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Mission Prep Zone 4: Plotting the Mission Timeline

Challenge Question:
What Music Would You Bring to Space?
Training for the Polaris Mission keeps Sarah Gillis and the crew busy, but once they’re in orbit their schedule of activities will be even more jam-packed. There are multiple blocks of intense research time, focused sessions for realizing the mission’s many technical objectives like performing the first commercial spacewalk, and testing internet connectivity via Starlink space lasers, plus medical check-ins, chats with family, and even daily media events. Now, add to this list “being far from home in a strange (and sometimes uncomfortable) environment” and you have a recipe for some big, big emotions. But, not to worry! To feel ready for such an intense experience, the Polaris Dawn crew has been planning and practicing how they will handle the big feelings that will inevitably come up during the mission. For lots of people, listening to and playing music can be a way to express and process emotions. As a musician, this is certainly true for Sarah Gillis. Music will be a big part of her time in space! Watch Sarah’s conversation with the world-renowned musician, producer, and author Rickey Minor to find out more about the music they’d each want with them in orbit to help with day-to-day challenges and celebrations, as well as hear Rickey Minor’s thoughts on the power of music, no matter where you are in the universe.
Sarah interviews Rickey Minor
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Soundtrack in Space:
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Preparing for Big Emotions

While much of the Polaris Dawn crew training deals with technical info and details, the team also uses training experiences to practice having and handling big emotions. Going into space is a huge challenge—it only makes sense challenging feelings will come along with that adventure!

By walking through experiences that recreate situations from orbit, the team can learn to anticipate how they will actually respond in space. And, by intentionally taking on big challenges together, they can feel better prepared for how they will all react to big things together in orbit.

Watch below to hear Joe Tanner’s advice as Sarah prepares for both the physical and emotional feelings that will come up in space. Then, get a sense of each crew member’s unique emotional world by checking out the variety of emotions they show while heading into training challenges

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And, according to Joe Tanner, it’s one of the top things Sarah should be playing with during her time in orbit!

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Preparing for High-Altitude Hiking in Ecuador
What might be on their minds during this Scuba training session?
Or here, after a successful parachute jump?

Get some practice using a tried-and-true (and fully astronaut-approved) strategy for handling the many emotions of a challenging day: turning on your favorite music. But first, take a moment to picture yourself in the exciting role of guest crew member on the Polaris Dawn mission. You see, for this activity it’s no ordinary day that needs some musical support…it’s a day in orbit!


Start by looking through the timeline [below] of some real-life moments the Polaris Dawn crew will experience during one of their days in orbit.

  • If you were part of the crew for this day, what emotions might you be feeling—or want to feel—during each of these activities?

Now, take on this Zone’s Challenge Question and imagine you could have your favorite music along with you on this busy day in orbit:

What Music Would You Bring to Space?

Create a mini Mission Playlist for yourself by focusing on three or four events in the timeline. Choose some favorite songs or pieces you think would help you connect to those activities and your emotions while you’re doing them.

  • How will hearing or playing your musical choice help you settle into a positive emotion or handle a challenging one?
  • What is it about your song or piece choices that make them feel like a good fit for these moments on the mission?

Compare your emotion ideas and playlist choices with a friend’s or family member’s.
Are their feelings about the events on the timeline similar or different from yours? Why might that be? Ask some follow-up questions to find out more!

  • What musical choices from their playlist surprised you?
  • Which ones would you consider adding to your own mission playlist?

Want to tell us about the music you’d bring to space? Share your Mission Playlist ideas on social media using the hashtag #space4music. We will be sharing selected Playlist ideas in this Zone’s Challenge Accepted! space. A few messages may even make it to space with Sarah Gillis!

Space Insights
Partner Research in Space
A big part of the Polaris Dawn crew’s time in space will be spent carrying out scientific research and experiments designed by scientists from over two dozen organizations on earth.
Internet in Dragon!

SpaceX is working to revolutionize internet connectivity here on Earth, using their Starlink satellites to provide high speed internet connectivity all around the world. This technology uses lasers to send data between satellites, rather than sending along fiber cables underground.

The cool part is that these lasers can also be pointed away from the earth, and used to bring internet connectivity to other orbiting spacecraft as well. Polaris Dawn will be the first mission to test internet connectivity to the Dragon spacecraft, using space lasers!

If everything is successful with checkouts on-orbit, we may get a special message from the Polaris Dawn crew – stay tuned during the mission!

Wake-Up Calls from Earth
Every morning of the mission, mission control is able to send up music to provide a «Wake-Up Call» to the crew in space. What music would you send to wake up the Polaris Dawn crew?