IAC 2016, Part 2: Moonshots and deep oceans

The International Astronautical Congress had been full of interesting talks, people and events. We’ve already discussed the budding race to Mars, but there was so much more to the IAC. It would be a mistake to reduce it all to proposals of crewed missions to the Red Planet. In this part, we will discuss robotic Mars exploration and its astrobiological implications, the Moon Village concept, visions of future icy moons exploration, and last but not least the student program on the IAC.

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IAC 2016, Part 1: The Race to Mars

This year’s International Astronautical Congress is over, and we can now reflect on what it brought forth. It had been especially eventful this time and left hardly anyone cold. Possibly the main theme which resonated throughout the conference had been Mars exploration – talks by SpaceX’s Elon Musk on one hand, Lockheed Martin on the other hand, and numerous people in the technical sessions might have marked the beginning of a true race for Mars. But another pattern also emerged, and that was making space more accessible for everyone. A part of that were talks about affordable internet connection, satellite telecommunication or disaster management in developing countries, but also the Moon Village concept, first presented last spring by ESA’s Director General Jan Woerner. Musk’s grand Mars colonization plans and Woerner’s vision of the Moon Village stand in an interesting contrast next to each other. Now, don’t get me wrong, by no means do they exclude each other. On the contrary, I can imagine both activities going at the same time. But the spirit of those visions is very different; more on that later.

Mars has been the target of our imagination for centuries, if not millennia. We’ve dreamed of its exploration and colonization since the late 19th century. It’s not surprising that these dreams are being given a shape every once in a while. Today may be different, offering a real chance of achieving that dream. But does it really?

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ESA Citizens’ Debate

Today was the historically first ESA Citizens’ Debate: an event spanning two continents (ESA member and cooperating states in Europe, and Canada, working with ESA under their cooperation agreement) and including about 2000 citizens discussing the future directions of European space activities.

The Czech debate had a good attendance of around 100 people. Now, the results of the debate in each country and polled together are just being processed and you can already see some at www.citizensdebate.space/results.


But the part of our discussion about getting people to become more interested in space has inspired me to make a short list of space-related popular science magazines, websites, organizations or contests in the Czech Republic. It’s not comprehensive, so if you think I’ve omitted something, let me know. I’ll try to include as many relevant entries as possible. I haven’t included space-themed popular science books so far, because they’re so many, but I’ll eventually add them.

So, here we go…

Print magazines

Websites or online magazines



Not solely about space, but you’ll find it there too…

  • Vesmír.cz (popular science magazine + website)
  • Přírodovědci.cz (popular science magazine + website)
  • Osel.cz (popular science website)
  • Technet.cz (popular science website)
  • Nedd.cz (popular science website)
  • Věda z kufru (science experiments for schools)
  • …and many more e-zines or outreach programs I’ll keep adding!

Norway, Aeronautilus Awards & IAC16

You may have noticed some silence on my social media in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been on a vacation and tried to avoid the internet during that time. I wouldn’t have much time for it anyway – Norway was too amazing. I have more than a thousand pictures to go through, this is just a tiny sample snapped on my phone…


I barely had time to unpack and pack again to go to Festival fantazie after my return from Norway. The convention was certainly worth it, and a pleasant surprise awaited me there in the list of nominations for the Aeronautilus Awards (imagine something between Locus and Hugo Awards in a Czech context): My novel Elysium and my anthology Terra nullius were both nominated for the best SF book of 2015. Stories from Terra nullius dominated the short story category: Three of the five nominations were from there, one of them my own story. Website of magazine XB-1, for which I work as a writer and translator, was nominated for the best SF-related site. XB-1 won this category for the fifth time in a row. Congratulations, especially to its editor Martin Šust! Without his hard work and dedication, the site wouldn’t thrive in the way it does.

Elysium won the best book category, and Zaříkávač lodí (The Ship Whisperer, published also in English in the March issue of Asimov’s and in Chinese in last September’s issue of ZUI Found) got the best short story award. Big thanks to all the readers voting in the awards! I’m immensely happy that so many people liked the stories and supported them, and even more so that it’s the second time I’ve won an Aeronautilus for the best short story. Last year, my Šeré město (The Dusk City, not yet published in English but working on it) got the award.

aeronaut 2016

Last but certainly not least, I was notified that I’m among the students selected for ESA sponsorship for the attendance of this September’s International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara. I’m looking forward to it very much and I’ll be sure to write at least a few reports from there. I’m very grateful to ESA for selecting me!

It doesn’t look so promising with the DPS-EPSC in Pasadena, but at least I’ll have some colleagues there and I’ll be following the news. I may attend the Evolution of Chemical Complexity conference in Liblice (not that far from Prague) in September, if all goes well (and if it does, some reports will certainly appear here).

