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Episode #

2

NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott: Watercolor in Zero Gravity

Nicole Stott

May 12, 2022

Episode Show Notes

May 12, 2022

n this episode we explore a different side of the crew travelling at sonic speeds above the earth as we sit down with NASA astronaut Nicole Stott.  Order Nicole Stott's book on Amazon Titled: Back to Earth: What Life in Space Taught Me About Our Home Planet―And Our Mission to Protect It.

Featured in this episode

Jens Bringsjord

Co-Host

Megan Luedke

Co-Host

Episode Transcript

Megan Luedke

Astronauts. Truly, some of the world's most impressive people. Think about it. Traveling thousands of miles above the earth. Exploring, discovering, learning all at around 20,000 kilometres per hour. Astronauts are some of the most sensationalized people in the media news film and even written works, having seen things that not many of us humans have seen. Exploring a world from a vantage point that really touches the human soul and changes our perception of who we are and what we are.



Megan Luedke

On this little blue dot, in the vastness of space. Hello, I'm Megan Luedke.



Jens Bringsjord

And I'm Jens Bringsjord.



Megan Luedke

And today we're going to take you high above the Earth's atmosphere. Well, we know many astronauts are engineers, many with scientific bac kgrounds. In our first episode of Season three, who'll be exploring a different side of the crew, traveling at some speeds above the Earth.



Nicole Stott

A lot of my colleagues, I mean, it was kind of like it was a secret thing, you know, that they paint or that they write poetry. I'm like, get that out, please. You know?



Jens Bringsjord

That's Nicole Start, an American engineer and NASA astronaut. She served as Flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 20 and Expedition 21.



Jens Bringsjord

While much of her day in outer space was choreographed from the team below her feet, there was another side to the astronauts that she took away from her experiences in zero-G.



Nicole Stott

A lot of these people had something creative going on in their lives even before they flew in space. Right now, I will say, and I think I say it in the book, you weren't a photographer before you got to space. You're going to become one because you absolutely maybe even just selfishly want to capture what you're seeing, what you're experiencing.



Nicole Stott

But you've I mean, like you want to share it, too, right? And I'll tell you, I am so thankful for the pictures and videos.



Megan Luedke

So how does space exploration connect us to design? There are a lot of similarities and differences that we will explore in this and upcoming episodes. One underlying theme is certain When we pursue space, we must think creatively to solve extremely challenging problems, to make space exploration possible. This, in turn, benefits us all here on Earth, you and me.



Megan Luedke

From advancements in technology to understanding the world's evolving climate to the dawn of the Internet, we have revolutionized our lives here on Earth. All thanks in part to the novelties of space exploration and experimentation happening above our heads by people like Nicole Stott.



Nicole Stott

Or three who are one.



Nicole Stott

I think in my mind I had convinced myself, oh, I know what that's going to feel like, you know, talking to people, watching it. Yeah, we can you can kind of figure out nothing prepares you for just that. I don't know the enormity of that power, that energy that's underneath you to, you know, £7 millions of exploding rocket thrust to get you off the planet, you know, to and then like to go from 0 to 17500 miles an hour in eight and a half minutes, you know, be orbiting the planet.



Nicole Stott

It's just it's like mind boggling. I mean, there's power in a lot in every way, right? Just the power that it takes to get off the planet and get into space. And then, I don't know, just kind of the power of the people coming together to create this this, you know, this thing and build it and deploy it and, you know, safely send people to and from space.



Nicole Stott

And, I mean, all of it is really, really incredible.



Megan Luedke

So, as you can already see, Nicole and all other astronauts, for that matter, are incredible people, while Nicole has achieved a tremendous amount in her lifetime so far. We've got to rewind just a little bit, maybe, let's say like at the start of her career, which takes us to her childhood, Nicole's career in engineering and her love in space began extremely early on in her life, taking a lot of inspiration from who, other than her parents?



Nicole Stott

My parents certainly did. You know, my mom a very creative person. I grew up in the sixties, seventies, eighties. You know, that was back in the macramé√© hook drug days and stuff like that. My mom, you know, I mean, my mom, whatever, whatever she was doing, she brought us along with her and shared that with us. And if I was going to get to a ballet lesson or softball practice, it was because she'd get me there, you know.



