Texas A&M University

02/20/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/20/2020 11:39

Texas A&M Will Launch Space Lab At Next Month’s SXSW Interactive Conference

Texas A&M University will showcase its out-of-this-world commitment to space exploration and healthy eating at next month's SXSW Interactive Conference, known as the 'world's most important creative convention.'

It's the fourth consecutive year that A&M has converted a downtown Austin building into a destination for attendees to learn about the university's research, innovative problem-solving ideas and its global impact.

This year's experience - called the Texas A&M Space Lab - will dock in Austin on March 14 at Fleming's restaurant, 320 E. 2nd St., where a Mars rover prototype will be stationed out front. Visitors are invited to experience what it's like to drive it using a remote control.

The rover, owned by Mission Control Space Services, along with exhibits borrowed from NASA, are open to the public at no cost through March 16.

The Texas A&M Space Lab will host five panel discussions involving 18 experts - half of whom are Texas A&M researchers. Here are summaries of each:

  • Food as medicine: How to solve America's one trillion-dollar diet-related chronic disease burden. Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp will moderate an expert panel with Patrick Stover, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, H-E-B Grocery Co. Chief Operating Officer Martin Otto and Cornell biochemist Martha Field.
  • Modernizing iconic brand names: How traditional organizations can become smart, nimble trendsetters. NASA's lead communications director for human spaceflight, Stephanie Schierholz, will share insights with two Texas A&M experts: marketing professor Akshaya Sreenivasan and social media director Krista Berend.
  • Pushing bodies and minds to the limits: How extreme conditions impact people in space and on Earth. Expert discussion among Bonnie Dunbar, a former NASA astronaut and director of Texas A&M's Aerospace Human Systems Laboratory; Dr. Ryan Pittsinger, director of A&M's Counseling and Sport Psychology Services; and John Charles, NASA's first and only Scientist-in-Residence who serves as an adjunct professor in A&M's kinesiology department.
  • Building a Lunar Village: How to build a life-sustaining environment on other planets. Expert discussion with Rob Mueller, senior technologist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center; Peter J. Carrato, senior advisor at Bechtel, the largest construction company in the U.S.; Pat Suermann, department head of A&M's construction science department; and Nichole Shumaker, a research specialist at A&M facilitating industry, government and academic engagement for lunar construction.
  • Who owns space? Discussion on the legal questions of exploration beyond Earth. Texas A&M President Michael K. Young, a widely-known expert in international law, will share the stage with SpaceX Director of Space Flight Policy Caryn Schenewerk, and Michelle Hanlon, founder of For All Moonkind and director of the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

SXSW badges are needed for most of the panel discussions and entrance to the trade show at the nearby Austin Convention Center, where A&M will feature space-related research projects.

Amy Smith, Texas A&M's executive vice president for the Division of Marketing & Communications, said even though the university has been a space-grant institution for just over 30 years, 'it feels like we're just getting started.'

'Texas A&M is going galactic at SXSW this year,' said Smith, whose division created and is hosting the Space Lab. 'We thank NASA, Space-X, our faculty astronauts and researchers, and the many others who are helping to create an interactive experience to remember.'

A comedy podcast hosted by Chris Duffy involving three comedians and a Texas A&M scientist will be recorded from the Space Lab.

SXSW - which has a mix of industry conferences, festivals and exhibitions that attract diverse innovators, leaders and experts from across the globe - drew 417,400 attendees last year.

The interactive conference, which starts March 13 and continues through March 22, transforms Austin into a 'global mecca' for creative professionals, while infusing $355.9 million into the local economy - that's on par with hosting the Super Bowl every year.

More details about the event will be announced at the Texas A&M Space Lab website.