On the momentous date of May 9th, Kazimieras Simonavičius University (KSU) was graced with the presence of Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, a decorated astronaut with an impressive tenure at NASA. Heidemarie has the distinguished record of having spent over 27 days in space across two missions, enhancing our understanding of the vast universe beyond our planet.

During her time at KSU, Heidemarie met with the academic community, sharing insights from her remarkable journey. Her story is not just about space exploration but also about persistent determination and visionary leadership, particularly highlighting the significant role of women in STEM fields.

A Journey of Resilience and Leadership

Heidemarie’s path to becoming an astronaut was characterized by resilience and an unyielding pursuit of her goals. She recounted her childhood experience of flying in an airplane at just four years old, a moment of awe that did not immediately translate into dreams of space but planted a seed of fascination. Her real aspiration towards space exploration crystallized during her service in the US Navy, where she mused, “If I can repair ships underwater, then I can build space stations in space.”

Her determination saw her through a rigorous selection process, with her second application to NASA in 1996 marking the beginning of her active astronaut career. Her missions included multiple spacewalks during the STS-115 and STS-126, where she not only contributed to the construction of the International Space Station but also exemplified teamwork and leadership.

Inspirational Words at KSU

Speaking to KSU students, Heidemarie emphasized the importance of perseverance, continuous learning, and goal orientation. She shared her belief in overcoming challenges through determination: “I’m quite stubborn and if it’s hard, it makes me want to try harder and overcome the obstacle.” Her advice to students was clear and encouraging—fear of failure should not deter one from discovering their limits and potential.

Advocacy and Future Visions

After NASA, Heidemarie returned to the US Navy, continuing to lead in engineering and project management. She remains a fervent community activist, drawing strength from her Ukrainian heritage to support humanitarian causes.

In discussions about the future, Heidemarie spoke passionately about the beauty of Earth from space and the collective responsibility to preserve our planet. She also highlighted the burgeoning opportunities in commercial spaceflight, hinting at a future where business and technology meet beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

 KSU’s Commitment to Aviation and Space

KSU’s selection for Heidemarie’s visit was strategic, given its specialized programs in Aviation Management and the upcoming Aviation & Space Academy. KSU Rector Prof. Dr. Jolanta Bieliauskaitė expressed pride in hosting such an inspirational figure, aligning with the university’s mission to blend social sciences with aviation and space technology.

This event, orchestrated by the US Embassy in Lithuania along with KSU and Imaguru Startup HUB, was not only a testament to international cooperation but also a beacon of inspiration for students and the academic community at KSU. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper’s visit will undoubtedly ignite passions and encourage many to look towards the stars with ambition and courage.

President of the Senate at Kazimieras Simonavičius University Prof. Steffen Roth will held research workshop “Spaceship Earth: A Total Institution” on 25th of May in King’s College London.

About event:

Popularised in the 1960s, “Spaceship Earth” has become a metaphor for the vision turned imperative that all inhabitants of planet Earth be harmoniously united in the mission to preserve their planet. In this talk, I shall draw on works by Niklas Luhmann, Michel Foucault, and Friedrich August von Hayek to argue that fashionable “missionary theories” of economy, society, and environment converge, and complement one another, in the pathologisation of economic and social institutions as well as of the natural environment. If successfully applied, the “missionary therapies” proposed by the self-acclaimed officers of our planet might indeed turn it into a well-tempered, healthy, and totally institutionalised ‘Spaceship Earth’, a vessel with no mission other than orbiting another celestial body. The question for discussion is what can be done to avert this fate and develop more optimistic visions of the future.

About speaker:

Prof. Steffen Roth is Full Professor of Management at Excelia Business School, La Rochelle, France, and Full Professor of Social Sciences as well as President of the Senate at Kazimieras Simonavičius University, Vilnius, Lithuania. He is also Visiting Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany, and member of the Executive Committee of the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik, Croatia.

One of his own favorite articles is ‘Digital transformation of social theory. A research update’, where he outlines the basic design of a universal social theory machine.

Steffen is the field editor for social systems theory of Systems Research and Behavioral Science and a member of the editorial board of Sociology. The journals his research has been published in include Journal of Business Ethics, Sociology of Health & Illness, Ecological Economics, Administration and Society, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, European Management Journal, Journal of Cleaner Production, and Futures. His ORCID profile is available at orcid.org/0000-0002-8502-601X and his Twitter profile at https://twitter.com/derrothdotcom.

Date and time: 6:00 pm, May 25th, 2023

Place: Bush House South East Wing 1.05, King’s College London

More information about the event here: Spaceship Earth: A Total Institution (Research Workshop with Prof. Steffen Roth) – Centre for the Study of Governance & Society (kcl.ac.uk)