Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space: Panel discussion on near-term issues of lunar exploration


August 13, 2021
11:00am — 12:00pm ET

The Space Enabled research group hosted Dr. Parvathy Prem, Daniel Hawk, and Dr. Richard Shope in a discussion of near-term issues of lunar exploration with  respect to Anticolonialism and indigenous perspectives on human activity in space. The organizing team includes Prof Danielle Wood, Seamus Lombardo, Frank Tavares and Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar of Team Space Enabled in collaboration with Alvin Harvey of MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

This was the second in a series of events on "Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space" hosted by the team. To view the recording of our first event in May 2021, follow this link.


Name: Dr. Parvathy Prem

Affiliation: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Bio: Dr. Parvathy Prem is a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where her research focuses on using computational methods to study the environments of Solar System worlds with very thin (or barely there) atmospheres, and the stories that they have to tell. Current projects include investigating the origins of water on the Moon, and how spacecraft exhaust gases may temporarily change the lunar surface and exosphere. Dr. Prem is a member of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission’s science team, and a co-investigator on two teams of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. Parvathy was born in Kerala, India, and grew up in the UK and India. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.Eng. from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, all in aerospace engineering.


APL/Ed Whitman

Name: Dan Hawk

Bio:  Born 1960. Native American, Oneida. Enrollment no. 3322. Raised and live on the Oneida Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. While in Army National Guard and the U.S. Navy have extensive experience in electronics (both in repair and testing) and propulsion. While working with Space Grants, worked with high powered rockets, high-altitude balloons, tethered aerostats, and CubeSat satellites. Operated both First Nations Launch and Tethered Aerostat Programs. Have extensive carbon-based research and is an Amazon Black Earth expert. Carbon-based research leads to biofuels such as hemp. Current activity is working with UNCOPUS to ensure Native Americans have a seat at the space table. Working with NASA to create an Office of Tribal Affairs. Started United First Nations Planetary Defense, a Jay 1794 Treaty Company, to slow and or deflect asteroids of less than 300 meters in diameter. Partnered with Johns Hopkins on a Permafrost Prediction Satellite. "Indigenous peoples are going into space, we are, The New Face of Space."


Dan Hawk

Name:  Dr. Richard Shope

Bio:  As President of the World Space Foundation, Dr. Shope develops collaborative projects and directs tiered mentorships, inquiry science expeditions, and action science theatre productions. World Space programs reach over 5000 K-12 Students each year.

From 1999-2002, Dr. Shope carried out NASA/JPL outreach to Native American communities, including the Diné Nation, which had sought to raise consciousness about including Native American participation in NASA Missions. Specifically, Dr. Shope was tasked by NASA to study the community impact of the Lunar Prospector Mission, which, controversially, had aboard the ashes of the late astronomer Eugene Shoemaker. Results of the study led directly to the establishment of a summer internship program for a cohort of nine Diné youth, three years in a row at JPL, which included a visit to NASA Ames, which operated the Lunar Prospector Mission.

From 1994-2009, Dr. Shope coordinated science education and public outreach programs nationwide for various flight projects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); developed curriculum for flight projects (Pluto, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Europa, the Sun, the Moon, and more); created science highlights for NASA Headquarters; and served as Principal Investigator for NASA-funded education and public outreach projects, known for his abilities to communicate complex science concepts in exciting and expressive ways, especially reaching thousands of urban youth and rural American Indian youth.

From 1971-1994, the MIME Wrighting program reached over one million schoolchildren nationally and throughout Southern California and Mexico. The MIME Approach continues to be applied as an integral part of the World Space Enterprise Expeditions, as students ACT OUT THE SCIENCE STORY!


Dr. Richard Shope


All times are in Eastern time

Introductory Presentations from Panelists | 11:00 AM

Introductory presentations from speakers on their background and work.

Panel Discussion moderated by Dr. Danielle Wood | 11:15 AM

Discussion between panelists on topics of near-term human space activity with respect to anticolonialism and indigenous perspectives, moderated by Dr. Danielle Wood.

Audience Question and Answer Session | 11:45 AM

Audience members will have the chance to ask questions of the panelists, moderated by Dr. Danielle Wood.

