Science Fiction Should Be Re-Named Science Prediction | A Q&A With Sarah Cruddas
Who doesn't love to look up to a clear night sky and see all those stars twinkling millions of light years away? It's an inviting proposition, full of opportunity and wonder at the same time.
When we sat down with Sarah Cruddas, a space journalist, commentator and thought-leader, the one question everyone wanted to ask was of course can we ever travel to Mars? Well, Sarah believes the first person to walk on the red planet is probably already at school somewhere across the planet, it's just a matter of time.
So, with a heap of questions to get through, let's find out how close are we to a new frontier?
We’re fascinated to know what piqued your interest in space and how you began your career as the BBC’s Science Correspondent?
I cannot remember a time when I have not been interested in space. I was first inspired looking up at the Moon as a small child. I studied Physics with Astrophysics at university, before doing a post-grad in Broadcast Journalism. I then worked as a Weather Presenter for the BBC, before becoming a Science Correspondent. In 2012 I left the BBC to pursue my dreams of space - today I work as a Space Journalist, TV Host and Author. I am also a global thought leader in the growing commercial space sector (which basically means I get to work with some incredible entrepreneurs and individuals working to grow the space industry). I divide my time between London and the US where I am currently filming a major new TV series.
Space travel was a familiar theme for the generation of the 1960s growing up watching sci-fi and the Apollo Moon Landings, but how close are we for mere humans to fly into a new frontier?
Closer than you probably realise. In the space industry change is happening fast, and the best comparison is to compare spaceflight with travel by airplane a century ago. At first it was just the mega wealthy who could afford trips, but technology advanced, prices came down and now many of us take for granted the wonders of flight. Of course I appreciate this still sounds like Science Fiction to many of you reading this, buy science fiction should really be re-named Science Prediction – as most of the things we imagine eventually come true – as well as the things we cannot imagine.
And tell us a little about your work with Space for Humanity which aims to send common people like us into space?
Space for Humanity is a non-profit I work for, with the goal of democratizing access to space. At the time of writing fewer than 600 humans have been to space. Nearly all of them trained scientists and engineers, many with military backgrounds or super wealthy individuals who have paid millions to make the journey. But what would happen if we sent scientists, or artists, a house-husband from Leeds?
The goal of Space for Humanity is simple. To fund commercial trips to space for people from all walks of life, in exchange they have to return to their community and inspire people about their experience.
What inspired you to pick up a pen and write a book for children?
The Space Race: The Journey to the Moon and Beyond - which was released this May - is my third children’s book. Although I don’t see it as just a children’s book. Nearly all of us have a child like wonder about space, and I want to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters and how it is shaping our lives. What inspired me to write this book is that I wanted to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters. I even launched the book to the edge of space (using a balloon) to help showcase just how close space really is.
Wait, hang on - you actually launched your book into space?
I launched my book to space using a special type of balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The science behind it is relatively simple, the gas in the balloon weighs less than the air around it, so that causes it to rise. The balloon continues to rise and expand until the air that surrounds is equal in pressure - at the edge of space at an altitude which in this case was 33.1km. It then pops and falls to the Earth by parachute.
However it's also complicated in the sense, you have to notify the CAA and also track the balloon and predict rough landing sight using weather patterns. But it shows that space is truly not far away.
Incredible! So, how do we encourage the current school-age generation to pursue STEM careers?
By inspiring them about the possibility of space. Most of us have a curiosity for what is out there, but often we get sidetracked as we get older. Space really is our next frontier and today’s school aged generation are going to be the ones doing things we have only dreamed of. In fact, the first person to walk on Mars is probably in school right now.
If there was one message you wanted to leave an audience with, what would it be?
That it might not seem like it now, but the exploration of space is the most significant thing we will ever do as a species. We are just this one average planet, in this one average solar system, which is one of many billions that exist in the universe. We cannot begin to imagine what is out there. But most importantly of all, the main reason we go to space is about Earth, about working out how better to protect and look after our home planet and improves the lives of every single person, plant and animal that lives here.
And finally, what’s next for you?
Am currently filming a major new TV series in the US which will be out in August – although this is all I can say about it at the moment. Am also writing my first adults book to be released in 2020. I will also continue my work within the commercial space sector.
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