial model of coming into class teaching by rote and more of that structured getting them ready for the typical nine to five which we now know there is no typical nine to five the types of skills that are required now believe it or not are what they consider the soft skills and that’s why i emphasize the teamwork and it’s going to have to be competent in areas that you are going to be different than what artificial intelligence can do

[Music] well welcome back you’re listening to the futurists i’m your host rob trisik with my co-host brett king king i’m

great to be back yeah enjoying a steamy summer another lovely week in the hosting chair it is it is warm here in in raleigh where i i just come back from bangkok and you know it’s funny because bangkok is really well equipped for the the whole heat stuff you know and coming back here you realize you just take for granted that infrastructure that they have there but anyway it’s still nice weather out i was over in europe and they do not have infrastructure for high heat and they’re going through another heat wave of 100 degrees fahrenheit that’s brutal when there’s four percent of um uk homes have air conditioning like that at the moment that’s brutal i remember growing up as a kid in australia in in melbourne i i remember on days where because you we didn’t have aircon back then you know this is like um mid-70s i remember sleeping on the tiles in the kitchen floor to try and get cool so um that’s what people are probably doing in the uk right now i feel for them but this is uh this is the world of climate change you know that’s right and it takes uh it takes a certain aptitude to deal with exchanging world and that’s our mission here at the futurist we’re always trying to get people to think differently maybe think a little more athletically about the future you know brad sometimes people say you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a futurist and generally that’s true but on the other hand it doesn’t hurt to be a rocket scientist if you’re trying to shape or guide to the future and this week we have somebody really special on our show a rocket scientist an actual guest this week is a bonafide rocket scientist we are really thrilled to have someone who is a former nasa senior mission manager in the flight project’s office and that’s the bridge from ground to to space now today for the last 10 years she’s actually been an educator so she’s left rocket science and has gone into education we’re going to learn a little bit more about that our guest this week is wanda harding wanda welcome to the futurists hi thank you so much it’s a pleasure to be here thank you for joining us we’re excited to have you here and we’re excited to get right into this topic you know brett is a gigantic space geek and he’s constantly talking about bringing it up and between us we’re quite impressed you know the idea that you can put a little representative huma of human consciousness on a planet that’s hundreds of millions of miles away is kind of an astonishing feat perhaps the most astonishing thing that humans have done and yet we don’t even pay attention to it most of the time but right now i think that there’s like some four different uh robots on the planet on the planet mars is that right not if you count the orbiters yeah oh there’s more well yeah you have them and if you count the landers so right yes nasa has been very busy the first rover was sojourner which was about the size of a skateboard uh we advanced back in 2003 when we sent up the twin rovers spirit and opportunity and those were kind of what you call trailblazers they were proof of concepts and so by the time you get to curiosity which is about the size of a small car you have a very robust i called it it was like a roving geologist with its own mobile laboratory just able to explore the planet and it was so cool being a part of the team that was responsible for getting it from earth to space getting it from earth to mars if we did our job right then once curiosity landed it would be able to do some fascinating things and that’s what it’s been doing for the past 10 years so well that’s what’s so astonishing is that the original mission was only planned to be about two earth years or maybe one full martian year which on its own is a pretty amazing feat but here we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of that achievement and it’s still going i read that they just extended the mission another three years is that correct that is correct i’m going to let you in on a little secret too because when you think about opportunity right it was only supposed to be about 90 days and it was almost what 14 years later yeah exactly so when it came to curiosity i mean even though that’s the mission design life that they budgeted for and that’s what they planned for um the robustness of the rover itself i’m not surprised that we’re 10 years later and sometimes i almost forget that it has been 10 years but i’m not surprised that it’s 10 years later and it’s still giving us great data back and it served as a model for perseverance and so similarly i imagine you know 10 years down the road we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary for curiosity and the 10th anniversary for perseverance that’s so that’s incredible that’s okay tell me some of those voyagers voyager spacecraft are still working and those things are as old as i am practically and they really think still going i remember as a child going to disney world shortly after the viking missions uh reported back their landing on mars i think you all probably are old enough to remember that as well but that was in the 70s and i’m looking