June 19, 2016 11:18 am

StarTalk Live! at Awesome Con – Better in Pajamas?

Photo by Elliot Severn of StarTalk Live! at Awesome Con cast, featuring Eugene Mirman, Hari Kondabalu, Dr. Dava Newman, Bill Nye, Dr. David Grinspoon, and Jo Firestone.

StarTalk Live! at Awesome Con (L to R): Eugene Mirman, Hari Kondabalu, Dr. Dava Newman, Bill Nye, Dr. David Grinspoon, Jo Firestone. Credit: Elliot Severn.

This guest blog post is by Alex Hanson, StarTalk’s new STEAM intern. She is a junior at NYU and founder/editor of HERpothesis, which showcases work by creative young women inspired by STEAM.

On Sunday, June 5th, 2016, Awesome Con goers eagerly gathered in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to hear Bill Nye moderate a special StarTalk Live! about future possibilities of traveling to and colonizing Mars. The crowd piled in to see a panel brimming with smart and witty personalities, including host Bill Nye (one of the hosts of our new podcast, StarTalk All-Stars), co-host Eugene Mirman, NASA Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava Newman, astrobiologist Dr. David Grinspoon (also a StarTalk All-Stars host), and comedians Jo Firestone and Hari Kondabolu. I, too, was excited to hear the live discussion. It was an enthusiastic crowd, showing off t-shirts featuring Bill Nye, superheroes, and science puns. As they took their seats, they snapped selfies with a special Bill Nye Snapchat filter (created by our Snapchat Manager Ben Ratner and the always amazing Rob Cabrera) and followed startalk-radio on Snapchat.


Photo of empty Awesome Con stage using the StarTalk Live! Snapchat geofilter by Rob Cabrera.

Our Awesome Con Snapchat geofilter by Rob Cabrera.

I had taken my seat about fifteen minutes before the panel started, excited to hear one of the shapers of my childhood lead a discussion on the Mars-centric future in which my own children may live. However, I wasn’t dressed as nicely as the rest of the audience. In fact, I was in my pajamas with no shoes on, at my kitchen table in New York City. While I had not been able to catch a ticket to Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., I was lucky enough to snag a spot on StarTalk’s first online live streaming test. I listened in alongside a handful of other live-streaming listeners from around the country. We shared our real-time reactions in a chat box on our streaming page, creating a miniature, virtual StarTalk Live! just for us. If you think this sounds like an awesome way to experience StarTalk, you’re in luck: there will be more live streaming opportunities in the near future.

The panel’s banter had both the live stream audience and the in-person crowd bursting with laughter. The possibility of colonizing Mars raised some humorous conversation, from space farts to interplanetary long distance dating. In a truly StarTalk way, though, the discussion’s humor stemmed from real, serious questions about the future of humanity’s relationship with Mars. What are the benefits of sending people versus machines and rovers? Once humans land, how will we insulate our structures and create suits to survive the severe cold? How do we define life, and what should we do to protect it if we find it on Mars? The panel addressed these important questions and many more in their thought-provoking talk about humanity’s journey to Mars. It’s an inspiring discussion, and an important one for anyone wondering where their grandchildren may grow up. (And you’ll get to hear it when we turn it into a podcast at some point in the future – hopefully before we actually do get to Mars.) And if you’re itching for more about Mars in the meantime, I would recommend checking out both segments of StarTalk Live! from SF Sketchfest 2016 Part 1 and Part 2), featuring The Martian author Andy Weir and Director of the NASA Planetary Science Division Dr. Jim Green. (And don’t forget that we’re currently selling tickets for our upcoming show at the Beacon Theatre in NYC on Sept. 15.)

Here’s to discussing Mars—whether it be on a StarTalk Live! panel, in the audience at Awesome Con, or listening in at home, we’re all a part of a very exciting time for human exploration.

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