Moriba Jah, a world-renowned space scientist and aerospace engineer specializing in astrodynamics, studies the movement and positions of objects in space. He’s uncovered a cluster of interconnected issues that challenge our way of life and our future as a species. Lena Johnson runs NASA’s Simslab, which models the future of space travel. Together, Lena and Moriba are working on a simulation that explores how his research can improve our way of life, both now and in the future. In this unique, immersive experience with wide audience appeal, Moriba explains his research, the urgency of the situation, how these complex issues are interconnected, and how we can all do our part to help. The experience covers micro-plastics and plastic pollution on earth, as well as space debris that jeopardizes everything from essential communication to space travel. The experience brings to life a world of possible futures, touching on sustainable design, stewardship, balance, and ancestral knowledge. 

 

First, we meet Lena at the research lab she shares with a small team including Moriba. After a short introduction to the technology used in the sim, she takes us to meet Moriba in the simulation space they're working on. We find ourselves in a residential neighborhood, where somebody throws an empty plastic soda cup at us from a moving car. We have a seemingly innocuous choice to make: how do we dispose of the cup? This prompts a response from a young boy, who we discover is Moriba’s son. Nearby, Moriba greets us, drawing our attention to where the cup may end up and how. Together we travel to the western Pacific Ocean. As we survey the vastness of the ocean garbage patch, Moriba shares his thoughts on stewardship of the earth and living sustainably. After sunset, the beauty of the star-filled night sky surrounds us and the debris recedes from view. Instead, a group of elders from indigenous tribes shares some of their extensive wisdom with us. What looks like a comet disrupts the ancient constellations: It is the International Space Station orbiting earth. 

 

Together with Lena, we travel to the ISS to learn about space junk and near space. We discover a rogue satellite module that has left its orbit and is hurtling towards the station. With the team of ISS astronauts, we attempt to capture the stray satellite. This is one of the scenarios Moriba has been warning us about. He shares his insights about the challenges and solutions to debris in space. He gives us an exclusive demonstration of the visualization system he developed to help the world address the crisis. As Mars becomes more visible to the crew and visitors, Lena and the ISS astronauts speculate about the future of space travel. Moriba isn't convinced space travel will be possible, given the increase in space junk and the lack of space governance. Lena maintains that we are allowed to dream. Possible futures are the focus of her simulation work and she shows us a possible future on Mars, the role the moon may have in this scenario, and how we, as humans, factor in that endeavor. 

 

In that future, we meet one of Moriba's descendents on Mars with an important message for us. Then, we have another choice to make about the challenges we face. We leave with a richer understanding of the interconnected challenges - present and future - regarding space debris. Armed with knowledge, we can appreciate space's finite resources and are ready to face the challenges, both for us and for the generations that follow. There is more information and research than Moriba and Lena can fit into this short experience. The public section of the lab has a number of research stations, models, and small exhibits that will allow us to dive deeper. Another lab assistant collects our passes, headsets, and offers to help if we need any with the kiosks, etc.

Narrative Summary 

Characters 

Moriba Jah

(Narrator, Guide) Professor at UT Austin's Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. Space environmentalist and specialist in orbital mechanics. 

 

Denali
Moriba's teenage son.


Atreju
Future Mars scientist/ settler. Descendent of Moriba and Denali

 

Lena Johnson 

Director of Simslab at Nasa. Happens to be a niece of Katherine Johnson. Atlanta born and raised. 40s. She is investigating what is causing some strange hazard alarms on the ISS that may affect the future of space travel.


Mahmoud Ansari

Russian Astronaut on ISS. Born in Moscow to Afghan Parents. Idealist/ dreamer. Owner of "Laika". 30s.

Claudia Lefevre

Swiss Astronaut. CERN researcher. Serious and a little older. Early 60s.

 

Kaiwen Wakata
Japanese Astronaut. Commander of ISS. Has seen it all, loves to roll with the punches. Late 40s


Laika
Pet guinea pig, belongs to Mahmoud.

Rangi (Maori) 

Eastern part of dome. From the legend of creation. She is the Earth mother who gave birth to the seven sister stars, or the constellation, Matariki. 

 

Tsela (Navajo) 

Western part of the dome. Tsela means stars lying down. 

 

 Tikasuq (Inuit) 

Northern part of the dome.  Name means  possessing the treasure of knowledge. 

 

Jiemba (Aboriginal) 

Southern part of the dome. Name meaning laughing star. 

Imagine LAB
Moody College of Communication 
The University of Texas at Austin
300 West Dean Keaton, CMA 6.154
Austin, TX 78712