Nicole Stott

And then the other place that we spent actually most of our time was out at the local airport where my dad was building and flying small airplanes as a hobby. And that's I mean, if I had to, like, say, where's what what's the one thing I mean, that I think all kind of wrapped up is what really got me thinking about how I, you know, I love flying to I want to know how things fly.



Nicole Stott

You know, as I was getting ready to graduate from high school. So, if you want to know how things fly, what do you study to know how things like I had no clue about even what engineering was at that point or if I was even going to go to college, you know? You know, God bless the kids now who, when they're in eighth grade, have to know what they want to do the rest of their lives.



Nicole Stott

So, you know, discover these things very fortunate with people along the way that I consider to be mentors that just gave me a little guidance, helped me see maybe something in myself that I didn't necessarily see there on my own. And but yeah, that, I mean, I think that initial inspiration is what just kind of set the stage for a lot of the choices I made along the way.



Jens Bringsjord

So, with Nicole's passion set, she decided to go to university to follow her dreams, to learn about how all things fly.



Nicole Stott

I studied aeronautical engineering at Daytona Beach, and like I said, you know, somebody told me about engineering. I didn't know what that even was. And thankfully, nobody told me how difficult it was because I think if they had, they said, oh, yeah, there's this really challenging, you know, difficult thing you could do called engineering and study that at school.



Nicole Stott

And I don't think that would be Oh yeah, I think I'll go do that, you know. But I'm glad I'm glad I did. I'm glad I was kind of oblivious. Maybe. And, you know, met a lot of people that just loved, you know, the same kinds of things I loved. Embry-Riddle was fantastic because for me, you know, I mean, that was a school on an airport.



Nicole Stott

You know, everyone that was there in one way, or another was interested in aviation flying, how things fly. And it was right up the road from the Kennedy Space Centre. You know, the shuttle program was getting going. And then when I graduated from college, the NASA was getting the shuttle program back up and running after the Challenger accident.



Nicole Stott

And I was very fortunate to get picked up there and to be able to work up close and personal. You know, with like hands on the on the space shuttles and be down there in the hangar with them and even on a bad day, be able to look up or just like touch like that. That's the space shuttle, you know, that was pretty cool.



Nicole Stott

And to work, work with, I don't know, as a young engineer to like to be working with this this community of people who believe like the care and feeding of that spacecraft was their responsibility. And that's the same vibe that's going on over there today.



Jens Bringsjord

So after nearly nine years of being an engineer at NASA, working on all the aircrafts that take the astronauts up into space, something clicked in her mind.



Nicole Stott

I had been watching astronauts come through and have us get the vehicles ready for them and seeing thankfully at one point seeing that, you know, 99.9% of what an astronaut does is not flying in space. Right. I mean, sadly, I know. You know, and then and then I mean, as best I could tell, the majority of it was like what I was already doing as an engineer.



Nicole Stott

And that just, you know, kind of got the brain cells firing or brain cell, I guess, firing a little bit to say, hey, you know, maybe I can at least consider this. And I just reached out to some people that I knew I trusted as mentors, that I really looked up to at work. And, you know, they didn't do anything more than just encourage me to pick up the pen and fill out the application.



Nicole Stott

And thankfully, they didn't preface it with, oh, well, you know, tens of thousands of people apply, you know, like try to bring it down, like discourage me or like set my hopes or whatever. They are just it's like they gave me permission to do the thing. I had total control of the only thing and that whole process, you know, that you have total control of.



Nicole Stott

And I am so thankful. I'm so thankful to them for that.



Megan Luedke

After sending in her application, Nicole was accepted into the space program as an astronaut, where a new chapter of her life began.



Nicole Stott

When I got selected into the astronaut office, that was the year 2000 and then, and we were told at that point it would probably be three more, more likely five, five years before getting a flight assignment, right? Just with the manifest that was out there. And that seemed like a long time on its own. Right. And then sadly, in 2003, we had the Columbia accident and that pushed I mean, like double that our class, you know, the earliest that some of us flew was like eight and a half to ten years after being selected into the astronaut office.