at that mission as a child and i’m going wow that is so crazy but i never had any idea that i would be a part of the team that would send something up some years later and it would actually be moving around the moving around the planet well tell us a little bit about how that happened tell us about your journey to the to the senior mission manager yeah so as a child i wanted to be a concert pianist that was my goal i wanted to play for the yeah the new york philharmonic and i attended a math and science high school one teacher that’s all it takes had one teacher that said you know what you might make a good engineer so i believed her and ended up majoring in engineering in college didn’t put the music aside but i ended up with that path went on to hampton university for undergrad and georgia tech for master’s and after about a year in construction opportunity opened up to apply for a position with nasa and that’s where i got my start down at kennedy space center working with the international space station program and after some years as a systems engineer with that program working with the italians on the logistics modules that they were providing for the space station had an opportunity to join our launch services program which is responsible and i sometimes forget that i’m not with them anymore so forgive me if i say we sometimes but they’re responsible for sending all of the satellites to orbit and what made curiosities launch so special is that in july of 2011 when the booster the atlas 5 booster arrived at kennedy space center was also coincident with the same month of the last space shuttle launch and so as we were closing out one era we were still you know exploring and getting ready to send the most ambitious mars mission we had launched to date at that time so you know for me my team of over you know 200 engineers across the time period just responsible for the launch pieces this doesn’t even include the team at jpl actually building the rover itself but what’s required there to make sure that we provide that safe journey from earth to mars without damaging the spacecraft with the launch environment making sure unlike sojourner and uh spirit and opportunity we had the mmrtg the nuclear power source yeah curiosity too and that’s also what it’s all contributed to the longevity but saying all of that to say that was the path that we had that i had rather to the role of senior mission manager so msl the missions that i had the opportunity to work that was probably one of the most exciting ones for me i can imagine okay so you kind of worked your way up they gave you responsibility you got introduced to new responsibilities and then you made progress within the organization and as you alluded to um jpl is jet propulsion and labs out here where i live in pasadena and that’s the group that designs the actual robot craft that’s going to be rolling around on the surface of the planet and so there’s quite a lot of coordination i don’t know if people realize just how much coordination there is a few years back i saw that film with norman zeef about the launch and and how tense it was because one team after another has to hand over responsibility you know there’s the group that’s getting the rocket into space and then it’s moving over to mars and then you’re coming in and there’s landing and then there’s the will the parachutes open or whatever you know the landing process is and the balloons and so it’s so it’s so filled with tension it is very well orchestrated i mean as a matter of fact when you think about it for you know the mission concept for msl was back in 2003 and it was in 2011 when we actually launched so you may be asking well you know what were you doing during those eight years and as you are developing the mission going through the various design reviews from the launch perspective we’re also very much a part of that uh there are some constraints on size there are constraints on mass wanting to make sure when you’re designing the trajectory to minimize the number of correction maneuvers the spacecraft has to do once we separate it from the spacecraft we need to make sure that our injection point is accurate and we were excited me and a few of my team members had a chance to go out to jpl august of 2012 uh for the night that curiosity landed and i tell you it was tense but it was exciting at the same time there’s obviously a delay but when we got that signal that the touchdown had gone successfully everybody was excited but for me the best part was the picture curiosity sent back a picture of its shadow on the surface of mars right that was like from our perspective we said yes we did our part now curiosity is ready to go and do do its part that’s quite a thrilling moment almost a decade of preparation to get that right get that to get that right yes and the orchestration is very key um no no i was going to say we call that the seven minutes of terror right well even and we’ve that percent landing stage yes that part was definitely they call it the seven minutes of terror and everything had to be done just right in order for it to be successful well and it’s quite perilous like as you pointed out uh if you don’t get the insertion point just correct then the minimal atmosphere that’s around mars can act like a kind of shield that bounces the the satellite in fact i think that happened a couple of times in the past actually you know historically it’s really hard to land stuff on mars you know like the if you look at the russian missions and and even um you know the uh esa the the beagle um spacecraft that all got in because someone um did calculations based on metrics versus imperial or vice versa i can’t remember what it was and so yeah you know historically i mean nasa’s recent success with landing rovers and so forth on on mars has been quite exceptional given the history right wonder it is it has been quite exceptional and so when you think back for uh sojourner and opportunity you had i called it the bouncing bag there and so with the sky crane for msl yes we were definitely that’s why they call it seven minutes of terror because one of the well i guess i can say that now but you know we wanted to make sure that that the scent stage and the uh sky crane didn’t operate while it was sitting on the launch pad too so there are a lot of safety controls that you have to put into place there but yeah so precise landing location having that um operation in place like i said it served as a great proof of concept for perseverance and as you start ahead for what’s next for the subsequent missions to mars i guess you know we’re trying to get ourselves closer and closer to knowing enough about the planet so that when we finally send a human expedition we know what we can exploit on mars what we need to bring with us the type of technology that would be required and that’s what makes the discoveries for msl unique in the sense that from a scientific perspective you’re gathering enough information you’re verifying the big question about water on mars so curiosity is to to answer that the question on habitability could life have existed given you know the presence of sulfur given the presence of nitrogen given the presence enough carbon could it have existed curiosity is helping to answer answer that so then the next question becomes well if i send a human because right now earth is the only place in our solar system that we know of but we can go outside without a spacecraft a spacesuit on we go anywhere else you’re gonna you’re basically replicating the environment and the conveniences that you have here on on earth and so it’s just exciting just to see what might be out there in the future which is why i love being a teacher because i am interacting day to day with those people who will be making the decisions and designing the missions 20 and 30 years from now what kind of lessons do you impart to your students that are derived from your time at nasa believe it or not the most important lesson has nothing to do with the technology it has more to do with teamwork and yes i want to stress to them the importance of recognizing that different people have different skill sets so like from our team you have mechanical engineers you have aerospace engineers you have electrical engineers different disciplines coming together to solve a problem recognizing the expertise that they bring and appreciating the big picture total buy-in on the mission the message that i’m giving to my students is no different there’s teamwork each of you brings a different stream and so putting those together is what drives you towards mission success the content we can get but if you can master that teamwork piece then you’re going to be an asset to any team that you work on that’s quite that’s quite a good thing to teach students what grade like what age are the students that you teach so i’ve had the opportunity of teaching 8th through 12th grade so i’ve i have middle school experience and i have high school experience and it’s interesting as you work with each grade level just recognizing the maturity that comes along the receptiveness of the lesson um you’re you know at this stage of the game we’re trying to encourage more of a constructivist mode where we’re allowing the students to discover on their own a lot of kids are sometimes a little bit fearful i have students that have said i don’t like math and we talk about well why what makes it so challenging and as you go through and recognize how often you use it in everyday life you realize okay there’s really nothing to be afraid of um i really can’t do this so um you know we do have some emerging thinking in terms of education you know one one of the things you see when you observe the education system that we have in the us or the uk or australia where i’m from is that um you know the the model of education we have in public schools today tends to be that that we we came up with back in the industrial revolution it’s a bit of a a factory line you know you you put them the students have to sit and obey the instructions from the teacher the manager at the the class to become sort of obedient factory drones you know that was sort of the design of the system um but it’s sort of coming to you know standardized testing and all this seems like it’s coming to a natural conclusion in that we need to rethink education for the 21st century particularly for engineering and technology challenges that we have um you know elon musk created his own school at astra um you have jack marr who’s you know a big proponent of the future of education saying we’re going to have to um you know teach our children to differentiate from machines and then we have like the nordics who have done some really interesting approaches to learning they seem very successful at it but very unconventional from a classroom perspective a lot of play a lot of storytelling immersion and experiences and things like that which which is very different from the model that we have generally in the west so where do you where do you think we need to go to really engage students with um you know steam stem type stuff and make it sort of make education you know more 21st century relevant if anything i think covet probably gave us permission to say stop we have got to do things differently here in america and by different it’s getting