Those Space People

A podcast series of casual cosmic conversations with people working on all things space.

Episode 11 – Life as a space engineer at NASA JPL

Heather Ann Bottom is a systems engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has a background in astrophysics and space engineering. She is currently based in Hawaii. Most recently, Heather has been a part of the Perseverance rover team of the Mars 2020 mission.

Unlike most space folk, Heather was once a professional dance performer and had dreams of being on Broadway before she caught the space bug. She draws interesting parallels between space missions and the performing arts. Having worked on the launch and cruise phases of the super cool Perseverance rover, she shares insights on the finer aspects of the Mars 2020 and other NASA missions. Having formerly worked with SpaceX, she talks about the differences in working on space missions at a research lab compared to an agile private company like SpaceX.

Given its location in Los Angeles, JPL apparently attracts talent from Hollywood! No wonder they have such amazing visuals for all missions and excellent outreach programs.

Episode 10 – Exploring space archeology with Dr Space Junk

Alice Gorman, popularly known as Dr. Space Junk, is a space archeologist. She examines defunct satellites, rocket parts and such abandoned human-made objects in space and researches their preservation as cultural heritage. She is currently based in Adelaide, Australia.

Being an archeologist, it is quite interesting how Alice got interested in space and eventually pioneered Space Archeology. Just by examining discarded cable ties, she could unearth important details about a long forgotten space mission that had never been documented.

Did you know that current day satellite communication could have taken a very different path had the little known Project Westford not been discontinued? Alice shares insights on how to get the common person to take ownership of the Moon and contribute towards humanity making sustainable decisions during space exploration and space resource utilisation. 

Episode 9 – Astronomer’s perspective on space debris, sci-fi, and the drake equation

Jonathan Mcdowell is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian center of astrophysics. He studies black holes, quasars and X-ray sources in galaxies and also happens to be one of the few astronomers who takes an active interest in tracking satellites and recording rocket launches.

Jonathan takes us through his work at the Smithsonian and talks about different kinds of astronomers and their research. He apparently feels like Forrest Gump (but I say way smarter!) having witnessed so many incredible breakthroughs made in astronomy during the last three decades. He is an avid reader of space sci-fi and loves to show everyone the incredible night sky through a telescope. Jonathan has an interesting take on solving the space traffic management problem and shares his perspectives on the drake equation.

Episode 8 – Building AI-powered remote sensing solutions gets accelerated with domain expertise

Juan Peña Ibáñez is the CEO of Orbital EOS, a Spanish company that develops maritime solutions using Satellite Data & Artificial Intelligence. Juan has a background in Oceanography and Remote Sensing. He is currently based in Valencia, Spain.

Juan explains how his decade-long experience with the Spanish Coast Guard is helping him build an AI-powered satellite remote sensing platform for maritime applications. He talks about the immense scope for innovation in this domain especially given the many upcoming satellites and satellite constellations. A remote sensing degree paired with AI knowledge is the ideal combination to accelerate in this space!  

Episode 7 – How space architects design human habitats for Moon and beyond

Barbara Imhof is the co-founder of Liquifer, a newspace company in Vienna, Austria. Liquifer works with space agencies across the world on space habitation and exploration technologies and similar advanced research areas. Liquifer’s team is trans-disciplinary and Barbara is a space architect among other things.

Barbara talks about space architecture and gives an architect’s perspective on designing human habitats in space. Sharing the belief of Buckminster Fuller that humans are all astronauts aboard the spaceship called Earth, she applies the design principles of space habitats to model terrestrial ones under extreme conditions such as in Antarctica. Acquire an interdisciplinary skill set to navigate this fascinating realm of building whole worlds in space!

Episode 6 – On-orbit servicing will be the next giant leap

Carolyn Belle is the Director of Advanced Systems at Astroscale US. Astroscale is a newspace company dedicated to on-orbit servicing. She is currently based in Denver, Colorado.

Carolyn talks about the complexity of the space debris problem and how different stakeholders in the space ecosystem need to come together to make space sustainable. She believes that on-orbit servicing is going to be the next big step for the space industry and the jobs created subsequently would thrill space sci-fi aficionados!

Episode 5 – Making a career in the space industry with non-tech background

Juliane Haupt is the head of business partnerships at Astrofein, a space company based in Berlin that develops satellite components and subsystems. She has a background in psychology and mobility.

Juliane shares her unique experience of navigating the space scene with a background in Psychology. She elaborates on how individuals from diverse backgrounds are required for the space industry and how they can carve a niche for themselves even without a technical background. Diversity inspires us all to collectively make better decisions.

Episode 4 – Scope for innovation in the earth observation domain

Christian Williges is a newspace consultant based in Berlin, Germany. He had co-founded the company ConstellR which is building a satellite constellation with thermal sensors. Christian had previously worked with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and has a background in laser and opto technologies.

Christian shares insights on building a satellite company and talks about the ample scope for innovation in the earth observation domain. An engineering or science degree is definitely great to have but apparently one can also thrive here without one!

Episode 3 – Space traffic management as a service

Kristina Nikolaus is the co-founder and managing director of Okapi Orbits which is a newspace startup that provides risk monitoring and collision avoidance services for space operators. She is currently based in Braunschweig, Germany.

Kristina talks about offering space traffic management as a service to satellite operators

Episode 2 – How satellites help monitor forest fires and gas flares

Agnieszka Soszyńska is a doctoral candidate at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Berlin. Her research is focused on monitoring of gas flares using satellite imagery. She shares insights into how satellite imagery help monitor gas flares and forest fires, some of the biggest contributors to climate change.

Episode 1 – How system engineers help send humans to space

Antonella Sgambati is a system engineer for human spaceflight at OHB, one of the leading aerospace companies in Europe.

Antonella talks about human spaceflight missions and the role of a systems engineer in space missions

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