Completely out the blue I received a call from someone at NASA the other day. They had read my life’s work and concluded that I might like to become a visiting scientist on the International Space Station, working alongside Major Tim Peake on an experiment to test whether the grass is always greener on the other side, under conditions of weightlessness.
I remained cool and reminded them that I have a background in parasitology and not grasses ecology and they apologised for the confusion – apparently caused by an AI malfunction in their search bot. But then after a long pause, and some muffled conversation at their end, a senior figure within NASA came on the line and repeated the offer. I was somewhat taken aback, but after some more talking it turned out that they were looking to spend some surplus funds within a short time and they thought my general enthusiasm for interdisciplinary science would carry the project through.
I have to say I’m more than a little excited. I’ve never been to space before but I love to travel and have been reading a little about the ecology, physiology etc of the world’s grasslands in preparation for the experiments. I should be on the ISS by mid May, so there isn’t much time. If you have any ideas yourself on the kinds of experiments we could undertake it’s probably too late to submit them, but thanks anyway.
Fortunately I’m in OK physical condition and they have told me I can use the CERN particle accelerator to boost my 27Km pace to near light-speed. So by the time we get there I should be in tip-top condition for my first space walk – an apparently ‘high-risk’ task to establish a living sedum roof on the top of the multipurpose laboratory module.
I hope you have the time in your busy schedules to look out the for the ISS sometime between May and September. You might just see me waving from the window as I trim the bushes or water the seedlings. You can also email me with your statements of support and perhaps, if you have any spare capacity, organise a fund raiser to bring me back again.
The only problem, you see, is that NASA don’t quite have enough surplus funding for the return portion of the journey. They have assured me, though, that the publicity around the trip (Hello BBC, Professor Brian Cox, Dara O’Briain et al!) will almost certainly be sufficient to raise enough money to book me a spare seat on a return flight, if and when it becomes available.
Wish me luck!
I am an epidemiologist based at a UK Higher Education establishment (Durham University, if you are interested). My research interests are primarily within the domain of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). I believe that the only way we can effectively tackle complex problems affecting populations living in tropics and sub-tropics is through trans-disciplinary collaboration. My working definition of transdisciplinary is undertaking research alongside so-called 'stakeholders' - groups and individuals who do not call themselves 'researchers' but whose experiences and knowledge can be used to great effect when combined with the experiences and knowledge of the research community. You can read my online CV at the link below.