Exploring space with Nasa

Dan Goods, Nasa visual strategist

Dan Goods, Nasa visual strategist

The organisers of this year’s National Science Festival — Scifest Africa — have confirmed that visitors can once more interact with artists and scientists from Nasa.

 The festival, sponsored by the department of science and technology, takes place in Grahamstown, from March 2-8 and celebrates the theme “A matter of time”.

Visitors can travel back in time with chief technologist Jim Adams to learn about space technologies developed over the last 40 years that benefit life on Earth, or travel to the future to look at the architecture being developed by Nasa that will allow humans to live on Mars in the 2030s. 

Adams is responsible for implementing technology strategies across the US space agency, leading technology transfer and partnership efforts to enable Nasa’s cutting edge missions, outstanding science and new discoveries. 

Adams is a member of the Scifest Africa advisory committee and has received a number of honours and awards.

Nasa visual strategist Dan Goods takes data collected by Nasa and uses various media to make this information accessible and comprehensible to the public. Goods will project manage two art installations at the festival: Beneath the Surface uses a large cloud, infrared light and the visitor’s mobile telephone camera to demonstrate how Nasa’s Juno mission uses special detectors to peer through the clouds of Jupiter and reveal the depths of its lightning storms. Hidden Light uses two projectors and the visitor’s shadow to explore the complex nature of deep-space research.  

Goods is also head of a creative group, The Exoplanet Travel Bureau, based at the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which uses the concept of a travel bureau and travel posters to communicate the data collected by Nasa about exoplanets (planets beyond our solar system). 

Visitors to the festival can join Goods for an interactive workshop to learn more about the methods used by Nasa to find these exoplanets, Nasa’s past, current and planned missions, what we know about the exoplanets discovered, and the development of the New Worlds Atlas (mapping out exoplanets we have discovered).

Scifest Africa will collaborate with Nasa to present the photographic exhibition Africa as Art. This exhibition, inspired by the original Nasa Earth as Art exhibition, features photographic images of Africa taken by Nasa satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station. 

The exhibition is on show outside Olive Schreiner Hall at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument, Fort Selwyn Drive, Grahamstown. 

Nasa will also support robotic workshops at the festival with representatives from the United States National Institute of Aerospace, assisted by students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University presenting. These workshops will explore the communication challenges faced by Nasa on the journey to Mars and encourage visitors to find solutions that may help Nasa through activities using littleBits electronic kits (easy to use electronic building blocks that enable users to create almost anything).