Let’s talk about space with Lisa Stojanovski, space communicator and presenter on the TMRO YouTube show

How old were you when you first became passionate about space and why?
When I was six or seven, my dad came home with a huge text book called Universe. It had a picture of a whole bunch of stars on the front. It was meant for teenagers but I was so excited, I read the whole thing from cover to cover. My interest snowballed from there.

What did you study at the International Space University?
I got to do an overview of the whole space industry including space engineering, space science, the sun and solar physics. We also looked at space business, space law and the whole communication side of the space industry, for example, what to do if a rocket blows up. A lot of people don’t realise space isn’t just engineering. There are all different topics that you can study within the space industry. Anyone from any walk of life can be involved.

What are the coolest things you’ve discussed on your YouTube show?
It’s so hard to pick one thing! We did a live interview with the German research station that is working on greenhouse systems in shipping containers in Antarctica. If they can build systems that can grow plants with water, very little power and the ability to withstand crazy Antarctic temperatures, then putting that system on Mars is going to be no problem.

That’s amazing! What kind of foods could they grow?
Tomatoes, capsicums ... strawberries didn’t grow so well, so they’re trying a different species. They had cucumbers, lettuce and things that add flavour, like hot chillies.

Who else have you interviewed on TMRO?
A couple of groups that are working on space hotels.

Space hotels? No way! How would those work?
You would take a SpaceX capsule and rocket up to space, then visit a space hotel, stay there for a while and then head back to Earth. The cool thing is that hotels have people who work there. So not only are the tourists getting to experience space, but you have people who actually have jobs in space. Who wouldn’t want to be a janitor or a cleaner in space?

That would definitely be cool! So, would you personally like to go to space?
I really hope that I am one of the first people that either gets to live on the moon or Mars. I don’t have many things that tie me down to this planet, so I feel obligated to volunteer myself.

Speaking of Mars, tell us about the NASA Mars Simulation you took part in.
We were a team of four and we lived on the side of a volcano in Hawaii pretending to be on Mars so NASA could figure out the psychological effects of living in such an isolated place. It was an eight-month mission that unfortunately got cancelled after four days as there was a medical emergency with one of our crew members.

What was it like living on ‘Mars’?
It was totally surreal! When they closed the door on us and said, ‘See you later, you’re on Mars,’ it really did feel like we’d instantly teleported onto a different planet. There was no social media, we couldn’t talk to our friends or family. There were no sounds of birds or nature, just the sound of the fans and air conditioners and computers humming away.

When do you think humans will get to Mars for real?
I definitely think we’ll be on Mars in the next ten years, especially if we have people like Elon Musk spearheading that. If we have people who are willing to volunteer themselves to go and live on Mars and maybe not even come back, we should embrace their passion for exploration and figure out a way to make that happen. Some of our greatest achievements as a species have been exploring the deep oceans and continents that have never been explored before.

Lisa’s favourite space facts:
1.     Both the Australian outback and the Martian surface are famous for their dusty red soil. The Martian soil also contains opaline silicates - which we have in the outback in the form of opals. There could be opals on Mars!
2.     Fairy bread would never be allowed in space. Both the sprinkles and breadcrumbs could fly into people’s eyes, or into sensitive machinery.
3.     Vegemite has never flown into space. Its high salt content would also make it an unlikely choice. Sodium is retained in the body during spaceflight and could contribute to vision problems and bone loss.
4.     The Martian atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide, but is only 1% the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere.