Becoming Interplanetary

On September 27, 2018, we will be hosting a public event at the Library of Congress Kluge Center, entitled "Becoming Interplanetary: What Living on Earth Can Teach Us about Living on Mars”.

Click here to view the detailed schedule!

The event will be a day of panels and performances, organized around three "beats" (see below). 
Scroll down to view our complete list of speakers and performers!

The event will be held in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress from 9am-5pm on 9/27, with a reception to follow. Attendance is open to the public and no registration is required.

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Beat 1: The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff”, cemented the ideal of the cowboy astronaut, drawing on the frontier themes that have long been used to talk about space. How do these narratives of space exploration inform and influence modern ideas about who can explore space? What does it mean to have the “Right Stuff”, and how is that meaning evolving?

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Beat 2: Mars on Earth

Thanks to our spacecraft, we now know more about the Martian environment than ever before-- and are on the precipice of sending humans to explore further. What can we learn from the history of exploration on Earth, and how might we understand the Martian environment within the framework of these Earthly lessons? 

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Beat 3: Alternative Futurisms

Science fiction has the power to inspire and instruct us as we envision the future, but it has also long been a vehicle for myths of manifest destiny. What alternative viewpoints on humanity’s future in space might exist, and how might these conceptualize life off-world in radically different ways? 

 

Beat 1: The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff”, cemented the ideal of the cowboy astronaut, drawing on the frontier themes that have long been used to talk about space. How do these narratives of space exploration inform and influence modern ideas about who can explore space? What does it mean to have the “Right Stuff”, and how is that meaning evolving?

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Brenda J. Child

Northrop Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies
at the University of Minnesota

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Brian Nord

Research Scientist, The University of Chicago

Brenda J. Child is Northrop Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies
at the University of Minnesota, and former Chair of the Department of American Indian
Studies. She is the author of several books in American Indian history including
Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940 (1998), which won the
North American Indian Prose Award; Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and
the Survival of Community (2012); Indian Subjects: Hemispheric Perspectives on the
History of Indigenous Education (with Brian Klopotek, 2014). Her 2014 book My
Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation won
the American Indian Book Award and the Best Book in Midwestern History Award. She
is a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian-
Smithsonian and past-president of the Native American & Indigenous Studies
Association. Child was born on the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota
where she is a member of a committee writing a new constitution for the 12,000 member
nation.

Brian Nord’s current research is in teaching intelligent machines to search for clues of the universe’s origin and destiny. In particular, he uses artificial intelligence to study the cosmos, including dark energy, dark matter, and the early universe. Nord also communicates with the public regarding science, science policy, diversity, and inclusion. He trains scientists in public communication, advocates for science funding, and works with high school students in the classroom and in research environments. Nord is a Visiting Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a Senior Member of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago. He leads a team of researchers (deepskieslab.com) who apply AI to questions in cosmology. Nord is co-leader of education and public engagement at KICP, where he organizes a year-long institute that provides opportunities for high school students to innovate in hands-on physics experiences outside the classroom. Nord is also co-creator of ThisIsBlackLight.com, an online curriculum to teach about the Black experience in America. You can find him on Twitter at @iamstarnord.

 
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Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Postdoctoral Research Associate in theoretical physics, the University of Washington, Seattle

I'm Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (pronounced: Chahnda Prescod-Winestine), postdoctoral Research Associate in theoretical physics at the University of Washington, Seattle and lead axion wrangler and social media team member for the NASA STROBE-X Probe Concept Study. Starting January, 2019 I will be an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of New Hampshire. My driving impulse: understand the origin of spacetime and the particles that populate it. Using ideas from both physics and astronomy, I respond to deep questions about how everything got to the be the way it is.

I love particle (astro)physics and cosmology, and my research spans from the large scale (cosmic acceleration) to the very small (dark matter particles). I also have a strong interest in feminist philosophies of science and Science, Technology, and Society Studies. In August 2016, I became Principal Investigator on an FQXi Large Grant, Epistemological Schemata of Astro | Physics: A Reconstruction of Observers. In relation, I maintain a Decolonising Science Reading List

Essence Magazine recognized me as one of 15 Black Women Who Are Paving the Way in STEM and Breaking Barriers. My personal story and ideas have been featured in several venues, including Huffington PostGizmodoNylon, and the African-American Intellectual History Society. You can also check out my CVpress about my dark matter research, and interviews with me

Science is a human activity that belongs to all of us, in all of our configurations.