Event Organizers

Dr. Danielle Wood -  Space Enabled research group,  MIT Media Lab

Bio: Professor Danielle Wood serves as an Assistant Professor in the Program in Media Arts & Sciences and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Within the Media Lab, Prof. Wood leads the Space Enabled research group which seeks to advance justice in Earth's complex systems using designs enabled by space. Prof. Wood is a scholar of societal development with a background that includes satellite design, earth science applications, systems engineering, and technology policy. In her research, Prof. Wood applies these skills to design innovative systems that harness space technology to address development challenges around the world. Prior to serving as faculty at MIT, Professor Wood held positions at NASA Headquarters, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. Prof. Wood studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a PhD in engineering systems, SM in aeronautics and astronautics, SM in technology policy, and SB in aerospace engineering.


Dr. Danielle Wood

Alvin Harvey - Human Systems Lab,  Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics,  MIT

Bio:  Alvin Donel Harvey is a MIT PhD candidate in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Human Systems Lab and a member of the Navajo Nation. He is of the Tó-baazhni'ázhi (Two Who Came To the Water) clan and born for the Honágháahnii (One-walks-around) clan. His current PhD research focuses on developing virtual reality systems for satellite constellation development, operation, and management; as well as developing methods of analyzing space technology as tool for tribal sovereignty. Prior work of Alvin includes research in partial gravity biomechanics and simulation, applied thermodynamics, and extensive historical research examining cases of conflict between Indigenous Nations and space agencies and entities. His current historical work also includes examining MIT’s ties to Indigenous land and lives through the Morrill Land Grant Acts, MIT’s relationship with its own Indigenous students, and its associations with local Indigenous Nations.

As the president of the MIT Native American Student Association he continues to be an advocate for Indigenous students at MIT, working together with MIT’s chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to have MIT celebrate its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day, create an on-campus space for Indigenous students, and address historical concerns and conflicts between MIT and Indigenous people. He studied mechanical engineering at New Mexico State University (BS), while attaining his private pilot’s license, and Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT in the Human Systems Lab (SM ’20, PhD in progress). As Alvin continues his technical research he also continues to concentrate on advocating for Indigenous view points and space policy throughout the various space exploration fields.


Alvin Harvey

Frank Tavares - Space Enabled research group , MIT Media Lab

Bio:  Frank Tavares is a science writer joining the Space Enabled research group as an Affiliated Researcher, where they are thrilled to conduct research exploring an anti-colonial approach to space exploration, particularly in how to approach interactions with other planetary bodies. They have experience in science communications, astronomy, interactive and prose fiction, playwriting, and more. Working with an interdisciplinary group of scholars, they also were the lead author of “Ethical Exploration and the Role of Planetary Protection in Disrupting Colonial Practices,” a submission to the 2023-2032 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. Frank grew up in San Diego, CA and graduated from Amherst College in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Astronomy.


Frank Tavares

Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar - Space Enabled research group, MIT Media Lab

Bio:  Pedro is a Doctoral Student based at the Space Enabled group in the MIT Media Lab and the Future Heritage Lab at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology. He received his Bachelor’s of Sciences in Linguistics from the National University of Colombia, where he worked on articulatory phonetics, and signal processing. He did his masters with the Personal Robots group at the MIT Media Lab, where he focused on designing mechanisms to foster children's socio-emotional skills such as empathy, through interactions with social robots. Currently, he studies and documents ancestral technologies in Colombia, as well as the design practices that led to their existence. He uses insights from this work to propose design practices and philosophies that can lead to the development of more sustainable and just technologies.


Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar

Seamus Lombardo - Space Enabled research group, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT

Bio:  Seamus Lombardo is an AeroAstro PhD student conducting research in Space Enabled. He is working on using remote sensing and integrated complex systems modeling to support sustainable development.

Seamus previously conducted research on spacesuit performance and received his Master's degree in AeroAstro from MIT in May, 2020. He received his BS in Aerospace Engineering from SUNY Buffalo in 2018. He has previously interned throughout the aerospace engineering industry at Millennium Space Systems, SpaceX, and NASA and was a program manager for the University at Buffalo Nanosatellite Lab.

Additionally, Seamus is active in politics and advocacy through his work with MIT Democrats, Bluebonnet Data, MITvote and the MIT Graduate Student Council's External Affairs Board.


Seamus Lombardo

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