“We are closer than ever to finding life outside Earth,” declared Brazilian astronaut Laysa Peixoto during her panel appearance at the exclusive CCXP23 Unlock event. Peixoto, currently working at NASA’s L’SPACE Academy, discussed her experiences and scientific findings in the field of space exploration.
At the age of 19, Peixoto made history by becoming the first Brazilian to command an aircraft at NASA. Now, she dedicates her time to developing space exploration technologies at the organization’s academy, while also undergoing training to become the first Brazilian woman to travel to space.
Peixoto is a firm believer in the possibility of intelligent life existing in the universe. “From a scientific standpoint, we are getting closer to finding all forms of life, including those that we cannot even imagine,” she explains. She dismisses the idea of “smart life” portrayed in science fiction movies and TV shows and believes that there are several diverse forms of life waiting to be discovered in space.
The presence of water, an essential component for life as we know it, has been found on many planets within our own solar system. Peixoto expresses her hope that the upcoming expeditions will reveal signs of life on Mars. Furthermore, she highlights the potential existence of planets completely covered by water, drawing a parallel to Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and the diverse characteristics of the planets discovered by astrophysicists and astronomers.
Beyond her work in space exploration, Peixoto emphasizes the importance of representation for women in astronomy and astrophysics. She believes that it is crucial to increase the visibility of female scientists in cinema and television, calling for more portrayals of women as scientists and explorers. Peixoto also stresses the need to promote knowledge about the accomplished women who have already made significant contributions to the field of science. Recognizing and celebrating these stories is vital for inspiring future generations.
Peixoto’s journey into astronomy and geophysics began in 2020 when she attended a class taught by Andrea Ghez, the Nobel laureate in physics for her research on black holes. Ghez’s story inspired Peixoto and led her to pursue her own path in the scientific field. Encouraged by this experience, Peixoto believes that showcasing successful individuals who share similar backgrounds can motivate children and teenagers to believe in their own potential.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Laysa Peixoto took part in a space-related research project. She learned to use various software programs to analyze different aspects of astronomy, which eventually led to her discovery of a new asteroid at the age of 18. Peixoto was involved in The International Astronomical Search Collaboration program, a joint effort with NASA to search for celestial bodies. The asteroid she helped to identify was named LPS0003, with her initials representing her contribution to the identification process.
The potential threat of asteroids hitting Earth is a subject of concern and often explored in scientific fiction, as illustrated in the recent Netflix film, “Don’t Look Up.” Peixoto acknowledges that while movies may exaggerate the drama, the possibility of an asteroid colliding with Earth is real. She emphasizes the importance of monitoring these celestial bodies as they pass through our solar system to ensure the safety of our planet.
Despite studying physics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Peixoto’s involvement in asteroid research paved her way into the NASA program. With the support of Manhattan University, she joined the renowned governmental agency and embarked on her career in astronomy.
As Laysa Peixoto continues her work at NASA’s L’SPACE Academy and strives to become the first Brazilian woman in space, her dedication and passion for scientific exploration serve as an inspiration for future generations. With the belief that we are on the verge of significant discoveries, particularly in the search for extraterrestrial life, Peixoto’s optimism fuels ongoing efforts to explore the mysteries of the universe.