On March 15, 2017  I received the 2017 LGBT+ Physicists Acknowledgement of Excellence Award "For Years of Dedicated Effort in Changing Physics Culture to be More Inclusive and Understanding Toward All Marginalized Peoples."

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Ashley Shew

Assistant Professor, Department of Science, Technology, and Society, Virginia Tech

Ashley Shew, Assistant Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech, works in philosophy of technology at its intersection with disability studies, emerging technologies, and animal studies. She is author of Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge (Lexington, 2017) and co-editor (with Joseph C. Pitt) of Spaces for the Future: A Companion to Philosophy of Technology (Routledge 2017). Shew is a recent awardee of a National Science Foundation CAREER Grant, running from 2018 to 2023, to study narratives about technology from the disability community that often stand in contrast to dominant media and engineering narratives about disability. She keeps her teaching materials on technology and disability at http://techanddisability.com.

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Jordan Holmes/
Dxtr Spits

Jordan was raised in Prince George’s County Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C.  his curious mind has lead him to become a jack of all trades as a musician, entrepreneur, scientist/engineer, and spoken word artist.  Holmes relocated to Chicago in 2014 after graduating from Virginia Tech where he met his mentor Dr. Nikki Giovanni. He began his pursuit of his music career as Dxtr Spits, a witty, impactful, energized lyricist. Holmes also launched his company "Onli Packs" Aug 2017. Onli Packs are functional back packs with prints from local artists.

 

Beat 2: Mars on Earth

Thanks to our spacecraft, we now know more about the Martian environment than ever before-- and are on the precipice of sending humans to explore further. What can we learn from the history of exploration on Earth, and how might we understand the Martian environment within the framework of these Earthly lessons? 

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Nathalie A. Cabrol

Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research at the SETI Institute

Nathalie A. Cabrol is the Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research at the SETI Institute, where she leads the strategic vision for science and exploration. She heads projects in planetary science and astrobiology, develops science exploration strategies for Mars, Titan, and the Outer Solar System icy moons, and designs robotic field experiments. She is a member of the NASA Mars Exploration Rover science team. Nathalie explores high altitude lakes in the Andes as analogs to early Mars. She documents life’s adaptation to extreme environments, the effect of rapid climate change on lake ecosystems and habitats, its geobiological signatures, and relevance to planetary exploration.
Nathalie counts over 410 peer-reviewed publications and proceedings of professional conferences. She has authored 3 books and 10 chapters of books on the subject of planetary science and exploration, astrobiology, and terrestrial extreme environments. Her work is featured in US and international media (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TED talk, Discovery Channel, NOVA, BBC, National Geographic, Scientific American) and in popular books (e.g., the Martian Race, Gregory Bendford, Warner Books; Almost Human: Making Robots Think, Lee Gutkind, Norton & Company, Inc; Are We Alone?).
Nathalie is the recipient of NASA and other research awards. She is a Carey Fellow, elected Women of Discovery (Air and Space, Wings Worldquest). She was honored to present the Sagan Lecture at the American Geophysical Union in 2016, and is a California Academy of Sciences Fellow since 2016.
 

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Bobak Ferdowsi

Fault Protection lead for the joint NASA-ISRO mission

You may remember Bobak Ferdowsi from such things as: Battlebots, Cupcake Wars, and Sharknado 3, but by day he is the Fault Protection lead for the joint NASA-ISRO mission, an Earth-observing satellite evaluating global environmental change and hazards. His prior positions have included Europa Clipper flight system engineer, Integrated Launch and Cruise Engineer on Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, and Science Planner on the Cassini mission. In addition he served as a Flight Director during Curiosity operations.

Bobak earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2001 from the University of Washington and subsequently his Master of Science in the same area from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bobak has always wanted to explore the universe. He plays shortstop in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory softball league, with a career 0.817 batting average and usually rides his bike to work.

