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The Milo Space Science Institute.

Learn about the steps Arizona State University has taken to improve international space cooperation with David Thomas from the Milo Space Science Institute.



Deep Space


The Milo Space Science Institute makes space exploration accessible to countries around the world with University-led missions that transform the way we think about engaging in space exploration and innovative business models that reduce the cost of entry.

You can connect with David on LinkedIn and learn more about the Milo Space Science Institute on their website.

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Space exploration is a daunting task for any organization, let alone an entire nation.

So how are we going to engage with the whole of humanity as our species explores the world beyond our own atmosphere?

[Music] Welcome to T-Minus Deep Space from N2K Networks.

I'm Maria Varmazes.

[Music] Our guest today is David Thomas, Executive Director of the Milo Space Science Institute.

The program, which is part of Arizona State University, aims to make space exploration accessible to countries around the world with university-led missions that transform the way that we think about engaging in space exploration.

And how is that?

Well, here's David with more details.

Our institute's mission is to create access for as many people as possible to participate in what's happening in space.

My background, I am a scientist.

I worked in the defense sector for about 15 years, and I got into academia as a way to sort of scale our impact, to scale the opportunities for us to reach people, to allow them to pursue their desires.

And I love it.

Arizona State University is just a fantastic place.

We've had many guests from Arizona State University.

It's truly amazing the fantastic minds that have come out of that institution that are really impacting the space world.

So, David, I'm really glad to be speaking with you today and learning more about what you're working on and also the impact.

So, let's just start with a real basic context setting.

Tell me a bit about the Milo Space Institute first, a Space Science Institute.

Excuse me.

Milo Space Science Institute was formed because of the recognition of what's happening in space.

You have now new missions to the moon.

You have countries that have never thought about space in years past.

They now have satellites, and they have aspiring programs to go to the moon and participate in Artemis.

The question becomes, how do you train these countries?

How do you train the people in these countries to participate in space when they may not have the deep bench of faculty that we are very fortunate to have in the United States, and may not have a heritage or legacy of space programs that they can build on?

So, the Milo Institute was created to translate the heritage and legacy that we have at Arizona State University and also in the United States.

Two countries around the world to help train the workforce, to inspire the next generation, to realize that it is feasible, it is possible for them to participate in the new space economy.

That's fascinating.

So, we're talking about training the trainers in a way.

How does one do that?

That is quite a remarkable task.

It is a daunting task.

It's a well stated.

So, I am very fortunate to work with an amazing team of people who have been doing this for a number of years in the United States.

There was an admission called Lucy, and there's an outreach program called LISPACE, the L apostrophe space.

And this LISPACE program was very successful, and it now has allowed over 10,000 students to come through in a semester.

It's live, virtual, and so it allows us to reach great extents.

We've used this platform now to and translated this to countries around the world to train students in this live, virtual format, where we bring experts who have participated in Mars exploration.

They participated in lunar exploration, orbiters, rovers, mapping the craters on the moon, looking for frozen ice water on the moon.

And these experts are able to tell their stories in such a way that it's truly inspiring.

And the platform, the live, virtual platform, allows us to do this relatively easily in countries all over the world.

I would love to hear more specifically about that international impact.

Something that on this show we feel very passionate about, the global view of the space economy, the space industry, the space workforce pipeline, and hearing that the Milo Institute is having a really fantastic direct impact on building that out.

I'd love to learn more about what does that look like, any examples you can give me.

For sure.

And you're touching on some things that just attract all of us, that draw us, right?

One of the things that I love to share is that most of the astronauts actually then go to space.

There's this theme that they come back with, and that is, when I got to space, I could not see any borders.

And so space is inherently international, and it brings us together in a way that very few topics do, and I'm inspired by that myself.

I want to have conversations on how can we come together and solve the challenges that we're facing.

And many of these challenges, or most of the challenges, are bigger than any one of us.

So how is it that we can come together and therefore bring our collective resources together?

So I'll begin with an example.

We started this international version of the space.

It's called the Milo Mission Academy for International Deployment.

And the Milo Mission Academy has been operating in Australia now for several months.

And it's fantastic.

We have, there were 200 students representing 33 different universities and vocational schools all across Australia.

In addition to that, there's another 25 or 30s professionals who are coming from the mining industry and other existing companies that they want to get into the space economy.

And they once a week will join us by Zoom.

And as I mentioned, we have these amazing speakers that talk about their stories and the students are assembled into teams.

And they're creating a mission concept that potentially could go to the South Pole of the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

So this project-based training allows people to come together to think about the challenges to create a plan that is viable.

And they're supported and encouraged by these faculty from ASU and other places, NASA and other places, that really allow them to have the content that makes their product, their deliverable, their mission concept viable.

And this is just incredibly inspiring.

