American University of Sharjah

NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins inspires AUS students to seek a career in space

Marsha Sue Ivins

NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins inspires AUS students to seek a career in space

October 5, 2016

As part of World Space Week, American University of Sharjah (AUS) hosted a special lecture by American former astronaut Marsha Sue Ivins yesterday, October 4, 2016. As one of the most traveled astronauts in history, Ivins has flown five space shuttle missions. Only nine other astronauts have beaten her record with six or more spaceflights. The event was attended by AUS community members and guests, including Dr. Björn Kjerfve, AUS Chancellor; Amer Al Sayegh, KhalifaSat Project Manager at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and other senior officials.

Chancellor Kjerfve welcomed the American astronaut to AUS. Al Sayegh also spoke on the occasion talking about the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and his hope of seeing the UAE achieve its dream of becoming a regional leader in space exploration. He also highlighted the opportunities of a career in space in the UAE. "The space sector is one the country's leadership places great importance on, so there are huge opportunities for those who study science, mathematics and engineering to be a part of this amazing journey," said Al Sayegh.

During her lecture, Ivins discussed the history of human spaceflight, from the first manned missions to space to the current activities on board the International Space Station, and featured photographs and videos of people living and working in space, including pictures of how the earth looks from space. She enthralled the audience with her description of everyday life in space, from the meals the crew ate to the exercise routines they followed, to the work they did.

"We go around the earth every 90 minutes and every astronaut that has come back has said the same thing. As you orbit the earth, you do not see borders and boundaries that separate the countries. We learn about these borders when we study geography. We do not see natural borders and boundaries but sadly we do see man-made ones." Growing up in the 1950s, Ivins knew that she wanted to become an astronaut but knew that the standard path of becoming a combat/test pilot first was closed to her. Instead, she studied engineering and joined NASA's Astronaut Class of 1984.

After retiring from NASA in 2010, Ivins has given lectures all over the world. She observed that during her presentations, no matter how different people in different countries were, they all laughed at the same parts of the presentation and were awestruck by the same images, thereby concluding that all people are essentially the same, despite any geographic borders that divide them.

She concluded her presentation saying, "People often ask me why would you go to space and I always answer, 'Because we must.'"

The lecture was a part of University Roadshow, a youth program in collaboration with the UAE Space Agency as part of the Next Gen Space initiative of the Global Space Congress. Next Gen Space aims to inspire young generations to join the space sector.

The Global Space Congress is an exclusive, strategic gathering of global space industry leaders, to be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. The Congress is being organized in association with the UAE Space Agency and will take place January 31-February 1, 2017.

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