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Stacking the deck for sustainability

July 20, 2021

ASU initiative seeks to engage students, young artists and activists to shape ecologically just futures

Scientists have been sounding the alarm on the climate crisis for nearly three decades, and we still face major challenges. A group of Arizona State University educators are reaching out to youth for solutions.

“Scientists have warned us that the planet’s systems are dangerously close to irreversible tipping points. Children and youth are well aware that we live in environmentally precarious times and that they face an uncertain future,” said Iveta Silova, professor and director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “Yet, schools and universities continue to reproduce the hierarchical ‘man over nature’ relationships in an ongoing pursuit of economic growth.”

She believes this requires a complete paradigm shift and that our very future survival depends on our capacity to make this shift.

Which is why Silova is participating as a research director for a new ASU initiative called “Turn It Around! Flashcards for Education Futures,” a card deck that calls for climate action and ecological justice. ASU and the Artists’ Literacies Institute, with the support of UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative and Open Society Foundations, are creating this card deck to present to policymakers and global leaders at the 2021 United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

The goal is to engage students, youth, artists and activists to reimagine the role of education in shaping more sustainable and ecologically just futures, expressed in artistic ways. In this instance, youth are leading the creation of a deck of 40 to 60 flashcards that will display climate crisis-inspired artwork. The artwork will be on one side of the card while the other will offer motives, actions and facts for policymakers to guide their decision-making.

“Art is essential to reimagining education and how we think about sustainability. We will need to harness all of our creativity to address the challenges we are facing; we want to move young people in that direction,” said Adriene Jenik, an artist and professor with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, who is the creative producer on the initiative. “The cards will not only be given to policymakers but will also be used as pedagogical tools by teachers at any level. The idea is to provoke classroom discussions about addressing the climate disruption.”

She added the cards will also be translated into French and Spanish. They'll be available online through a dedicated website and linked to social media for a wider engagement and dissemination of the work.

Jenik, whose current research spans “data humanization” performances, ECOtarot readings and experiments in extreme experiential learning, said she’s been impressed by what she’s seen.

“The ones who have submitted entries so far are very amazing young artists and they have strong feelings about the topic,” Jenik said.

That sentiment could apply to Saiarchana Darira, a triple major in global management, peace studies and psychology with a minor in sustainability, who has been working as an assistant producer on the initiative since March.

“I didn’t even realize that our planet was in a climate emergency until I came to ASU and took a class in sustainability,” said Darira, an ASU senior graduating in spring 2022. “It’s so heartbreaking that many people my age may not know this is even a problem. What’s also sad is that youth often don’t get heard when it comes to policymaking.”

And that’s the beauty of this initiative, said Ann Nielsen, associate director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education.

“We are leaning into youth for their passion, wisdom and insight about how they can think differently about this issue because clearly our generation is not doing it,” said Nielsen, who is a researcher on the initiative. “This initiative is doing something powerful and meaningful and we’re hoping youth can help policymakers reenvision education necessary for our future survival.”

Artists who create artwork and written submissions chosen for the card deck will be paid for their contributions.

So far, the initiative has received close to 100 entries from around the world and are looking for more. People can send their art and written submissions at the project’s website: The deadline to submit is July 23. They can also stay up to date with the project on social media: Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. 

Top photo: A collage of submitted artwork from around the world for the "Turn It Around! Flashcards for Education Futures," a new initiative headed up by Arizona State University. Courtesy of Saiarchana Darira.

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ASU-led LunaH-Map spacecraft safely delivered to NASA's Kennedy Space Center

July 20, 2021

The ASU-led team that built NASA’s Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper, or “LunaH-Map” for short, has safely delivered their spacecraft to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for a launch expected later this year on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Artemis I rocket.

LunaH-Map is a fully functional interplanetary spacecraft about the size of a large cereal box and weighing about 30 pounds. It is the first mission to be led, designed, assembled, integrated, tested and delivered from the ASU Tempe campus. Its destination is in orbit around the moon, from which it will map water-ice in permanently shadowed regions of the lunar south pole.

To start its journey from ASU to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, first the spacecraft was placed in a doubly sealed, nitrogen-filled, electrostatic-safe bag. It was then carefully placed into a crushproof and dustproof foam-lined case. 