Project-based learning is such a great, I just love it.

I'm being very simplistic, but it is such a great model.

And hearing also that the students in this case are thinking about the industries, especially like in Australia, mining is a big one, where they can make that impact and also deliver on that relevance, that eternal question of why space, what does it matter when we can connect it to those industries that now are currently huge powerhouses, like again, mining in Australia, that is so impactful and meaningful and also really helps drive that, the why space question into demonstrating its value.

Yeah, that's a really good point.

And it's a meaningful question.

I mean, it's an important question.

We need to be able to respond to that.

So there are a couple of things that come to mind in my experience.

And one is, yes, we have challenges on Earth.

It turns out that we can actually train individuals how to use spacecraft that are orbiting the Earth and understand how to use images to solve real-world challenges today.

So we're training now students on extracting actionable intelligence from imagery, their algorithms, there are now many satellite databases that are sponsored by NASA.

And Google Earth Engine is a wonderful free front-end platform to be able to access this information.

And we train students how to get into that information and pull out data that can help them with their day-to-day jobs.

We're trying to get information into the hands of the farmer, into the hands of the person who has a fishing company, into the hands of the mining industry and others who can use this.

And you're aware of this, I'm quite sure.

You listen to some of the authors of our day, like there's a Harvard Business Review article talking about every company needs to have a space strategy.

Space is going to affect every industry.

And of course, they're talking primarily about low-Earth orbit.

And that's true.

So students will be the ones that have the knowledge to understand how to use satellite imagery in a market or in their company.

And companies will view these students as being very valuable.

And so this knowledge makes them important and valuable for job seeking.

When we transition into more of the linear exploration, we like to talk in terms of how many different fields space needs.

And so we are able to attract students from all different kinds of backgrounds.

I've had conversations, for example, with one young lady in Ecuador.

And we were talking about precision surgery, robotic precision neurosurgery, where you have a doctor in one location, the patient in a second location.

And because of the technology that we have today, that person can be saved through telerobotic surgery.

And this is what's going to be needed, for example, on the moon.

We have moon bases that are planned.

Multiple countries are planning moon bases.

But even beyond that, the law and policy needs the psychological needs.

It's a very interesting environment.

And so the individual needs to understand what does wellness mean on the surface of the moon.

We're now getting into places like commercial space stations.

And I love to tell the story that the spacesuit maker Axiom signed an agreement with Prada to help them with fashion, right?

Yes, I remember that when that story went out that I said, yes, space is there.

We are right.

And so we now are able to attract just about anyone who has a creative imagination.

Another quick story, Voyager Space is an organization building a commercial space station signed an agreement with Hilton Hotels.

When I read this, I thought, you know, if I'm an architect and I'm thinking about how I'm going to create design and space, I'm now no longer limited to floor and walls and the ceiling because of the microgravity.

I can design every surface and make it attractive, make it livable, I can orient differently and create different scenes.

And just the field of creativity, the opportunities that we have across all of these disciplines is pretty extraordinary.

We'll be right back after this quick break.

What I love about the stories that you were just telling there is it also demonstrates that when I think many of us who have a sort of slightly outdated view of what space workforce might mean, we might think it only means sort of one path, but truly now it is branching out in all sorts of ways.

And it's not necessarily you must work at a space company, although that is often the path, but it might be you are the space person at a company that is not a space company or not a space organization, but you are that space liaison in a way or working on a space related project.

And that's just, that is so fascinating.

I don't know if people really realize that that is the opportunity ahead and it's such an exciting time.

I wonder for people who, again, given the international focus of what your institute does, for people who are in countries that don't have as robust a sort of space heritage as the United States, for example, and they want to be that space person, I'm sort of short handing it, what is your recommended path for them?

How do they get involved?

It's a great question.

And so there are a number of growing, actually many universities now have space programs.

So if you are a student and even if you are in your career and you have the opportunity to return to university, you can likely find something within your region.

Many universities are growing space programs, but you've touched on something.

If you're not in the United States, the United States spends more on space and all other countries combine.

And it's just, we are truly fortunate here to have so many different resources.

The reason we created our program and made it scalable and accessible around the world is to serve those countries that do not have ready access to universities with space programs.

And what we are able to do is accept anyone, regardless of their background, they do not have to have science or engineering as a foundation.

We can accept anyone and help them understand what they might possibly do in their career to support a company or to support a job in the space realm.

And this is now being deployed in the Middle East.

We are looking at Latin America.

We have a program that's actually recognized by the White House.

And that will be deploying in Puerto Rico in the fall.

And these are accessible internationally where we have individuals who are skilled in the trade of going into space and participating in space missions.

But our goal is really to create the ecosystem in the country of the participant.

We're not trying to bring students to the United States.

We're trying to truly create the ecosystem in those countries.

