Space has always intrigued us. We managed to lift the veil of mystery a little bit more thanks to Monika Lipińska - an inspiring woman and a Space Architect in NASA. What was her career path? What are the tasks and challenges in this job? Why does she want to create windows in rockets? Check out her story!
Space exploration is increasingly part of our lives now. However, when we think about it, space still remains something mysterious and fascinating to us all. That is why we met with an inspiring woman, Monika Lipińska, a Space Architect in NASA. We had a chance to ask about her job, her career path, and what the future of construction may look like!
Monika's background is in architecture. After her bachelor’s, she took a gap year to work in different architecture offices around the world. Even though she could work on worldwide projects, Monika did not feel passion for her job. Something was missing. This was when the first thoughts about working in space exploration came to her.
A few years ago, if you googled the phrase, ‘’Space Architecture’’, you would not find much information. Despite that, she managed to find a job in an office in Vienna. That experience was the most significant push in her career. Having a university background in architecture, she saw how projects connected with space may look in real life. Monika decided to follow this pull towards space and completed a master’s in architecture with a specialization in spatial experiments. From that moment, her passion for space only grew!
The next stop was Space Studies at International Space University in Strasbourg.
‘’It was an incredible experience! People from different countries and backgrounds; engineers, architects, doctors, biologists - all learning together about space! It was the best part of the job - the possibility to work with experts from many different fields and learning from them. ‘’
The time spent there was an excellent opportunity to study and gave her the chance to do an internship at NASA. She completed it in 2019, but this was not the end! Now, she is developing her PhD in collaboration with NASA and working as a Space Architect.
Architecture is often associated with houses or public facilities projects. So what can a space architect do if there are no houses on other planets yet? As Monika explained to me, space architecture is a vast field. Some architects work on future projects, for example, imagining how colonies on Mars will look in 100 years. Others work on current challenges in developing the first steps to make space exploration possible. Monika deals with the latter.
‘’It is fascinating but at the same time highly challenging. Here on Earth, it’s much easier as we have many sources or measures. In space, we must invent everything from scratch, like water purification, oxygen production, recycling of waste, and we have to do it for an entirely different atmosphere and gravity!’’
What Space Architecture does is combine human and technology needs. Her personal goal is to create space rockets with windows. Why exactly is this?
‘’Lack of windows in space rockets is reasonable as we protect astronauts from solar and cosmic radiation. However, they are humans, and we need to have in mind psychological aspects. We know that living in different gravity and closed living spaces affects our senses, but it also impacts how we perceive and control our emotions. If we want to send people on more extended missions, we need to think about these aspects.‘’
In the media, the stereotype about women being less predisposed to succeed in technical occupations is often repeated. Monika strongly disagrees with it. The most significant mentors she met on her way who inspired her (and were often her bosses) - were women. Also, at International Space University, the number of women is significant. In Monika's year, it was around 50% of the class, but the year after, women were the majority of students.
Monika claims that she has never experienced bad treatment because of her gender. She felt equal to her other colleagues. As a child, her parents never framed what she should and should not do as a woman. Also, they encouraged her to do whatever she wants in her life. Thanks to that, Monika is now working in a profession that she really enjoys and can be a true example of encouraging other women to join the industry!
Having a chance to talk with Monika, we could not help but ask her about the future of construction from her perspective. While any prediction about such a complex topic is never certain, Monika suggested that sustainability may be a significant construction trend.
‘’At some point, we will have to change the way we think about buildings and their future. They should be able to adjust their functions when the needs evolve.’’
Such changes may even be accelerated by space exploration! After all, if we want to go to space for longer missions, we need to develop technologies that will continuously recycle everything that is produced. Such technology could be beneficial also on Earth! We can already observe some small changes as local materials and low carbon emission techniques are quite popular construction topics nowadays.
‘’The Space Exploration sector is also constantly learning. During the Apollo Mission, there was tons of trash left on the moon. Now the reality is changing. We are not in a rush anymore, so we can do it more thoughtfully.’’
Monika's experience shows that it is worth rethinking our plans for the future and trying new ways by continuously innovating. At the very beginning, she was unsure if she wanted to work in Space Architecture, but she trusted her inner voice. She tried, and with every experience, she gained the confidence that space is her passion. According to Monika, it is even better than she had ever expected! Now, she is an important voice encouraging other women to push their limits and follow their passions even when it may be challenging.
‘’Sometimes even if we change our profession completely, it may turn out that in the future, we can combine all our experiences from different fields and bring immense value from it!’’
Having a chance to talk with Monika was a fantastic experience. After meeting such a passionate person with knowledge and an eagerness to share it, we can definitely say that the future of space exploration is in good hands. We have a feeling that, sooner or later, we will hear once again from her. Who knows, maybe even in connection with the invention of windows in space rockets? As for now, we can keep our fingers crossed for her and recommend that you learn more about other inspiring women in construction!
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