Friday, 19 February 2016

Interview with Jason Turnbull of CBC Radio's "Up North," 19 February 2016, ~5:25 pm EST

I had the exciting experience of being interviewed on behalf of ISC Team Canada by Jason Turnbull of CBC Radio's "Up North," on 19 February 2016, ~5:25 pm EST.  You can hear the interview here.  A transcript of the interview is below.

Jason Turnbull: Good afternoon, Benjamin.
Benjamin Jewiss: Good afternoon, Jason.
JT: So, how happy are you to be heading back to the space program with some students this summer?
BJ: I'm thrilled that you asked the question that way because I can say that we are over the moon!
JT: Good, and we have all of the space puns set to go, I should say, for the interview.
BJ: Excellent.
JT: What happens at this camp exactly?
BJ: So at this camp, our students, the Canadian contingent, as well as, as you said, students from 35 different countries and all 50 US states plus territories go and, for a week, get a real experience of what it is to be an astronaut.  They undergo a lot of the same training, microgravity training in the
Some of the micro-gravity training at in the
Underwater Astronaut Trainer's International Space Station 

Underwater Astronaut Trainer, high-gravity training in a centrifuge where they are where they experience 3.5 times their own bodyweight, and they go through a lot of simulated space missions.  They actually fly a space shuttle simulator, they work Mission Control,  they fly simulated F-18 jet fighters, and, most importantly, they do this with people from all over the world, just like the space program. International Space Camp relies a lot on international Cooperation and the idea that, really, we can work together to make space exploration possible.

JT: So, what was your time like at space camp, because I know you were there, and it sounds like something that really stuck with you.
The interviewee, working mission control
BJ:  It absolutely is! I had a particularly tough year of teaching once, It was actually my wife who had suggested, "You know, you've always talked about going to Space Camp: why don't you go ahead?” and it was an absolutely thrilling experience. Again, working with people from all over the world, chumming around with astronauts and going through this training really gives you appreciation for not only the mental and physical demands that astronauts certainly require, but also all of the behind the scenes, science and technology and mathematics that goes into... the space race of the last century and where that's going to take us in the century.
JT: Benjamin, you strike me as someone who probably want to be an astronaut when you were a kid. Was that the case?
A view of the massive Saturn V (replica),
visible from a display of an aircraft
contemporary with the Wright Bros. 
BJ: Absolutely, yeah. I grew up and my ambition was to be some sort of a crew member of the starship Enterprise and explore strange new worlds.   But, you know, it really wasn't until fairly recently that I gained a much better appreciation for the space  program. At Space Camp, they have a display of an aircraft that's from around the same time as the Wright brothers’ flight at the beginning of the last century, and they have it juxtaposed with a massive Saturn V rocket, the same rocket that took people to the Moon for the first time. And so, it's absolutely amazing to see how far humanity went in just under seven decades. We went from being grounded to literally flying to another planet. And so, you can't help but be inspired that human ingenuity and human dedication managed to accomplish that.
JT: What is it that's so intriguing about exploring outer space for you?  Why does it fascinate you?
BJ: There are… Space is absolutely phenomenal. I mean, there are places in our solar system where it rains diamonds, and something so literally otherworldly is absolutely astonishing. but, for me, the most impressive thing is that in 1961 the Americans had just launched a man into space, and the late President Kennedy set not only the goal of the American government and the American people but if the whole world on reaching the Moon. And in less than a decade, because of the efforts, certainly of the astronauts but also of scientists and technologists and engineers and mathematicians, they made that happen: going from 100 km up in the atmosphere all the way to the moon in less than a decade. And, if you think of what the possibilities are for the future, if we had that same dedication, that same drive now, if we were willing to commit ourselves to another great goal, we could be walking on another planet and relatively on time.
JT: It's a… I love your passion for it, Benjamin. I hope the students that are going with you are just as passionate for this.
BJ: Absolutely! It was a very difficult decision to decide who to select. The call came to me as someone who Space Camp knew was an impassioned and dedicated teacher of science and technology and especially space science. I then put the call out to a group of local high school students, and, with the help of some friends of mine I have in various community organizations,  we set them down to a fairly gruelling interview process and ended up selecting two, if you'll pardon it, two absolutely stellar candidates that are certainly themselves going to take a lot away from this -- they're both headed for aerospace or even astronautics  -- and so there are certainly going have a wonderful experience themselves....

[I should mention a few minor error/omissions that occurred on the radio. The students go to high school in Geraldton, not Nakina. I teach at St. Brigid Catholic School but am leading the trip as a local teacher, not in my capacity as an elementary school (not high school) teacher at St. Brigid (which is not in any way connected to or endorsing the trip). Finally, the last chunk of the interview, wherein I speak about how the students are going to be bringing back the experience to the community through speaking engagements, etc. was omitted, presumably due to time constraints.]

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