 
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Dana Burton

Ph.D. Student, Department of Anthropology, George Washington University

Dana Burton is a PhD student at George Washington University’s Anthropology Department. Her research follows the search for life on Mars, and seeks to understand the epistemologies of value and order which come to be applied to Martian life by various policy makers, scientists, and private entrepreneurs. With attention to feminist and multispecies literature, her work explores visions of life and living in space and how it shapes our conceptions of the environment, sociality, and governance. Thus far, her work has taken her to myriad conferences, lectures, and laboratories, in DC, Texas, and California. She plans to be a part of projects further a-field, whether they be space analog sites in Iceland and Chile or beyond. Dana is also an avid fiction reader and enjoys blues dancing. Above all, she loves drinking tea and getting into conversations about affect, presence, and the intricacies of everyday life.

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Margaret Huettl

Assistant Professor of History and Ethnic Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Margaret Huettl, a descendant of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibweg, Assyrian refugees, and European settlers, is Assistant Professor in History and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2016), her M.A. in Native American history from the University of Oklahoma (2010), and her B.A. from the University of Rochester (2008). She is a scholar of Native American history and North American Wests, and her research examines Indigenous sovereignty and settler colonialism in a transnational context. Her current project, “Ojibwe Peoplehood in the North American West, 1854-1954,” explores Ojibwe or Anishinaabe sovereignty in the United States and Canada during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, centering her research on Anishinaabe ways of knowing. 

 

Beat 3: Alternative Futurisms

Science fiction has the power to inspire and instruct us as we envision the future, but it has also long been a vehicle for myths of manifest destiny. What alternative viewpoints on humanity’s future in space might exist, and how might these conceptualize life off-world in radically different ways? 

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D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

Afro-Futurist space sculptor, performance artist, designer, writer, and educator

D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem is an Afro-Futurist space sculptor, performance artist, designer, writer, and educator.  Her work bridges the disciplines of site-specific sculpture, ritual, public art practice, interior design, ecology, and science fiction.   

Duyst-Akpem is an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Faculty Advisor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, the Low-Residency MFA Program, Sculpture, Undergraduate Division, and Career and Professional Experience, teaching courses including "Afro-Futurism: Pathways to Black Liberation", "Ritual Art Performance in the African Diaspora", "Power to the People: Revolution and the Black Arts Movement", "Superhero Self", "K-Lab: Art+Ecology", and "Take Root Among the Stars: The Legacy of Octavia Butler, Surviving the 21st Century & Beyond." Her 2013 course on Afro-Futurism was centered on The Mars Project where students prepared creative applications to be the first to travel to the red planet. 

She is the founder of Denenge Design and In The Luscious Garden, a new initiative focused on holistic and conceptual approaches to human-centered design as transformative practice.  She has exhibited multi-media sculptural and performance work nationally and internationally, along with a wide range of interviews and articles for television, radio, print, and digital platforms, and is the recipient of many awards including an SAIC Diversity Advisory Group inaugural 2016 Teaching Award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for the Summer Institute on Black Aesthetics and Sacred Systems.  Recent projects include Corpus Meum, a sound installation at the Arts Club of Chicago; 'spore', a sound-performance based on a score for Cathy Hsiao's Movement I, Bloom at Goldfinch, Chicago; panelist for In Their Own Form: Contemporary Photography and Afro-Futurism at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and panelist and performance for Decolonizing Mars Symposium at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. on September 27, 2018.  Duyst-Akpem received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BA from Smith College. 

Duyst-Akpem recently was invited by curator Candice Strongwater to present a slide show performance as part of the series No Guts, No Galaxy for the exhibition Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder at Red Bull Arts NY, and will be a contributing author for the 2019 catalog for the Kunsthaus Zurich exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, 2017. Photo credit: RJ Eldridge.

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Willi Lempert

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Bowdoin College

Willi Lempert is a cultural anthropologist who has conducted over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Northwestern Australia with Indigenous media organizations. Through collaboration on production teams, he engages the social life of Aboriginal filmmaking to better understand the relationship between Indigenous self-representation, sovereignty, and everyday life. His research interrogates the paradoxical relationship between the production of films that vividly
imagine hopeful and diverse Indigenous futures, and the current widespread defunding of Aboriginal communities and organizations.

