Diego Urbina - SSP08 and MSS09
Attending ISU has been, for me, the ultimate eye-opening experience.
At the Space Studies Program, I had contact with some of the most professional and inspiring individuals that I've met, and got to work shoulder to shoulder with many people much more experienced than I was at the time. The pool of space knowledge that accumulates at an SSP is unrivaled and its influence was definitive in my transition from academy to the "real world".
Attending the Master of Space Studies, on the other hand, allowed me to pursue my personal interests with a limit determined only by my imagination. I found myself working on very exciting projects with talented and knowledge-thirst colleagues.
During ISU I had the opportunity to fly an experiment in Zero-G, work at the European Astronaut Center as an intern, and afterwards I was able to participate in an expedition to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, USA. However, one of the most fulfilling experiences was definitely being able to go to teach kids in the developing world about space and how they, too, can dream and work to make those dreams come true, in spite of all the difficulties.
Later, Mars500 would come. The Institute of Biomedical Problems and the European Space Agency envisioned the Mars500 project as the ultimate test of human endurance in order to determine the feasibility of sending a group of cosmonauts to the Red Planet. It is a mission, this time not to explore a remote location, but our minds and bodies themselves, as 6 individuals try to survive together in a simulated spacecraft for 520 days.
When applying to become a crew member, I knew that my personal experience at ISU, having lived and collaborated among a group of very different and international people, was an immense asset for the mission. The first-hand contact I had with scientists, and the operational experience I got thanks to ISU-related projects, gave me the edge when the Agency looked for someone who could be able to learn and execute the almost 100 experiments under extreme conditions.
And most importantly, upon having been selected, I already knew that I could count on the support of the great friends I made at ISU!