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NASA space scientist to appear at Women's Weekender


NASA space scientist

An award-winning NASA space scientist who is looking for life on Mars will appear at the University of Bradford this Saturday, as part of a weekend celebrating local and international women. 

Dr Moogega "Moo" Cooper is a Planetary Protection Engineer, described as a “real life Guardian of the Galaxy.” Based in Pasadena, California, USA, it is her job to make sure inter-planetary viruses and bacteria are not sent to the red planet during exploration by the famous “rovers.”

Describing her work previously, Dr Cooper said: “The most amazing part of my job is that I get to touch parts of the hardware that will go to Mars. 

“It’s our job to make sure when we send our spacecraft out, it doesn’t contaminate the native environment that we’re trying to explore. When we explore moons and planets and other bodies in the solar system, we want to make sure we are not sending microbes from earth that may contaminate that environment and affect our ability to find biosignatures on the surface and allow us to bring the sample back so can definitively find ancient microbial life on Mars.”

space exploration vehicle

Pictured above: A Mars rover. Credit: Pixabay

Dr Cooper has a PhD in mechanical engineering and is passionate about inspiring women and those in underrepresented communities to get into science and technology. She has appeared on Netflix science series, Bill Nye Saves the World, and hosts the YouTube series, Because Space. 

Dr Cooper has won several awards, including the NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal, the Charles Elachi Award for Exceptional Early Career Achievement, and JPL Voyager Awards for Technical Leadership.

Women’s Weekender is an arts festival held at Theatre in the Mill and across the University of Bradford’s campus running from Thursday, 18 May to Sunday, 21 May, celebrating women’s culture, creativity and achievements through music, dance, art and talks. The line up also includes DJ sets from Sile Sibanda and Natalia Ali, a performance by Song-Geet women's choir, who appeared in the BBC's Coronation Choir and a workshop by Khadijah Ibrahim, director of Leeds Young Authors. 


Dr Cooper will appear by video link in a panel discussion on “Blue Skies and Glass Ceilings” on Saturday, 20, May, from 16.00 to 17.30. 

Rommi Smith, Women's Weekender co-curator and writer-in-residence, said: "We are so deeply honoured that Dr Moogega Cooper will be part of The Women's Weekender Festival. Dr Cooper is a leading NASA space scientist and visionary, who rises beyond blue skies and into the stratosphere; a woman of colour, whose innovative work, amongst many things, is showing us, on earth, how best to understand the red planet."

Tickets are free. For more information on the full line for Women's Weekender and to book your ticket, visit Theatre in the Mill.