away from that industrial model of coming into class teaching by rote and more of that structured getting them ready for the typical nine to five which we now know there is no typical nine to five and one of the you know i’ve been following some of the articles from the national science council and a couple of things that they’re they’re pointing out is the fact that the types of skills that are required now believe it or not are what they consider the soft skills and that’s why i emphasize the teamwork and it’s going to have to be competence in areas that you are going to be different than what artificial intelligence can do and so it’s that critical thinking and decision making and being able to discern that not necessarily something automated or programmed will be able to do and so how do you prepare the future to do that it’s also looking at you know solving many of the problems that the industrial revolution created and we’re having to you know find some cleanups on on that part so it’s opening the door to some new problems new opportunities for innovation but the way we prepare our students can’t be the same way it was when i was in school 30 years ago absolutely one of the things we do at the university of nebraska where i work i’m an advisor to the digital media program there and some of the professors have developed a program where they’re teaching writers how to work with gpt3 so they’re teaching um creative writers how to use the artificial intelligence not as uh you know not as a way to automate writing personally but more as a way to enhance their own skill and and this fits in with that general notion of uh of race with the machines don’t race against the machines so when you teach about collaborativity or working together uh or being a good teamwork teammate you’re not limiting that to being a good teammate with other humans it’s also you’re teaching people to have a more collaborative approach to technology i would imagine and that and that is the case uh right now when you talk about technology and secondary education most people you know link it to some digital asset whether it’s a learning platform um something that helps with the assessment but you also want to make it such that the students are using it to be creative and not necessarily just reactive or just doing an assignment but kind of making it a partner so that’s something teachers have to learn how to do and so it’s a whole when you’re talking about the shift it’s not just changing what happens in the classroom but it’s also changing the teachers so that they are prepared to make those changes in the classroom yeah i mean i think part of that’s part of it is if you’re going to change the system and make it more effective you know we have to find a way for teachers to adapt and so forth as well and that’s not necessarily how we train teachers either right one of the things that i am a proponent of is having teachers just invite today’s experts in to talk to the students so that they can hear firsthand this current technology this is where we’re headed and this is where you know your leadership is going to come into play and when they’re interacting with those experts in their classroom it starts to bring it to life because the teacher can’t do everything but they can serve as a host and a facilitator and that’s one of the things that i’ve been doing and want to do more of is expose my students not just to you know it was cool that i worked at nasa but not just to me but kind of getting them exposed to some other things that they could possibly pursue opportunities they don’t even know exist showing the possibilities yeah when you talk about inviting the experts to share their wisdom with an audience that’s exactly what we try to do here at the futurists we’re going to take a little break right now you’ve been listening to the futurists with brett king and myself robert tercek and our guest this week is wanda harding she is a rocket scientist who is now a high school teacher and we’ll be coming back after a short break and you can hear more about that radio show i’m brett king and i’m jason henricks every week since 2013 we explored the personalities startups innovators and industry players driving disruption in financial services from incumbents to unicorns and from cutting edge technology to the people using it to help create a more innovative inclusive and healthy financial future i’m jp nichols and this is breaking banks

welcome back to the futurists this week uh we’re talking to wanda harding a uh teacher who has uh previously of course worked as a mission manager for nasa senior mission manager for nasa and um you know we have a great uh history of nasa um people leaving and becoming educators even neil armstrong you know taught of course uh after he left so i that’s a great legacy that you’re carrying on uh wanda um tell me um you know you you mentioned briefly at the start it only takes one teacher but tell me about that teacher for you in terms of the teacher that made that made you understand the possibilities so the teacher that made me understand and her name is miss turner and we thought she was the hardest teacher there she taught calculus and ap computer science um as a i didn’t want to confess at the time that i was a nerd but i guess looking back over it i probably was but i just appreciated the way the numbers just kind of talked and i remember my one of my computer science projects it was actually an animation of superman flying across a knight’s skyline wow keep in mind this was pretty well yeah what what computer tech i’m getting ready to tell you now because i’m dating myself but this was on an apple ii using