The NASA Astrobiology program just wrapped up its first ever Astrobiology Ideation Factory to search for life on Mars! This workshop, partnered with Know Innovation and hosted at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center brought together early career scientists and established scientists from around the world to generate creative and really out there approaches to detecting extant life on Mars. This Ideation Factory was unlike any workshop I have ever experienced, placing a strong emphasis on the creative process and placing a heavy focus on what questions you want answered, instead of getting lost in the details of instrumentation or site selection. That approach may sound weird, but it really helps to unleash the creative juices and then you start to worry about the specific nitty-gritty later!
Overall, we had 32 early career scientists along with 14 mentors, NASA managers, and Know Innovation facilitators in support. Four ECC members were selected to attend the workshop, Jordan McKaig, Catherine Maggiori, current ECC co-lead Bonnie Teece, and former ECC co-lead Joey Pasterski. Of the 6 science mentors, NfoLd was also represented by Co-lead Brooke Nunn and steering committee members Laurie Barge and Chris Carr. Over the course of the week participants and mentors worked together to generate 100s of ideas related to the search for life on Mars, before presenting several of their ideas to NASA HQ.
The week was incredibly inspiring and invigorating and we hope to continue many of the new collaborations and friendships that grew out of this wonderful opportunity to break down our previous assumptions.