Enhancing the Science Communication Capabilities of Disabled Writers – The Moon as a Catalyst

We are looking for 12-20 people who:

  1. Identify as disabled in the broadest sense; i.e. chronic illness, use mobility aids, d/Deaf, mental illness (anxiety, depression, etc.), neurodiverse (autistic, ADHD, etc.), use service animals, etc.
  2. Use, or want to use, science in their writing in the broadest sense; such as – writing about space topics on platforms such as Medium, The Establishment, etc.; writing science fiction or other creative writing that might include positive views of science and the process of science; traditional science writers/freelancers; content creators for museums and planetaria; and people with wide social media platforms who curate space science content in interesting ways through tweets, blogs, Instagram, etc. Participants DO NOT have to have written specifically about science, but instead will use this retreat to understand how they can include an understanding of space science and the scientific process in their further output. Output may include YouTube videos, podcasts, articles, posts, editorials, poetry, science fiction, scripts, etc.
  3. Want to commit to joining us for a seven week online retreat (with potential continuing partnerships) exploring how to develop and expand the use of science in their writing using cutting edge lunar NASA scientists and their research as a catalyst.
  4. We would specifically like to encourage writers who may have multiple axes of marginalization to apply, including but certainly not limited to: women, trans/non-binary, people of color, Black writers, native/indigenous writers, various sexual identity, English as second language, etc.

What we will provide to writers:

  • You do not need to pay for this retreat, if you are selected, we will in fact pay you a total stipend of $225 for participating (limited to US residents only).
  • A seven-week virtual retreat via Zoom in January and February, 2022 (see below for full schedule)
  • Each session is three hours of virtual face-to-face sessions, with content to include networking, scientist presentations, activities, writing prompts, and the development of a final project. Our retreat lead, Dr. JA Grier, is also a disabled writer as well as a research scientist.

Our goals for and through participating writers:

  • To promote and support disabled writers interested in space science
  • To introduce participants to each other and to us to create/reinforce a supportive network for writers/scientists
  • Through these writers, to provide the public new voices in space science that intrinsically include disability and other concerns
  • Through participants, to provide the public a positive view, a deeper understanding, and a trust of science and the scientific process
  • Through participants, to increase the vectors by which the general public encounters informed and positive views of science (social media, advocacy groups, writer’s platforms, creative writing, etc.) as linked to and as a part of disability/intersectionality
  • Through participants, to increase overall public science literacy, and critical thinking ability/opportunities.

Our goals for our TREX project, and its Scientists and Communicators:

  • Promote overall outreach goals for TREX, SSERVI, and NASA.
  • Give scientists an opportunity to share their research with the public.
  • Give scientists more experience in science communication, and introduce them to issues around disability and sci-comm (science communication.)
  • Give Communicators experience in meeting the needs of disabled audiences.
  • Communicators will write papers/present posters both on how the retreat addressed the sci-comm needs of the general public, AND the specifics of reaching and working with disabled writers.
  • Potential to edit and refine the retreat documents, recordings, and posted projects to create another retreat or other learning opportunity.

General Expectations for Disabled Writers 

These are general guidelines so that both participants and facilitators can start from the same ideas of what is expected. We will be flexible and provide accommodations as necessary to all participants.  All of us are seeking to learn how to engage and participate as science writers and as humans, and we will adjust as needed.

  1. As we will be helping participants learn science, so will participants be helping us learn about disability communication.  Part of participation in this retreat will be helping us to engage properly with disabled writers; we as facilitators (and humans) will make mistakes and will make space for writers to point these out and suggest ways to address those issues.
  2. Participants will need to be in contact with us before the retreat, and learn to use any tools/apps such as Zoom/Slack etc.
  3. Participants will need to do any necessary preparation and be sure they (and we) have the equipment to participate.
  4. Participants need to prepare to attend all of the face-to-face sessions.  BUT of course, this is going to be an accommodating environment – if a writer must miss all or part of a session, the session recordings and transcripts will be available to view/listen later.  We will have recordings and transcripts, etc. available in any case to increase the accessibility of the sessions.
  5. Participants will need to stay attentive to Slack and do any necessary work between sessions.
  6. Participants are expected to do a final writing project and share it with the world in some fashion.
  7. Participants will need to agree to let us use materials, products, and recordings on a non-exclusive basis.  Retreat sessions will be recorded, and the materials of participants, including final projects, will be made available to participants in further training and retreats.  We need permission to post and use content created in the retreat for promotion, for seeking additional funding, and for improving future retreats.  This may include posting materials on our website, twitter account, etc.
  8. We hope participants with each other and with us so that we can all increase the voice of disability in space science writing.  Depending on the advice and needs of writers, we may create a portal or gathering point we can all use subsequent to the retreat to keep in touch.
  9. Future opportunities for participants may exist after the retreat, where we invite writers to attend conferences or meetings and present their work and their experience.

Retreat Schedule

7 weeks, 12 3-hour sessions from January 12, 2023 to February 23, 2023

Session 1: Thursday January 12th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET

Session 2: Wednesday January 18th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET (Tom Prettyman)

Session 3: Thursday January 19th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET (Noah Petro)

Session 4: Wednesday January 25th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET

Session 5: Thursday January 26th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET (Amanda Hendrix)

Session 6: Wednesday February 1st from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET (Ed Rivera-Valentin)

Session 7: Thursday February 2nd from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET

Session 8: Wednesday February 8th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET (Jamie Molaro)

Session 9: Thursday February 9th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET

Session 10: Wednesday February 15th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET

Session 11: Thursday February 16th from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET

Session 12: Thursday February 23rd from 10am PT/1pm ET to 1pm PT/4pm ET


Applications will be reviewed starting in December and reviewed on a first submitted basis. Late applications will be accepted until the retreat is full.