Nicole Stott

And so and so, thankfully the job is awesome on its own. I mean, for me as a NASA engineer that rolled into this job where the potential for flying in space was the bonus, and then on top of that, there were just on a day to day basis, I was doing things that I just never would have been able to do in another role, you know, like training in the pool and the big suit to do spacewalks and flying and T-38 jets and doing, you know, I mean doing a lot of really incredible things that wouldn't have come through another job even without flying in space.



Jens Bringsjord

After all that training, she was finally selected for an upcoming mission.



Nicole Stott

And it's a mystery how that whole thing happens. And I was actually before I retired, I was actually part of the teams that were picking people to fly on missions. And it's still like kind of a mystery how it ultimately comes together. And then when you do fly, oh, my gosh, you know, you get assigned you're working with this crew, you're traveling around the world preparing to you know, for me, I was flying a shuttle flight to get to station, but I was going to be dropped off and, you know, do a long duration space flight on my first flight.



Nicole Stott

And, you know, so that was three years of, you know, back and forth training to all the International Space Station partner countries and training as this international crew and, you know, preparing to fly.



Megan Luedke

So, Nicole launched up into space and began circling the earth to rendezvous with the Internet personal space station. And after a very lengthy flight, she finally arrived and got to work. During her time on the ISS, the astronauts have a little bit of free time, and it was in these moments that Nicole would gaze out of her window and see the earth beneath her and marvel at its beauty.



Nicole Stott

And on the space shuttle, we had the opportunity to bring it like, you know, a small duffle bag, like a small, you know, big like toiletry kit kind of size thing. And yeah. So, you know, I was I was thinking about stuff like, you know, pictures of my family and friends, my son's little stuffed dog that he wanted me to tag, you know, my husband saying Christopher medal stuff like that.



Nicole Stott

A t shirt for my high school you know all these things kind of because you want to share the experience with the people you care about and brings to bring things back to them. Thankfully, Mary Jane Anderson, one of my friends who was also what you would call like a flight crew equipment person. So, she helped us get all of our flight crew and equipment ready, you know, ready to go.



Nicole Stott

It makes sense, you know, to go to go to space with us. And that was everything from the stuff that is officially manifested for you to take my one pair of khaki pants that I'd have for the three months I was on space station, stuff like that. And but she just had watched so much of this go on over the years and helped so many people get ready to fly.



Nicole Stott

As I was meeting with her one day, she's like, Yeah, you know, Nicole, you got to think about, you know, something small that you could bring with you to do in your free time because you what you're going to be living there for four months, you know, you will have spare time. There's something you enjoy doing down here on Earth that you can reasonably pack.



Nicole Stott

And this little bag, you know, think about it, and bring it. And that just brought me to the watercolour kit. And it was it was like a little, you know, almost like decker card sized water colour kit. And I brought the brush of a really dear friend, Ronnie Woods, who was he was a Nashua guy who actually is a person and talk about science and space and art coming together.



Nicole Stott

I mean, this guy, an amazing artist, incredible artist in space equipment is mostly his theme and it's just beautifully done. And he was also the guy that suited up the Apollo 11 crew, you know, to go fly and, you know, orbit and land on the moon and other Apollo missions. And so, you think here's a guy who's been at the heart of, you know, of spaceflight his entire career and he's trying to use art to convey it.



Nicole Stott

Right. And so, I brought his paintbrush with me to as kind of a memento thing for him. But then I asked him if I end up painting, can I paint with it too? And so, I did. And yeah, that was I mean, that was one of the most like special personal memories for me in space. You know, this opportunity to be floating outside my crew compartment, painting with floating balls of water.



Nicole Stott

And yeah, I think it was the last couple of weeks that I finally pulled it out, you know, just started the painting at night, worked on a little bit at night before going to bed and picked one of my favourite pictures that I've taken of Earth from space to paint as the subject for it. And, and, of course, you can't paint while you're I mean, you could be painting while you're floating in front of the window, but you're not going to paint what you see out the window because it's, you know, five miles a second.



Nicole Stott

It's gone before you can get the brush to the paper. But it was such a cool experience, and it was when I think about it now, you know, there's like these just these layers of it, you know, like, oh yes. That was a personal thing that I enjoyed doing. But it was it was one of these ways I think we're really bringing our humanity with us as humans, bringing the human into human spaceflight.



