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Speaker and Panelist Biographies

Plenary Abstracts

ASP2022: A Virtual Conference

“Improving Lives, Communities, and Societies with Astronomy”

This panel will describe and explore the ways in which astronomy can be used to improve the lives of individuals, communities, and societies.

Panel participants:

Mike Simmons
Founder of Astronomy for Equity, founder and former president of Astronomers Without Borders

Ramasamy Venugopal
Operations Manager of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) of the International Astronomical Union, South Africa/India

Anousheh Ansari
CEO of the X-Prize Foundation, entrepreneur, first astronaut of Iranian descent and first female Muslim astronaut

Mike Simmons will discuss ways in which astronomy can create community, benefit isolated individuals and communities, and building peaceful interaction between cultures. He will describe ways astronomy is used to create opportunities for marginalized communities, for example, including introducing STEM education in developing countries and bringing astronomy to the disabled such as the blind and visually impaired.

Ramasamy Venugopal will discuss the ways in which the OAD has used astronomy for advancing development in disadvantaged communities over its 10-year history. He will describe the ODA’s current flagship themes: astronomy for socio-economic development (astro-tourism projects), astronomy for humanity (astronomy for mental health projects), and knowledge and skills from astronomy (big data hackathons).

Anousheh Ansari will describe the transformative experience of viewing Earth from space known as the Overview Effect and how it transforms one’s understanding of our existence on Earth. She will also discuss how astronomy gives us a similar perspective from Earth, the importance of this perspective in addressing the many crises humanity faces, and her continuing efforts for the benefit of humanity.