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“Optimism for Earth” Session Exemplifies Focus on Insights and Outcomes

The 2021 ASCEND program invites a diverse cross section of thought leaders from classrooms through careers to confront big challenges with big ideas to build our off-world future faster.

The 15 November Meta panel discussion, “Optimism for Earth,” exemplifies ASCEND’s unique approach to outcomes-oriented problem-solving.

  • The premise of the session is that data are being used to create increasing resilience to climate change, and that demand for such data is growing rapidly.
  • The panelists represent public and private organizations with significant access and influence over the direction of this new marketspace.
  • The goal of the discussion is to reveal insights that illuminate the path toward actionable outcomes.

“Humanity’s off-world future depends on having a healthy planet to return home to. Space is playing a critical role in gathering the data we need to understand what is happening to our climate, and how to become more resilient to the challenges caused by the climate crisis,” explained moderator Ellen Stofan, Under Secretary for Science and Research at the Smithsonian Institution. “Space data can help us cope with climate change, but can also help contribute to the path to net zero.”

In previewing the session, panelist Raj Pandya, Director, Thriving Earth Exchange, American Geophysical Union, explained his hopes to accelerate positive outcomes on a global scale.

“In space, we have an opportunity to start fresh, and to reimagine our ways of living and being. It is our collective responsibility to reject colonialism, racism, and nationalism in space exploration. Instead, we can embrace a blue marble perspective – a perspective that we are all co-residents of one Earth – and approach space with bedrock values of humility, equity, and justice,” Pandya said. “This session will include inspiring stories of justice, resilience, and sustainability – stories that can provide guidance on building on-ramps to space for everyone.”

Session Details


META-5: Optimism for Earth
0915-1015 hrs PT
  • Moderator: Ellen Stofan, Under Secretary for Science and Research, Smithsonian Institution
  • Ved Chirayath, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Sensing (LAS), Earth Science Division, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Chelle Gentemann, Senior Scientist, Farallon Institute, and Co-Chair, National Academies’ Report on Open Source Software Policy Options for NASA Earth and Space Sciences
  • Andrew Zolli, Vice President, Sustainability and Global Impact, Planet Labs, LLC
  • Raj Pandya, Director, Thriving Earth Exchange, American Geophysical Union
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Categories: Process