Nicole Stott

Right. And it's been going on since the beginning of humans flying in space, which is so cool. And I think so many people don't know about those kinds of things. You know, the earliest cosmonauts bring in coloured pencils with them and Alexei Leonov to sketch orbital sunrises. And my friend Karen Nyberg, quilting and music and poetry, all of it, to which I think most of us have this mix, right, of art and science or art and something techie or not already in some way, blending in our lives.



Nicole Stott

And that's certainly true in the astronaut corps, I can tell you that.



Megan Luedke

One of the reasons we asked Nicole to be on this episode was because of her unique approach to art and science, being both an engineer, astronaut and now a painter. But she's not the only one in the astronaut corps with an artistic side.



Nicole Stott

I think it's been with us all along where, you know, the astronaut, community, cosmonauts, all, all have had this kind of creative side of them and want to use it to express, to share the experience in some way. I mean, some people for sure have more deliberately taken that on, like Allen being, you know, fourth guy to walk on the moon.



Nicole Stott

I mean, he very purposefully when he retired from NASA was like, I'm full time going to be an artist. I am going to in my every way I can use art as a way to share the experience that he and his crewmates had on the moon and around the moon. And did a beautiful job of that.



Nicole Stott

And then there's others that just, you know, will dabble but know that it's a way I don't know. I think it's a way to communicate with people that might not otherwise even know about space. And that that's what I love. I mean, to me, that's the real power in it is like I know there are a lot of people that don't know.



Nicole Stott

There's an international space station that's like criminal to me. First of all, everyone, everyone should know this and, you know, just the history of it and how all that's going on there is ultimately about improving life on Earth. But some people just I mean, it's just not in their sphere of whatever. And so, if my art, whether they like it or not, you know, can lure them in in some way, and I can talk to them about the back story of what the inspiration for that painting was.



Nicole Stott

And here's what we're doing on the space station and all of all of these things that, you know, then they walk away. They're the ones with the app on their phone, you know, putting their zip code in, where's the space station going to be flying over. And they want to know, you know, they want to know then they might not have ever thought about that before or the influence it's having on their lives very positively having on their lives.



Nicole Stott

And that's I mean, that's important to me. And I think every astronaut that I know wants to find their way to share what they experience in space and help other people who might not ever get to space, make that connection, establish a relationship with it, and understand, you know, the goodness that's coming from it, too.



Jens Bringsjord

So, you're probably wondering at this point, what was it like to paint in microgravity? How did the materials we use here on Earth and also, may I add, heavily rely on gravity to help us paint on earth? How did those elements interact with the different environment of space?



Nicole Stott

When you get there, you think, oh, this is going to be difficult. This is but it's just different, right? It's like, Oh, okay, to do this, I just need to have my body in this configuration and put my foot under this foot restraint now because I'm going to float up and that just becomes part I mean, your brain just gets that and you're like, okay, every time I'm going to do something like this, I go, I float, I put my foot under here, and now I'm in a position where I can do this.



Nicole Stott

And it's not hard. It's just different. And that's what painting with watercolours was like. It was a I mean, it was a fumble at first because I'm okay, how am I going to make all this stuff floats? Okay. So, I have to have it all organized. You know, Velcro is your friend and it's, you know, you stick everything up around you.



Nicole Stott

And so, this whole thing of how in a microgravity environment being organized is a big deal because everything's going to float away if you don't. And then the painting itself was just so cool. The, you know, you're not dip in your brush into a cup of water because there's no cups of water. You're squirting a little bottle of water out from a drink bag and watching it float and then, you know, taking the brush, the tip and getting it to stick into the water.



Nicole Stott

And then you're rediscovering that, you know, surface tension, these kinds of science things behave differently in space. So, the water was like attracted to the brush. It's like it wanted to move over to the end of the brush and then watch it float around and watch the water transfer from the brush down to the coloured paints and motion it and pull and like really like pulling this coloured ball of water off the paint onto the end the brush and it was really interesting to try to paint like we paint down here, right, you know, using the brush to drag the paint along.



