It was the final day of the festival and wrapped up the whole experience very nicely in a whirlwind of space science and innovation
I began again on Street Science just briefly, enough time to snag my special sci-fi selfie, where I stood against a green screen and they picked a background to match. Cool experience and a little thing to take as a reminder of the festival.
I was quickly off to the concert hall to attend one of the events I had been most anticipating … an open discussion about our future on Mars and moderated by the amazing physicist, science writer and co-founder of the festival itself, Brian Greene.
The event was no disappointment, with diverse topics ranging from how to select a crew, how long we have to spend there on a mission (either 10 days or about 18 months- very little in-between), extending on to whether terraforming Mars to make it habitable for humans in the long term and if there was microbial life on Mars, would these microbes have a right to the planet that we should respect and avoid terraforming?
It sounded like we’ll see a manned Mars mission within the 2020s or 2030s, but then the question arose, why do we need humans there in the first place? The panel thought that it was unlikely that Mars would become a ‘second Earth’, but were quite convinced that we need human curiosity for investigation and that nothing would compare to be able to actually see it ourselves. The current robots and rovers work very slowly (although their technology is improving) and humans could work more effectively in these conditions.
Other interesting points included a discussion on what the habitat would have to be like for astronauts to live in it for such an extended period of time. As the Mars atmosphere allows more solar radiation through, one possibility is even to bury the whole habitat in dirt. Also, the astronauts would be doing very regular trips out onto the Martian surface, as common as everyday, in stark contrast to other space missions where EVAs are extremely limited.
This was my final event of the festival and was quite different to many of the others. It looked at combining wearable tech with fashion and the future of disability in face of advanced prosthetics and tissue engineering.
One of the panelists was part of a research group that’s recently developed the latest branch of wearable technologies by inventing flexible electronics that can adhere to skin. Their challenge was to create an electronic gadget that had at least 15% stretch, equal to that of skin, so that it could be worn directly.
A significant proportion of the event was also taken up by a fascinating discussion by one panelist, who advocated fashionable and technological prosthetics, and another panelist who worked in developing better tissue engineering techniques. You see, prosthetic limbs are getting to the point of being able to include things like sensation and other technologies that could perhaps enhance the life of an amputee. Tissue engineering on the other hand, is trying to regrow whole bones and tissues to give you the same limb back again. I think that we should really just wait and see which technology develops better first!
And all so soon it was over and I was driving back home. But I really enjoyed the whole festival experience and hope that you’ve enjoyed this short series of posts from Friday, Saturday and now today as well!