NASA Astronaut Dr. Tess Caswell Visits NSU

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On July 1, 2018, North South University and the U.S. Embassy co-hosted an event titled, “Unity on Earth, Unity in Orbit” where Dr. Tess Caswell, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory came to NSU in celebration of NASA’s 60th anniversary, and to promote STEM education. Dr. Caswell is a simulated astronaut for NASA’s long-duration space missions, a planetary scientist, and an aerospace engineer. She worked as an Environmental and Thermal Operating Systems or “ETHOS” flight controller for the International Space Station.  As an ETHOS, she monitored and controlled the life support and thermal control systems of the ISS, which helps to keep astronauts alive and comfortable while they are in space.

The event began with Dr. Caswell’s vivid and pictorial presentation explaining the beginning of NASA and how the astronauts and cosmonauts, at first, were working in a competitive form due to the fragile relationship between the USA and (then) the Soviet Union. However, the tension between the two entities gradually thawed and the USA and Russia have joined hands to work together through their space agencies. Before, the scientists and astronauts were worried about the possible privatization or confrontation over Space. However, this perception was diminished when both the USA and Russia collaborated and were able to achieve cooperation on Earth. As such, when they gained unity on Earth, they were able to easily build the International Space Station, an incredibly complex creation that conducts scientific investigations and studies the sciences behind the long-term exposure (materials responding to harsh vacuums, life without gravity, and living on Mars). As Dr. Caswell is a part of ETHOS, she explained the most crucial tasks for which ETHOS is responsible. ETHOS provides breathable air for the astronauts and removes carbon dioxide and particles from the space station. ETHOS provides clean and recycled water for the astronauts and keeps the water balanced. As water is very heavy, it is impossible for NASA to send water through a space shuttle every time the space station runs out of it. Thus, all the water is recycled and ETHOS monitors this process. As Dr. Caswell puts it, “Yesterday’s coffee is also tomorrow’s coffee”. She explained that ETHOS carries a huge burden to monitor the proper functioning of astronauts living. If the astronauts had to worry about these, then they would not be able to conduct research or experiments for the advancement of space knowledge.

After her presentation, Dr. Caswell answered many questions raised by the audience members. She answered how students from other fields like CSE, EEE can also study astrophysics to build a career and work for NASA. She also explained the commercialization of space as NASA’s budget is limited. Commercialization actually allows NASA to focus on more advanced projects. All the revolutionary discoveries can be made if NASA receives the required funding. She concluded by stressing the point that when everything is synched and united on the ground, everything is also synched and united in space; hence, the title “Unity on Earth, Unity in Orbit”. At the end the Pro Vice-Chancellor (D), Prof. Dr. G.U. Ahsan and the Dean of School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Prof. Dr. Arshad M Chowdhury thanked Dr. Caswell for coming to NSU and inspiring so many students to dream higher, higher than the skies to space. The Pro Vice-Chancellor especially thanked the U.S. Embassy Dhaka and the Office of External Affairs for their wonderful partnership in organizing this event. Lastly, Dr. Caswell was given a bouquet of flowers and a crest as tokens of appreciation for her time from NSU.