basic code so i’ll just leave i learned to code on a vic-20 so we’re about the same vintage there and yeah i learned to code using a card stacking machine with uh with graphite pencils so i might even be a little i might be dating myself a little bit older but uh right we’re in the same general area okay yeah so needless to say i enjoyed i enjoyed that and because the teacher was able to see how much i enjoyed working on those independent type projects she just casually mentioned one day you might want to consider engineering and so you know at the time as i looked you know i was doing my research on colleges to pursue or colleges to attend that might be of interest to me i kept that in the back of my mind and when i got to hampton one of my freshman professors was a retired ibm engineer and i just appreciated the depth and wealth of knowledge that he brought to the class just by the mere fact that he had all that experience and i said you know if i ever teach i want to be that kind of teacher i want to walk in my classroom with some experience because it allows my it allows the students to know there’s a connection between what you’re learning in the classroom and real life and so i initially wanted to do like him but on a shorter term i wanted to work three to five years and then go back and teach and it turned out i lost track of time and i ended up working 20 plus years with the fellowship program was able to find a bridge from industry into the classroom and so i went back to school got a masters in teaching so that i could understand you know the thought process the pedagogy and all the appropriate concepts for modern 20th 21st century teachings it’s really nice to hear that yes and it was very fortunate for me because i wanted to come back to my hometown and not too far from where i grew up to actually teach so the fellowship program checked both of those boxes it was available in the state of georgia and i was able to have my initial placement in athens georgia which is about an hour outside of atlanta and the subsequent year i was able to get hired on at atlanta public schools which is the district where i grew up and received my public education so it’s just a thrill to be able to come back home and you know kind of give my message to the children the students the scholars that you know dream big and you know i try to be an advocate a cheerleader and do what i can to provide that exposure so that they don’t shy away from opportunities and think that it’s probably not for them excellent i’m starting to see that one of the themes of your career and as you pursued building the future in your own way one of those themes is that you’re a bridge builder you’re a person who makes connections um you know when you were when you were managing um projects at the uh at flight projects office the launch services there that’s the bridge from earth to space and in your career after that you were building a bridge from the space and science industry to high schools into middle schools and you’ve done another way another kind of bridging i think i want to talk a little bit about your book where you’re building another kind of bridge and one of the things we’ve noticed is that sometimes when astronauts return to earth after they’ve spent time either in orbit or on the space station is that they come back with a profoundly different spiritual perspective than they had before they left in other words the experience of being in space actually transformed their sense of self yes

is that what they call it the overview effect yeah apparently if you if you get far away enough from this planet you start to notice that it’s a little glowing blue marble in this vast emptiness and it starts to seem a little bit more special in some profound ways tell us a little bit about your book and tell us a little bit about your faith and so the book is entitled when i consider god’s amazing universe the title is a play on psalm 82 where david is talking about considering you know the the moon and the stars and as you mentioned you know the astronauts have the privilege of actually you know leaving our surface and looking back and going wait this is incredible and what i wanted my readers to understand as a woman of faith is you know fortunately we have some great images from hubble really excited about what we’re going to get from james webb but the book is a biblical journey through space i’ve taken a few verses from the old testament that just talk about different aspects of space and how it attributes the orderliness of everything and that there has to be some intention behind it we all want to know where do we come from why are we here you know what’s the point and you think about how vast and large the universe is and then you scale in and go okay there’s our milky way galaxy and then you zoom in some more and there’s our solar system you zoom in some more and there’s earth you zoom in some more and there’s your house and it gets smaller and smaller and smaller each time but it doesn’t take away from the significance of each human life and so the book in my perspective is just kind of taking yes look at everything that’s there what’s been created when you look up in the night sky and beyond but don’t take away from the fact of how special you are as an individual and as a woman of faith it’s how special you are to our creator and so that’s the takeaway from the book it’s written for small children intentionally um it’s simple but it’s also the type of book as the adult shares and reads with the child they’re also getting a bit of faith assurance and what i want you know also to help people see is that science and your belief or