Nicole Stott

And but because of the way the water moved and the dynamic of it, like if you actually touched the paper with the brush and the ball of water, the whole blob of coloured water went into the paper at once. So, it's like, you know, you're like, okay, that's a mistake. Mistake. I don't know how many pieces of paper I threw out that I should have kept sure capture that I threw out because it was a mistake.



 Nicole Stott

You know, it was a mistake. It wasn't behaving like I thought painting should behave. So that was a mistake. And I threw it away. And in a reality that was that was just the environment having its influence on how painting would be in space. And, and, but I discovered if you didn't touch the brush to the paper and you just kind of almost got it there and just dragged the coloured water along the paper, you could paint that way.



Nicole Stott

And it worked. I mean, you don't end up working fine. And but I do wish I wish I would have taken more advantage of the environment, too, and just let that have its influence over it and there was there was a guy, Richard Garriott, who flew as a spaceflight participant. He brought up acrylic paints with him.



Nicole Stott

And he doesn't even call it I mean; he doesn't even call it painting. I'm like, dude, you were Payton in space, but he created like this, you know, clear plastic box, like, almost like the glove boxes that we use up there to contain stuff. And then he stuck paper to all the walls of the box, and then he just squirted all the coloured paints, the acrylic paint into the box.



Nicole Stott

And just wherever they landed, they landed on the paper. I'm like, dude, that is so it's so cool. Very Jackson Pollock, you know, like, you know, all of it where it goes, it goes. And had this collection of these like space paintings that really are like space painted the paintings. And so, I think that's, you know, that's what's going to be happening with stuff like this, you know, the way the way we do things down here on Earth and gravity, it's going to evolve to like new methods and ways in these new environments.



Nicole Stott

And, you know, I can't wait to see how creative we get with it. You know, now when I paint, I'm always thinking back to that experience in space, like, oh my gosh, how cool was that to get to do that? You know, most of my work that I do still, I would say actually probably all of my own personal work is still inspired in some way by the images I took from space, you know, some spaceship stuff, but mostly like Earth as the inspiration.



Nicole Stott

I think it's going to be an endless supply of, you know, of things to use to tap from. And so, there's always some part of that time and space that's coming up when I'm, you know, and I'm thinking about it when I'm painting or creating a project here. And I'm so thankful for that. I really, I really, really am.



Nicole Stott

And I mean it has it's been the inspiration, just the art. That experience has been the inspiration for, you know, the, the stuff I feel like that I'm doing. That's meaningful and good now, you know, back here on Earth that, you know, it's maybe a little different than the way my colleagues are sharing their experience. And I think we all need to try to uniquely, you know, build bring our own talents, our own kind of appreciation of the experience into the way we tell the story to you.



Jens Bringsjord

And the majority of our listeners probably never thought that there was a lot of creative work going on in the science and engineering fields. But by taking a closer look, we've been conditioned to believe that math and science don't require any creativity or artistic talent to achieve great things. But that assumption, my friends, would be wrong. Nicole is a strong proponent and advocate of the arts and the intersection it has, as well as the many benefits on the engineering and science community.



Nicole Stott

It goes both ways. It's like this idea that, oh, these technical astronaut people, they couldn't possibly, you know, they'll say it about themselves sometimes. Oh, well, I'm not very creative. I'm not I couldn't draw a picture to save my life or something. I was like, Yeah, you've got something in you that's, you know, and the same thing on the artistic side in terms of the way that the brain works, just to think about how to create something.



Nicole Stott

I mean, I have met some of the most interesting people doing like as like artists in residents’ kinds of things in very technical areas like the Moon Rock Lab at Houston. There is a really wonderful artist, Erica Blumenthal, who she's come up with all these new ways to portray, communicate what was collected from the moon and very scientifically how to look at it and then my friend Amanda Lee Falkenberg, she's a composer, right?



Nicole Stott

She's writing symphonies. And she just wrote the Seven Movement Moon Symphony. Well, just wrote it's been over a lot, The Cove it in the last few years. But every movement is about one of the moons in our solar system. The seventh is the Earth Moon. So, it brings it back to Earth. And she's worked hand in hand with the scientists at JPL and Goddard and, you know, to embed in these in this music the science of, you know, of the place that she's, you know, communicate, it's just it's one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I've ever heard in my life.



