Women and space: a gender gap issue

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

European women are currently underrepresented in the aerospace sector. In Italy, as reported by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR), more than 1200 students graduated (bachelor or master degree) in aerospace or astronautical engineering in 2012 but only 15% of them were female students.

We had the great pleasure to speak about this gender gap with Simonetta Di Pippo, the new Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), as well as President and co-founder of the association for Women in Aerospace Europe (WIA-E). UNOOSA is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. WIA-E is working to expand women’s opportunities and to increase their visibility and leadership in the aerospace sector. We also contacted Cristina Valente, Marketing Strategist at Telespazio and coordinator of the WIA-E local group in Rome, founded in 2013.

(Continua su Science on the Net)

Space. The final frontier is closer… to Europe

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Space, the final frontier. The first series of Star Trek started in 1966, following the interstellar adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew on board of the space ship Enterprise. Today, after almost 50 years, this frontier is closer to Europe. In fact, as reported by the Eurobarometer 403 survey, the majority of Europeans thinks the space sector is a source of growth and a contributor to scientific progress.

According to 58% of respondents, the space activities could contribute to employment and innovation in the EU. Investing in human space exploration could lead some medical progress (57%) and the space technologies could have a role in avoiding threats such as collisions with asteroids, comets and space debris (62%). Furthermore, energy sector (37%) and environment (33%) would be the areas where space activities will play an important role within the next 20 years.

(Continua su Science on the Net)

Space research in Horizon 2020: which advantages for Italy?

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Horizon 2020 identified space research as one of Europe’s key industrial technologies. The Commission highlighted its potential for EU innovation and competitiveness, but what are the consequences and advantages for our country? We had the pleasure to speak with Augusto Cramarossa, Head of National and International relations Unit of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

How does ASI view the recent Draft Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2014-2015 in the area of Space? Is there any aspect that, in your opinion, could be improved?

The meeting held in Rome on November 27 was an informative and not a decisional one. The calls for 2014-2015 were published last December 11. Whilst everything has been already set for 2014, reviews of the calls for 2015 will be still possible until July 2014. Italy and France decided to abstain in regards to the 2014 Programme. In fact, we reserve our judgment on the included activities. We positively worked with the Commission and the other delegations, but, in our opinion, there was still place for improvements. In particular, we criticized the fact that the calls were defined without a clear idea of the general objectives.

In addition, we consider the overall fund distribution for Horizon 2020 (1,7 billion euros) inadequate, since it does not reflect the priority that, in our opinion, projects such as Galileo and Copernicus should be given to. We believe that research and development-funds allocated for these projects are too low. Another problem, then, regards call issue. The Commission proposes to follow a scheme 2+2+2+1 (years). Considering the maturity of the various activities, Italy on the other hand has proposed to invert the scheme, i.e. 1+2+2+2, in order to improve contents and general objectives. This is another reason that led us to abstention.

(Continua su Science on the Net)

Ice and Space: research at Concordia Station

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Concordia Station, which opened in 2005, is an Italian-French research facility in Antarctica. The tenth winter-over mission involves a team of 13 people. We had the pleasure to speak with Adrianos Golemis (Greece), the ESA-sponsored medical doctor.

– Dr. Golemis, can you describe your activity and tasks as the ESA-sponsored medical doctor at Concordia Station?

Good morning, first of all let me say that i am very happy to be here and would like to thank the European Space Agency for that. Concordia Station, which lies in Dome Circe, in the heart of the Antarctic, has 2 Medical Doctors: one is responsible for clinical assistance and treatment of the crew; the other position, which i currently hold, is about medical research. Every year European Universities propose medical experiments for Concordia and ESA selects the 10 best ones to be implemented.

My activities include executing, overseeing and amending (when needed) these medical experiments. For that i am in frequent contact with the principal investigators back home. But all people at Concordia Station are not only concerned with their primary jobs: There are housekeeping tasks to be done, like cleaning the floor, washing dishes or similar, which we all share. In some ways it is like a commune and that is quite a shaping experience. We also have secondary roles, for example the ESA doctor is responsible for emergencies outside the base, while other members of the crew have trained as firefighters.

(Continua su Science on the Net)

Traditional and space medicine combined at :envihab

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

The new research center :envihab at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne represents a bridge between the traditional medicine on Earth and the space medicine. The structure, with an area of 3500 square meters and a cost of 30 million Euro, will be used to study the effects of extreme environmental conditions on the human body and to determine the possible countermeasures. For example, the researchers will study the effects of aging, bed rest, immobilization and isolation on Earth.

The :envihab can also be considered as the earthly twin-laboratory of the International Space Station. The name is obtained from the words environment and habitats and describes a closed life support system, just like the ISS. Eight separate modules and a short-arm human centrifuge allow to conduct research on the cardiovascular system, bones and muscles in order to understand the effects of the reduction of oxygen and pressure on test subjects. Other facilities also include an apparatus for magnetic resonance imaging and a pressure chamber that can be used to simulate altitudes up to 5500 meters. There are also facilities for MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or PET (Positron Emission Tomography) analysis, rooms for the simulations of psychological stress and rehabilitation, tools for microbiological, molecular and biological research, as well as places to host and monitor the test subjects.

(Continua su Science on the Net)