science and your faith are not enemies science and your belief are not mutually exclusive if you look at science as you know how we describe and predict the process of nature so that we can exploit it to our benefit well where did nature come from it didn’t just pop up and how do we know that it’s so beneficial to us you walk outside and there are herbs you walk outside there’s air to breathe and you know we’re able to create rockets to take us to space we are able to create telescopes that allow us to explore and you know it all just seems it’s not coincidental and that’s where you know on a very deep level but from a simplistic perspective that’s what the book is intended to do so you’re really trying to build a bridge there and i think um yeah there’s two groups you’re trying to reach you know and one on one hand there are lots of people who are very focused on science many of them are listeners to this show um and those folks tend to be a little skeptical uh about religion particularly traditional religions on the other hand there’s also a group that is faith-based that has become conditioned to being very skeptical about science and unfortunately we live in a very polarized time so those divisions have gotten deeper and deeper in recent years so tell us a little bit about your effort to bridge the gap between those two groups because i think this is quite an interesting topic for us it is and you know beyond the opportunity i’ve mostly spoken to faith-based groups so it’s been a little one-sided on that scenario i’ve not had as much opportunity to speak to a group that may be more skeptical on the religious side and that part is something i’m looking forward to i would love to have those discussions and you know i’ve often heard somebody you know not often but i have heard it say you know well one of us is going to be right and you’re not quite sure either there is a creator or there isn’t and so some will say well which risk do you want to take because if there isn’t a creator okay well i’ve still lived a pretty good life but if there is a creator you’re in trouble and trouble by you’ve missed out on so much that could have been a blessing or a part of of your life and so when you come to science and faith and where they kind of bump heads what a lot of people i think mistake is that faith is not intended to constrain your life it is intended to enhance and provide purpose for your life and if you rely on science to give you permission to just you know to live the life that’s fine but you still don’t need to necessarily deny the fact that you can’t tell me when you look at a pine cone that that was just some random design pascal’s wager that’s what we call it now there you go i mean and i’m you know teaching my students that we use mathematics to describe the patterns with the patterns we see in nature and it’s no coincidence that sequence all of this we see yeah yeah there so it’s no coincidence that it’s that it’s there and it’s repeatable and observable and it just has a language of its own that’s been around for so long and we’re able to study it but you know the more you study you’re able to make connections again so so we we have like one of nasa’s greatest gifts to us has been opening our eyes to the universe helping us understand things that we we couldn’t you know but prior to um you know the early luna luna landers on mars you know we had uh people looking up at the skies imagining that the martian canals were places where near these huge populations lived and so forth and we get there and the first images that come back from mars show this crater cratered landscape and so forth but yeah we are getting we have made some phenomenal disgust discoveries i think it was curiosity that first photographed um water water on on the surface of mars right when it dug a trench and we saw some ice crystals and they evaporated later that was curiosity right that was curiosity and there was also a lander that we have near the polar region right inside no it wasn’t inside it was another one right yeah i remember i remember yeah hold on i can tell you in just a minute but go ahead and then i’ll interrupt you without the mission no so i was going to ask you this question is that you know we need it phoenix the phoenix lander of course thank you um uh so you know i mean these discoveries of course um you know support the the early wet mars theory and and what you were talking about at the the opening of the show but um you know we have james webb which you’ve already mentioned and and exoplanets you know when you started at nasa you know well i don’t know it depends on the timing but like you know when i was at high school the accepted wisdom was that the earth solar system was fairly rare and now we find that every star has a planetary system so that’s something that we’ve learned in my lifetime but you know we are now we can do atmospheric analysis uh you know of uh exoplanets even now i was reading in scientific american um the last month’s issue that we’re proposing there are exo moons and we’re trying to figure out ways to measure those um but so we’ve got that and and james webb may very well um you know say they’ve discovered um you know planetary life you know by measuring exoplanet atmospheres um we’ve got the europa clipper which is a mission um you know that maybe might launch in 2024 we’ve got the psych 16 mission going next month you know all this continuing exploration but um whether it’s those missions or whether it’s when we get boots on mars and maybe we discover some um you know a bacterial life or fossils or something like that or we we find evidence of of you know a second genesis outside of