With the HUMANS project, a message that space is for everyone | MIT News

When the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft were launched in 1977, they each carried a Golden Record, a special project led by astrophysicist Carl Sagan, in addition to the scientific instruments needed for their mission to explore the far reaches of our system. solar. Part time capsule, part symbolic ambassador of goodwill, the Golden Record includes sounds, images, music and greetings in 59 languages, providing a snapshot of life on Earth for the edification of every alien being. smart that the spaceship might meet.

Today, as Voyager 1 and 2 traverse interstellar space at more than 14 billion and 12 billion kilometers, respectively, the Golden Record and the iconic engraving on its cover have inspired a new student initiative, the Humanity united with the art of MIT and nanotechnology in space (HUMANS), which aims to send a message that strikes a little closer to home: this space is for everyone.

“We want to invite the world to submit a message on our project website – text, audio or both! – share what space means for them and for humanity in their mother tongues ”, explains the co-founder of the project Maya Nasr, graduate student at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “Our goal is to use art and nanotechnology to create a symbol of unity that promotes global representation in space and raises awareness of the need to expand access to the space sector worldwide.”

Nasr and fellow HUMANS project co-founder Lihui Lydia Zhang ’21, a graduate of the MIT Technology Policy Program, are collecting submissions this summer through the fall semester through a submission portal on their website, humans.mit.edu. Taking inspiration from One.MIT, a project to engrave more than 270,000 names of the MIT community on a 6-inch wafer, they partnered with MIT.nano to engrave both text and shapes. audio wave on a 6-inch disc.

Finally, in collaboration with the Space exploration initiative (SEI) at the MIT Media Lab, this new “record of our voices” will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) for a future mission.

For Nasr and Zhang, the “space for all” philosophy is personal. The two bonded around their common experience as international students whose own passion for space brought them to MIT: Nasr grew up in Lebanon, while Zhang grew up in China. During their travels in the space industry, they both faced constant challenges and struggles that kept them from fully contributing to their learning and passion.

These challenges have generated shared frustration, but more importantly, a vision that space should be more accessible and representative for more people around the world. As classmates of 16,891 (Space Policy Seminar) with Professor Dava Newman, they came across an open call for proposals for the development of UTE suborbital and ISS payloads. Nasr and Zhang brainstormed together to create their proposal for the HUMANS project.

“The International Space Station is one of the few avenues that represents international cooperation in space, but there are still so many countries in the world that are not included in this representation,” says Zhang. “Project HUMANS will not solve this problem, but we hope it will be a small step forward to help us advocate for increased global access to space.”

In addition to Nasr and Zhang, collaborators on the HUMANS project include educational advisor Jeffrey Hoffman, a professor of practice in aeronautics and astronautics; advisor Ariel Ekblaw, director of SEI; website developer and rising senior Claire Cheng; Xin Lu and Sean Auffinger of SEI; Professor Craig Carter of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE); and Georgios Varnavides, a graduate student in DMSE.

To participate in the HUMANS project, visit humans.mit.edu to send a text and / or audio message. Messages must follow the project guidelines to be included on the final disc that will be sent to the space.


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