That’s all from me now; after the vacation, I should get to writing some papers, popular science articles, stories and novels, editing, transcribing interviews, translating, preparing a part of the program of two science-themed summer camps and so on. Being busy is quite good if I enjoy the work, and this I do.

FameLab & LPS16

Last Sunday, the Czech FameLab finale was held in the Ypsilon theatre in Prague. Eleven finalists; eleven great and fun science talks. I imagine it was difficult to choose which ones to reward, and it’s all the greater honor to me that my talk about the manipulation hypothesis, specifically the effects of toxoplasmosis, was awarded with the Czech Centers’ Award, including a one-week stay in a selected Czech Center in Europe and meeting scientists from the particular city. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

The Czech Republic will be represented at the international finale by Eliska Selinger from the First Faculty of Medicine. Her talk about epigenetics (specifically methylation) was great fun and really captivating. Wish her good luck in the world finale! She’ll travel with Lenka Zychova, whose talk about gamma rays and their impact on life on Earth in the past was also great.

In other news, this year’s Living Planet Symposium has started yesterday. It’s being held in the Congress Center in Prague. I’ve only seen a few talks and the exposition so far, but hopefully expect some highlights later. In the meantime, I have a few quickly snapped pictures at least.




Edit: Eliska will go through the semi-finale first, so let’s wish her good luck so that we can do the same later in the world finale :).

AFO 2016

This year’s Academia Film Olomouc has ended on Sunday and has been just as awesome as the last one, perhaps even more. I’ve interviewed several guests of the festival: Mark McCaughrean, Doug Vakoch, and Jim Kakalios. The interviews will appear in Přírodovědci and XB-1 in Czech. They may also appear later in English here; we’ll see.

As usual, the combination of interesting documentaries, movies, talks and additional program was great, as well as meeting the people of AFO. See you in Olomouc next year!


Credit: The image belongs to Academia Film Olomouc.

Upcoming stories in Alien Artifacts and Futuristica II

I have upcoming short stories in two anthologies to be published this summer/fall. Alien Artifacts, edited by Joshua Palmatier, are coming out in August. Here’s the full TOC:

Introduction by Patricia Bray
“Radio Silence” by Walter H. Hunt
“The Nightside” by Julie Novakova
“The Familiar” by David Farland
“Me and Alice” by Angela D. Penrose
“The Other Side” by S.C. Butler
“The Hunt” by Gail Z. Martin & Larry N. Martin
“The Sphere” by Juliet E. McKenna
“Shame the Devil” by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
“The Captain’s Throne” by Andrija Popovic
“Weird is the New Normal” by Jacey Bedford
“And We Have No Words to Tell” by Sofie Bird
“Titan Descanso” by James Van Pelt
“Alien Epilogue” by Gini Koch
“The Haint of Sweetwater River” by Anthony Lowe
“Music of the Stars” by Jennifer Dunne
“The Night You Were a Comet” by Coral Moore
“The God Emperor of Lassie Point” by Daniel J. Davis
“Pandora” by C.S. Friedman
“Round and Round We Ride the Carousel of Time” by Seanan McGuire

My story “The Nightside” takes place on a mining station built on a barren remnant of a planet. The protagonists must face the harsch environment, difficult decisions, their own fear and each other in the story of a unique discovery.

Check out the awesome cover art here.

The second story, “Etude for An Extraordinary Mind”, is set in very near future and centers around an autistic teenage girl whose parents decide to try a new approach to help her connect with other people. But is it what she wants – and, in the end, who is she?

Metasagas Press released the first volume of their Futuristica anthologies in March. The second volume, featuring my story, should be published sometime in November.

I also have great news concerning my anthology Terra nullius (published in Czech in 2015). It has been nominated in two categories of the Academy of science fiction, fantasy and horror awards! I’m very happy that readers as well as critics liked the anthology so much, and I hope that at least some of the stories will appear in English too. (One of them already has – my story “The Ship Whisperer”, published in the March 2016 issue of Asimov’s. However, many more of them deserve to appear in translation.)

Asimov’s, baby!

ASF_MARCH2016_400x580I’m proud to announce that I have a short story, titled “The Ship Whisperer”, in the new March issue of Asimov’s. It makes me very happy to share the issue with so many great authors, and I’ve had good feedback on the story so far. I hope you like it too! Let me know.

What happens when people find an object that should not exist in our universe for at least a trillion more years? How could it be there, and what does its existence mean for the future of humanity? A “ship whisperer” Icarus Caille is trying to find out, but so do other people whose motivation is far from pure curiosity.

Here’s the full table of contents.

The story first appeared in Czech in the anthology “Terra nullius”, and also in translation by Geng Hui in the Chinese magazine ZUI Found.

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