Megan Luedke

Do you remember from school when teachers and professors throw around the term STEM? It stands for science technology, engineering, and math. Well, back in 2011, President Barack Obama told Congress and the country.



Nicole Stott

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn't even there yet. Nasser didn't exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets. We unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. This is our generation's Sputnik moment.



Megan Luedke

This was President Barack Obama's call for the United States to ramp up technological innovation, to stay competitive with other nations, spur economic growth and preserve national security and propel ingenuity. Today, we champion the STEM-to-STEM movement, campaigning, to add arts to STEM and bringing the innovative to the forefront of educational policymakers. The argument, design, thinking, and creativity are essential ingredients for innovation.



Nicole Stott

Things like STEM, Steam, TQM come back in the Total Quality Management Day, CPA, whatever, you know, all these things. It's like this jewellery kind of. And I get it. We got to get people thinking in a certain, you know, certain way to try to, you know, influence things and stuff. And so, I wish I almost wish we never had to come up with an acronym like that.



Nicole Stott

Right. You know, why aren't we just teaching our kids to be problem solvers that involves all of all of these things. The creative side of it, the very. Yeah. You got to get in the book, the technical science of something. Yes. You have to learn how to do fractions, whether you like it or not, you know, I mean, these kinds of things.



Nicole Stott

But they all just build on each other and I guess we were seeing a deficit, you know, in our economy or in the workforce of where people just weren't wanting to do technical things anymore or engineering things. You know, I don't know. I mean, we still very much need to be encouraging young women to acknowledge those fields because total capability there.



Nicole Stott

I don't know. I think the steam thing to me is an indicator that we're starting to realize like, wow, you know, what do we do to ourselves that this whole human this whole brain approach to solving problems incorporates all of these subjects, not just, you know, you better be good at math. And it's frustrating when you have a kid, and you watch them in school become good at something.



Nicole Stott

And then there's this channelling like, oh, your kid's good at this. We're just going to push him down this this path again at the expense of all the other stuff that needs to be stimulated in their brain as well. So yeah, I like the fact that the a is in the mix, but I wish we didn't have to have, you know, so forcibly, you know, have an acronym for it today.



Megan Luedke

Nicole is one of the four founding directors of the Space for Art Foundation, which focuses on uniting a planetary community of children through the awe and wonder of space exploration and the healing power of art.



Nicole Stott

I mean, I love it. I love it. And, you know, and underlying that, I mean, most of our work is done with kids and hospitals, refugee centres, you know, very rural schools. We started in a paediatric cancer centre in Houston, you know, kids in one hospital in one place when we built the first art spacesuit. But I think where I came into all of this and what I really believe is my mission in life now, I mean, I think I feel like I flew in space so I could do this work now.



Nicole Stott

And if I could do nothing else, I'd be working on Space for Art Foundation stuff every day. Really, if I could, with this really wonderful group of, you know, three or four other people that love it as well. But when I retired from NASA and I was like, oh, you know, this inspiration of painting in space and wanting to use that to share the experience and doing my own art.



Nicole Stott

And, and that was going great. And I still I still do some of that, but I got invited by one of my friends, Gordon Andrews, at a Johnson Space Centre. He's like, hey, this guy, Ian Cyan, he's an artist that started the art medicine program at M.D. Anderson Paediatric Cancer Centre. He wants to do some kind of space themed project with the kids there and we and space suits was the way the initial idea.



Nicole Stott

And oh, my gosh, I encourage people to go look, you know, look online at the website and at some of the social media to see these art space suits that I credit in with being the artistic genius behind these things as each little patch on these suits is an individual piece of art from a kid and these places.



Nicole Stott

And then ILC Dover, the company that made the spacesuit, you know, that's on the front of that cover of my book that all those guys that walked on the moon wore. You know, they've been volunteering with us since the very beginning to quilt these kids. I mean, they you couldn't get more technical when it comes and more have more expertise when it comes to building spacesuits than ILC Dover.