 
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Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo

aka SAMMUS

SAMMUS (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) is an Ithaca-raised, Philadelphia-based rap artist, producer, and PhD student in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University.  Known as much for her rousing stage presence as she is for her prowess as a beatmaker and lyricist, Sammus has spent the past several years cultivating a strong following of activists, hip hop heads, punks, and self-identified nerds and geeks, among others. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, Sammus “has a gift for getting a message across.” In addition to managing a full-time music career, Enongo has spent the past decade as a public-school and college level educator. Her academic research interests are centered on the politics of community studios and she has also taught courses at NYU and Cornell University on science and feminism, the politics of sound, meanings of freedom throughout US history, and bioethics. After traveling to Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2015 for research and to facilitate beatmaking workshops, she returned to the states and helped to organize a Black Lives Matter chapter in Ithaca, NY. 

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Ytasha Womack

Author, filmmaker, independent scholar, and dance therapist

Ytasha L. Womack is an award-winning author, filmmaker, independent scholar, and dance therapist. She is a leading expert on Afrofuturism, the imagination and its applications and frequently lectures on the subject across the world.  Ytasha was honored among DesignHub’s 40 Under 40 designers for social good and innovation in 2017 and listed as a Filmmaker to Watch in The Chicago Tribune. Her book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi and Fantasy Culture (Chicago Review Press) is the leading primer on the subject and taught in colleges and universities. Afrofuturism is also a Locus Awards Nonfiction Finalist.  

A prolific writer, her other books include the time travel novels Rayla 2212 and Rayla 2213 (YSolstar); Post Black (Chicago Review Press), and Beats Rhymes and Life: What We Love & Hate About Hip Hop (Random House).  The Rayla 2212 series inspired the Race in Space Conference at Duke University where she was a featured artist along with keynote speaker and astronaut Mae Jemison. Her Afrofuturism novella A Spaceship in Bronzeville (Mouse Books) will be released later this year. 

Ytasha is director of the Afrofuturist dance film A Love Letter to the Ancestors From Chicago. The film was televised on WTTW Chicago and screened at the Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn; Black(s) to the Future Festival in Paris, France; the Reeltime Film Fest in Nigeria, Afrotopia in Bristol England and the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago among others. The film won Best Experimental Film at the Collected Voices Film Fest. 

Her other films include the romantic comedy Couples Night (screenwriter) currently running on Xfinity and Urban Movie Channel. The film stars Tony Rock, Reagan Gomez, Malik Whitfield, and Denise Boutte and was featured at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. Her feature films Love Shorts (producer/writer), and The Engagement (director) were nominated for Best Film at the American Black Film Festival. She was nominated for Best Director for The Engagement at the festival as well.  She’s currently developing the Afrofuturist feature film Bar Star City. The movie follows a bar on Chicago’s Southside that’s a haven for galactic travelers. Ytasha created and leads an Afrofuturism dance therapy program for teens with After School Matters in Chicago. She teaches an array of styles for both children and adults with the Beverly Arts Center's outreach.

Ytasha has lectured at a number of universities and cultural events. She was a featured speaker at Sonic Acts Festival in Amsterdam, the Deutsche Kinemathek ‘s Science in Fiction  in Berlin, the WOW Festival in Liverpool, and the Acheworks Chicago Series. She’s an invited participant in the Decolonizing Mars Unconference at the Library of Congress, a keynote presenter for the Afrofuturism & Indigenous Futurism Conference at the University of North Caroline Chapel Hill, and a keynote speaker for Planet Deep South at Jackson State University. She’s also presented at Duke University, University of Chicago, Clark Atlanta University, Yale University, The New School, Chicago State University, The City Colleges of New York and others.

She’s a frequent speaker and artist presenter at Comic Cons and science fiction conferences across the US. She’s a two time guest of honor at Convergence Con and a Guest of Honor at Diversicon in Minneapolis, MN. 

She also cocurated the Black to the Future Afrofuturist playlist with recording artist Janelle Monae for Spotify.

Ytasha began her career as a journalist covering arts, entertainment and business. She is guest editor for the business magazine NV Magazine; a former editor-at-large for Upscale Magazine and former columnist for the Chicago Defender.  Her work has appeared in Essence, VIBE, The Huffington Post and more. A Chicago native, she has a B.A in Mass Media Arts from Clark Atlanta University and studied Arts, Entertainment and Media Management at Columbia College in Chicago. She has a Masters Certificate in the study of Metaphysics and New Thought Philosophy from the Johnnie Colemon Institute.