Episode 76: Dava Newman on getting humans to Mars and creating the next-generation spacesuit
Published November 8, 2018
43 min
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    Today’s episode features Dr. Dava Newman, the first female engineer to serve as NASA’s deputy administrator. Dava  is currently the Apollo Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    For more than 20 years, she has worked passionately to figure out what it will take to put humans on Mars. She is perhaps best known, however, for developing a next-generation spacesuit called the BioSuit, a slim-fitting compression suit that’s designed to make it easier for astronauts to move around on lunar surfaces.

    Dava joined the faculty at MIT in 1993 and served as NASA’s deputy administrator from 2015 to 2017. She also is on the faculty of the Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology department. As the director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program from 2003 to 2015, she led the institute’s largest multidisciplinary graduate research program with more 1,200 alumni.

    She is the author of “Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design,” an introductory engineering textbook, and has published more than 300 papers. Links to Dava’s book, papers and bio, as well as videos of the BioSuit, are included at the bottom of the show notes.

    In today’s interview with Dava, we discuss:

    [00:03:01] Her memories of watching the Apollo Moon landings as a child.

    [00:06:36] How Dava made the Notre Dame women’s varsity basketball team as a walk-on.

    [00:09:49] Her work over the past 20 years to get people on Mars.

    [00:11:19] Dava’s thinking behind the design of a slim-fitting spacesuit.

    00:15:12] The physiological monitoring systems she would like to see incorporated into next-generation spacesuits.

    [00:26:00] How she thought the call from the White House about the NASA position was a prank.

    [00:27:06] Dava’s takeaways from her four space missions to measure astronaut performance in microgravity.

    [00:28:41] Her transition back to MIT after her stint as NASA deputy administrator.

    [00:38:42] Dava’s advice for today’s young aspiring scientists and engineers, a group she says will become known as the Mars generation.
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