Nicole Stott

And they are applying that talent, sharing that talent with us for these art spacesuits. And you look at it and it's like the kids I know when they look at it, they they'll find they're a little piece of art, but they're looking at it in a way like we do in a lot of things. It's like, oh, here's how my little piece made this bigger thing even more beautiful when it all comes together, right?



Nicole Stott

And, you know, and these kids, they're going through honestly what you hope is the worst thing they ever have to deal with in their entire lives. And somehow, like through the inspiration of space, like talking about space and exploration, you know, and I believe the healing power of art, like having them be able to create while they're considering that kind of stuff.



Nicole Stott

They are. I mean, they're sitting up straighter, they're stronger. They're talking about their future cause they're transcending this this place that they're in at that time. And that is huge. I mean, and I'm fairly certain that you guys have seen this in work you've done where just the art, the creative, some source of inspiration and all of that coming together, it lifts you up.



Nicole Stott

It makes you stronger. And oh, my gosh, these kids’ otherworldly words coming out of that man, you know, and I share the story in the book about, you know, where I knew I it solidified this is my next mission, you know, with this young girl, you know, in the hospital going through treatment, all her hair is gone.



Nicole Stott

She's in this colourful little outfit painting and she's just talking to me. How about how being an astronaut and what you do in space is a lot like what she's going through in the hospital? And I'm thinking, how are you even thinking about this? She's, you know, and her little eight-year-old and she's like, Yeah, you know.



Nicole Stott

Mystical You don't get to eat the same foods. You have to, you know, can't see your family and friends the same way. I can't just go outside anytime you want. You know, they're doing all kinds of tests on you. The radiation, your body's changing. I'm like, Oh my gosh. And it is so perfect and just got my brain whirling about, man, we are never going to stop doing these projects with these kids because it’s, so I think it's really, really powerful.



Nicole Stott

And then it's like, Man, I need to have a conversation with my Nassar folks because as we start to, and this is the art in the science and the tech, and the exploration is like we can't ignore what we're learning in this hospital with these kids. We've got to apply this to what we're doing as we explore further off our planet, as we send, you know, people to Mars where they don't see Earth like Earth anymore.



Nicole Stott

Right. And it's that little doddle right now. And how do you help them maintain that connection? How do you keep the human in that human spaceflight? And it's going to be the same kinds of things we're doing with those kids in the hospital. You know, I'm hoping it's the Star Trek holodeck or something like that. But, you know, until we can have that, it's going to be you know, it's like, what are we going to do?



Nicole Stott

But those kinds of things, I think they're it's really, I know it's like keeping the humanity in at all. And that's I think we're the creative art side of it. It helps us kind of ground ourselves in our humanity.



Megan Luedke

In our conversation with Nicole, one thing became clear that we're exploring space to explore who we are. And in that discovery, we also connect with others and feel the binding power of healing, helping, and bringing people together in ways we never thought possible.



Nicole Stott

I mean, we need to maintain that kind of childlike curiosity that, you know, the and I think that it’s like, yeah, you look out the windows of a spaceship. It is awesome. It is wonderful, you know, all and wonders around you. But I'm looking out my window right now, you know, I'm like freaking out about the manatee is swimming down the canal.



Nicole Stott

It's like, oh, my gosh, there's, you know, it's surrounds us. We've got to, like, open our hearts, our minds to that and suck it in and that's why, like in the book, you know, when I it's like that you will read it as you have over and over, like the planet earthling thin blue line thing. It's like that's it's something we learned in kindergarten.



Nicole Stott

We got to figure out a way for our kids to keep that with them.



Megan Luedke

This is the true power of space exploration. Whether we explore through art, math, science, engineering, technology, or any other field of study, we should all work towards becoming our better selves because we have to live today knowing that today we can make a difference in someone's life, no matter how big or how small. And maybe, just maybe, we humans are the universe trying to figure itself out.



Jens Bringsjord

To learn more about Nicole Stott you can visit her website nicolestott.com. Also check out her book titled Back to Earth, which launched in late 2021. Both Megan and I have read it and we highly recommend the book. It's a book that really encapsulates Nicole's experiences letting your own imagination feel like you are right there with her on her adventures in space.





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We’re always on the look for new and exciting ideas.

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©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.

©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.

©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.