And so we are pioneering in some countries.

Others were collaborating.

And in all cases, our objective is really, as I said, really to amplify, to grow that space ecosystem so that more and more people have opportunities locally to participate.

It's a beautiful vision, honestly.

I hope I don't sound too cliche saying that, but it's really beautiful and it's wonderful.

And I love seeing that happen.

And I'm so glad that folks like yourself are working on making that happen.

So, David, thank you for what you're doing.

Thank you, Maria.

And thank you for the kind words.

You have a beautiful program.

I love what you do.

I really appreciate the doors that you open.

And the vision is actually based on my own story.

I was the first in my family to go to a university.

I had this desire to get into technical fields, and I thought that it was out of reach for me because of my background.

I didn't have the heritage.

I didn't have the preparation.

And I had a few people that opened doors for me, just like you're doing for many people around the world.

And in doing so, I now feel a sense of responsibility to return that back as many times as I possibly can.

So, I appreciate what you do in opening doors for people.

We also recognize the fact that we must have the next step.

So, we're invested in workforce.

We're fully motivated.

We are engaged in different regions around the world.

But what comes next?

It's not sufficient just to have an individual complete a training program for a semester.

It'll inspire them.

It'll tell them.

It'll teach them that, yes, space is within your grasp.

You can pursue space if you so desire.

So, what's next?

And so, what we're doing now is we're putting together some pretty creative, pretty innovative mission models where these individuals can actually participate in a space mission.

And so, you're familiar with rideshare now where you're buying a seat in a car as opposed to buying a car, for example, an Uber ride.

We're doing the same thing for the men.

We're leveraging the infrastructure that's being created by NASA and other agencies.

And we're bundling that infrastructure as a service.

So, you can now purchase a ride for your instrument or your tech demo or the thing that you want to do for your country.

And we take care of the launch, the landing, mobility, power, communications, all that is bundled essentially as a service.

And so, this is, as far as we're aware, the lowest cost way to get to the men and actually participate with something on the surface of the moon, participate in the space exploration.

And what it will do is it will change the way the people in the country view their status.

Because once you are able to participate in something like a linear mission, it changes everything.

It'll draw more into the field.

It'll be inspiring.

And so, there are others, so I'm happy to engage more with you at some point in the future.

We have an asteroid mission coming up in the 28-29 time frame.

It's very exciting.

And these are ways in which we are creating that access to space for all.

That's amazing.

I mean, if you want to tell me about it now, I'd happily hear about it.

I'd love to hear about that.

That's fantastic.

I love this.

What's about to happen is going to be just incredibly cool.

It sounds a little scary on the front end.

So, I'll lead off by saying this asteroid is going to come close, but it's not going to hit us.

So, the apophis.


The name of the...

The name of this very interesting object is apophis.

And in 2029, it's going to come inside, in between the Earth and the man.

In fact, it's going to come inside the outer geostationary satellite orbit or outer most satellites.

And so, that's pretty close, but it's not going to hit us.



No, no, I was going to say, in terms of distance, that's practically right next door.

I mean, that's cool though.

That's really neat.

And it's large.

It's not just about for American football fields or...

And this is a sizable object, but what a wonderful opportunity to study something that is part of our solar system and to try and understand more details about how our solar system formed.

And simultaneously, we now have small satellites that have incredible capability.

So we can actually use small satellites to study objects like apophis.

And we are planning to send a mission that is university led using small satellites about a year ahead of apophis close fly by of Earth and study it.

And just do...

Take some images of the morphology and hopefully we can calculate the density of this object because it is essentially sort of a practice run.

If there was an object that was going to...

As a trajectory that may hit Earth, we need to figure out how to deflect it.

And NASA has done this.

They've deflected asteroids.

With dark and asteroid.

We know we can do this, but we need to understand the density to understand the correct strategy.

So we're looking to do this precursor mission roughly a year ahead and send the information back to NASA and ESA and other agencies that have planetary defense offices.

But what I love about this is we're assembling an international consortium.

Once again, coming together to do something that is bigger than perhaps any one of us can do alone, but together we can pull this off.

And so we have agreements in place with a number of different countries around the world and pursuing others, having some wonderful conversations.

I think this is going to be a very exciting opportunity to participate in compelling space science.

That's it for T-minus Deep Space, brought to you by N2K Cyberwire.

We'd love to know what you think of this podcast.

You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes.

Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

T-minus Deep Space is produced by Alice Caruth.

Our associate producer is Liz Stokes.

We're mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music by Elliot Peltzman.

Our executive producer is Jennifer Iben.

Our executive editor is Brandon Karp.

Simone Petrella is our president.

Peter Kilby is our publisher.

And I'm Maria Varmasas.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you next time.

[Music] (gentle music) You

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