the earth how do you think that will change our view of like faith because some people but the bible doesn’t explicitly exclude that possibility but of course you know the the sphere or the domain of of the bible tends to be you know the earth and god’s relationship with humans on on the earth um so how do you think that will change our perception of the universe so i think it will i don’t think it will diminish faith and the reason i say that is because it still leaves room for a creator we’re focused on what’s here on earth we define life as we know it here and to find you know existence you talk about the birth of stars and so we’ve ascribed life almost already to other aspects of the of the universe and we have no idea what those discoveries will tell us i tell you one thing it will do is it will drive us to find out more to try to understand and then if it’s any indicator of you know either our more definition or clarity on our past or an indicator on future it’s it’s wide open and what again when i talk about the bridge and the faith that i have i still ascribe to the fact that it is discovering what already exists and from a faith-based perspective what exists was created by by god and i am a firm believer that if we do discover something else it was because he wanted us to find it well science is all about unfolding the knowledge of the universe right so you know and so you know we we’ve gone from thinking that the earth was the center and everything else revolved around it to the sun being the center of our solar system but you didn’t have to change any of the wording in the bible right yeah yeah and so you know hubble has opened up the doors to you know what’s beyond our solar system with some clarity that we can kind of see what’s out there and some of those bright stars are we recognize now are galaxies they’re not just singular stars but it doesn’t change anything that’s being that’s been written so you know as we explore get boots on mars and you know understand well could mars have had some sort of pass send a human up there let’s see if there’s you know additional expeditions we can find but it’s again i get back to preparing that next generation that’s why i love being in the classroom because we’re having this discussion now but 20 30 years from now they will be the ones making those discoveries make decisions about what do we do with that information why is it important what problems you know will be able to solve because we know this additional information you know what new industries can we create because we now know this information that the possibilities are endless again nasa’s been a pioneer in in that respect as well creating all sorts of technologies that’s that’s been useful um do you follow the um the starship test program that spacex is uh doing you know because there’s a possibility um that you know spacex could be actually instead of a instead of nasa or in cooperation with nasa at least could be the first uh to put boots on the ground on mars and now how does that feel as someone who came up through that culture at nasa where when nasa had driven all of this space exploration for so long to now sort of think that maybe you know we’ve got a you know a billionaire and his his corporation going to be the first on the mars and so what’s interesting during the latter part of my career with nasa commercial space was very big and especially from our launch services perspective as well between did you cross over with jim bridenstine uh let’s see uh charlie bolden was the last charlie yeah because uh because both of them both charlie well you know the obama administration and charlie pioneered that of course but um you know jim was sorry i’m getting into the nasa public no no you’re fine you’re fine but i mean it was you know it didn’t just start with him it was something in the works i mean even when we you know as i mentioned um 2011 with the last shuttle launch i mean there was discussion of commercial space even before we concluded the space shuttle program so the thought has been here all along and you know when uh spacex provided launch services that we could also use to launch our satellites and then they were able to provide you know launch services to get the crews to the international space station which gave us an option other than using the russian vehicles to get to the international space station so it’s an intentional progression if you will to get that partnership and then to get private industry interested and so musk has taken that and run with it so it’ll be interesting to see who puts the boots on the ground first and also must learn to program on a commodore vic-20 i’ll just point that out that’s what we have in common and now we’re starting to see other countries get into it as well japan china even india you know the other nations are starting to at least try to make uh reach reach the moon uh so yeah it’s a lively time competition’s good because competition makes you you know up your game a little bit absolutely and the international partnership again is it is intentional when you think about the international space station so it you know it’s purposeful that the united states yes lead but not by itself not a solo act did you work with people at star city on the iss i did not i focused mostly on the multi-purpose logistics module which was developed by the italian space agency right and um had the opportunity we were at kennedy space center the did you have to learn to talk with your hands when you were negotiating yes but i was glad that they were also able to speak english my italian was very limited so ah that’s funny but no it was great um and appreciating the