LunaH-Map ready for transport from the ASU Tempe campus to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Left to right: Joe DuBois, Nathaniel Struebel, Craig Hardgrove and Tyler O'Brien. Image credit: ASU

Four tickets from Phoenix to Orlando were purchased on a commercial airline, three for the human members of the LunaH-Map team and one for the spacecraft, which was placed in the middle seat between two team members.

Once the LunaH-Map team arrived at Kennedy Space Center, they unpacked the spacecraft, checked to make sure it had not been jostled or collected any dust or debris during transport, and took photos for documentation. After installing a set of handles and carefully removing the “Remove Before Flight” cover plates, they slid the spacecraft into the flight dispenser that will launch with the SLS rocket. Then, the door to the flight dispenser was carefully closed and latched.

“From there, we handed the operation over to NASA,” said LunaH-Map Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor Craig Hardgrove of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration who, along with AZ Space Technologies Mechanical Lead Nathaniel Struebel and Qwaltec Operations Lead Patrick Hailey, transported the spacecraft to its destination in Florida.

When Artemis I launches later this year, including LunaH-Map, there will be around a dozen small spacecraft, called CubeSats, onboard. These will be the secondary payloads on the Artemis I mission.

The primary mission of Artemis I is testing NASA’s Space Launch System, which is designed to lift more than any existing launch vehicle. The rocket will also transport the Orion spacecraft, which will perform a lunar flyby and return to Earth and which, on future missions, will carry human crews to space. The ring that connects Orion to SLS has room for the CubeSat payloads, which will be sent into deep space during the mission.

Once Artemis I is launched and LunaH-Map is deployed, the spacecraft will use a series of lunar fly-bys and its ion propulsion system to enter the lunar orbit. Once it reaches low altitude, it will begin its scientific mission to measure the abundance of hydrogen within permanently shadowed regions of the lunar south pole, using a new type of compact neutron spectrometer.

While we know from decades of lunar exploration that there are water ice enrichments in certain regions around the poles of our moon, LunaH-Map will seek to determine how much and where these enrichments are. They may contain enough water to change our view of the formation and evolution of moon, or they may contain enough water to support future human and robotic exploration of the solar system.

The total mission will last about a year and the spacecraft will perform nearly 300 orbits of the moon. During this time, LunaH-Map will be operated from the mission operations center in Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 on the ASU Tempe campus where the spacecraft was built. The team will communicate directly with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Deep Space Network to send commands that will be transmitted to the spacecraft.

"Delivery of the spacecraft to NASA and the Artemis program represents an enormous achievement that is the culmination of years of dedicated work by the ASU LunaH-Map team and our many vendor and contractor partners nationwide,” said LunaH-Map Deputy Principal Investigator Jim Bell, who is a planetary scientist and professor at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “It's a milestone achievement for ASU overall and will help pave the way for many similarly exciting future CubeSat missions for ASU students, faculty and staff."

LunaH-Map Principal Investigator Craig Hardgrove with the spacecraft flying to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Image credit: ASU

With Hardgrove and Bell, the LunaH-Map team includes many ASU staff and students, representatives from two local Tempe engineering firms — AZ Space Technologies and Qwaltec — and representatives from other U.S. commercial space companies and NASA centers. The spacecraft includes a top plate with signatures of those who worked on LunaH-Map and the names of friends and family.

Now that the spacecraft has been delivered, the team will use the spacecraft engineering model, located at ASU, to develop and test the spacecraft activities that will be needed once LunaH-Map is in flight. This model includes all the components on the flight spacecraft just delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

“LunaH-Map, and all the other Artemis I CubeSats, are paving the way for a new type of space exploration mission that leverages the strengths of pairing a professional engineering staff with university staff and students,” Hardgrove said. “These missions are some of the first to test new technologies required for very small spacecraft to complete science missions in deep space.”

Following the success of these missions, Hardgrove sees a future for CubeSats to be increasingly involved in high-risk, high-reward science missions, paired with larger NASA spacecraft. In this capacity, they can be sent out to unexplored regions of the solar system, perform independent maneuvers and collect science data too risky for the primary mission to acquire.

Top photo: The LunaH-Map spacecraft, which is a CubeSat about the size of a large cereal box, is ASU’s first NASA mission to be led, designed and built on the ASU Tempe campus. Credit: ASU

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager , School of Earth and Space Exploration