Applications are closed: Please email buxner@psi.edu with any questions.

Retreat Facilitators

Dr. JA Grier (ee/em/eir) is a Senior Scientist and Education/Communications Specialist at the Planetary Science Institute, Arizona, working virtually from Maryland, USA. Dr. Grier has 30 years of experience in education/outreach/diversity programs, as well as in conducting research into the surfaces of The Moon, Mars, and asteroids. As the Lead of the NASA SSERVI EDIA Focus Group, ee is coordinating the efforts of scientists at all career stages who are addressing EDIA issues within their own local spheres, and within the greater planetary science community as a whole. Dr. Grier has addressed the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs on the subject of ethics in space science. Ee has taught science and education classes at the University of Arizona, Anne Arundel Community College, Johns Hopkins University, and several online learning venues.

Dr. Sanlyn Buxner (she/her) is a Senior Scientist and Education/Communications Specialist at the Planetary Science Institute working in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Buxner has nearly 30 years of experience in astronomy and planetary science education and outreach and is as associate research professor of science education at the University of Arizona. She is the Public Engagement lead of TREX as well as the Director of Broader Impacts for the NASA SHIELD DRIVE Science Center.

TREX Fieldwork Documentary Draft Release

We are excited to share a draft of our upcoming TREX Fieldwork Documentary created by Franklin Fitzgerald (https://www.franklinfitzgerald.com/)

Making Space Workshop on Space, SciArt, and Society in Tucson, AZ

TREX supported the first Making Space Workshop on Space, SciArt, and Society organized by PSI’s Jamie Molaro on April 15-17, 2022. Twenty-five people gathered in Tucson to interpret scientific themes, data, and images and transform them into art at the Catalyst Arts & Maker Space at the Tucson Mall. 

The event included talks by experts on recent discoveries in planetary science, discussion of how and why humans explore space, and art-making activities that explore how similar science and art truly are. Artists, educators, and scientists from across the country used a wide variety of materials, including paint, collages, clay, and even poetry and video to create science-related art.

Impact Stories @ Boise State

Dr JA Grier at KBSX

Boise State University invited TREX’s Dr. JA Grier to visit January 2-4, 2002 as part of their “First Friday” Astronomy Lecture series.  Dr. Grier’s presentation was titled “The Stories of Impact Craters: How Scientists Learn to Tell Them” and was given to an audience of about 100 students and members of the general public.  To promote the event, and to talk about lunar crater science to listeners, Dr. Grier was interviewed on Boise State Public Radio NPR (KBSX).  During the visit, Dr. Grier met with Boise State physics undergraduate students to discuss general research topics, as well as careers in lunar science.  There was also a tour given by the undergraduates of the Boise State Observatory to review the facility and talk about public outreach with the telescope.

Dr. JA Grier preps for her talk

Dr. Grier’s talk included stories, research, anecdotes, and facts around the science of impact craters, and how it is that scientists engage in that study.  Not as glamorous an occupation as it might be imagined, impact crater scientists spend a lot of time with their hands dirty with rocks, getting vehicles stuck in the mud, and visiting rustic locales.  But this all leads to collecting the evidence necessary to tell the story of impact craters – how and when they formed, how big and energetic the impacts were, and how the target environment changed from the impact.  This ground-based evidence is then compared to remote sensing data from spacecraft, allowing us to leverage our knowledge of craters on Earth to craters on the Moon and other worlds.  Dr. Grier’s work with TREX investigates how we can use remote sensing data to tell the story of lunar craters, and helps us to understand current processes as well as potential challenges to exploration.

Exploring the Moon from Orbit

On January 17, 2020, TREX’s Ryan Watkins spoke at the St Louis Astronomical Society meeting. In this 45 min presentation, Watkins focused on the big scientific discoveries from Apollo, and how we use LRO to evaluate potential future landing sites for human and robotic landed missions. According to Watkins:

Map of Landing sites.
Red: USSR/Russia, Blue/Green: USA, Yellow: Chinese (credit: NASA)

Apollo was one of, if not THE greatest, achievements of the 20th century. Apollo left an incredible legacy spanning culture, engineering, politics, and science that we are still learning from today. However, 50 years have passed since man first set foot on the Moon, and the US has not had a human or robotic presence on the lunar surface since. With the forthcoming Artemis program and international interest in the Moon, scientists and engineers are busy selecting the best landing sites for future missions. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was designed to gather information to help scientists and engineers plan NASA’s return to the Moon with robots and astronauts. Having been in orbit for 10 years now, scientists are equipped with a wealth of data for selecting future landing sites. Dr. Watkins discussed the most significant scientific discoveries of Apollo, as well as destinations that are being mapped out as top scientific sites for future lunar exploration. One of these destinations is south pole, which harbors water ice and is currently slated to be the destination for the first crewed mission to the lunar surface for the Artemis program. Other destinations of interest for both science and human exploration include the Aristarchus Plateau, lava pits, silicic volcanic areas, and lunar swirls. Continued lunar exploration is imperative for addressing unanswered scientific questions, practicing for longer-duration missions to Mars, harvesting resources, and fostering international collaborations.