fact that you know the world seems smaller when you have an opportunity to work with somebody on a common project like that so it was really great so this stage of the program as we wrap it up i want to get a bit out there and you you can have an education piece on this that lands on it or on space program but you know um let’s let’s jump out 30 or 40 or 50 years into the future um what developments either technologically or from a you know space exploration perspective do you think might be the most exciting that might be the most um significant from a human development perspective what what excites you about the future you know i grew up watching the jetsons and as far-fetched as that was i mean from my perspective i think it would be exciting if our future provided an opportunity for first of all anyone that wanted to pursue any particular dream regardless of the feel that they would have the education and background to be able to do so i’m i’m looking forward to space travel as luxury so i would love to an affordable flight to be able to just take a quick swing around the moon i think me too that would be nice maybe we can get together yeah you know stargazing trip as you ride out to the moon um you know as far as medical technology i would you know it’s it’s interesting when you look back at those 1960s 70s images of what the future would be like between star wars and jetsons and thinking you know why not i mean yeah we just did a show on the jetsons like two weeks ago in terms of what they predicted so it’s funny you mentioned that but and so you know why not that would be you know that would be nice and you know when it comes to senior care and elderly being able to you know allow them to and i say them i’ll shoot if i’m living during that time i’ll be one of them but being able to live comfortably and have a higher quality of life you know independent of the fact that i’m you know 80 or 90 years old still able to just you know have that luxury of being able to enjoy and the conveniences that are available so some of the probabilities are endless maybe let me ask you this question to finish up you know if if you were speaking to a young you a young african-american woman growing up in um you know the united states with all this division and so forth that we have um but all of these possibilities what would you say to them how would you inspire them don’t let it hold you back someone asked recently you know what was it like being you know one of the few black women and you know in the case of the mission director center on the day of launch and there there were three rows of managers they’re part of the launch countdown and you know being the only black woman going by person in the room it’s you know what did you think about it and i told them i didn’t think about it until after the fact when somebody pointed it out and to me that’s important because the focus is really being a part of the team being able to contribute and you know yes it’s significant you want to see more people that look like you and so the young you know to the young me i would say don’t let that slow you down go ahead pursue your dream do the work yeah well wanda harding thank you for joining us this week on the futurist it’s been a really interesting conversation we’ve covered a lot of ground but um you’re an inspiration and um you know we love the mission you’re on and let us know how we can help well i appreciate it and i want to encourage your listeners um stay tuned for the book announcement you can follow my twitter wanda j harding and also check out my website wandaharding.com and again i thank you for this wonderful opportunity to hang out with you robert and brett this has been fantastic thanks it’s been a pleasure meeting you and you’re an inspiration for both of us we’ve enjoyed every every moment of this and again remind us the name of your book is when i consider god’s amazing universe and it sold out the first printing so you’re actually congratulations you’re going into a second printing when will that be available so that will be available later this fall and so that’s why i say stay tuned we’ll be making big announcements in the september time frame and um announcing pre-sales and then once the book is released we hope that it inspires and encourages all of the readers and those that would care to take it in fabulous wanda harding engineer author musician steam advocate educator and rocket scientist thank you very much for joining us on the futurist this week it’s been a great pleasure to have you here if you if you like this episode don’t forget to give us a shout out on social media you know give us a five star rating on wherever it is that you listen to the show download it tell your friends about it anything helps get the get the traffic up there but um you know of course you join us next week we’ll be talking to more futurists our thanks to kevin hirschham elizabeth severance uh silvie and carlo who look after our social media um and you know the whole team at provoke media that help us put this show together um but we’ll be back next week with another exciting guest talking about the future and until then we’ll see you in the future [Music] well that’s it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share it with people in your community and don’t forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people find the show and you can ping us anytime on instagram and twitter at futurist podcast for the folks that you’d like to see on the show or the questions you’d like us to ask thanks for joining and as always we’ll see you in the future [Music]

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