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What do Astronauts look like?

This story will show how the life of an astronaut parallels the life of a child in Philadelphia experiencing routine activities.

Photo of Ufuoma Ovienmhada
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Grandma, how do Astronauts get to space?

They put on their boots to explore a new place!

They ride on rockets to get to space!

Grandma, how do Astronauts wake up?

They wake up to the sun beaming through the window!

They roll out of bed and get ready to go!

Grandma, how do astronauts get ready in the morning?

They brush their teeth while floating in mid-air!

In zero-gravity, they do their hair!

Grandma, what do astronauts do?

They study the Earth to learn new things!

They look for aliens near Saturn’s rings!

Grandma, what do astronauts eat?

They eat foods like mac & cheese!

At dinner, they always eat their peas!

Grandma… what about their grandmas?

They come back to Earth to see their families!

They celebrate with a big party!

Grandma what do astronauts look like?

They are strong and smart and travel with a crew!

Well grandchild, they look like you!

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

The illustrations in the book will juxtapose life as an astronaut with familiar activities/details from the description of the challenge personas such as having grandparents as the caretaker, using public transportation and going to a Philadelphia familiar grocery store. The book aims to show that astronauts, although few in number, are not all that different from a little black girl living in downtown Philly. For example, one set of pages may show the girl going to space in a SEPTA bus.

Share your suggested book title

What do Astronauts look like?

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

We use techniques from childhood language development such as rhyming, repetition in the question and structure of the answers, and a mix of Tier 1 and upper level words.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

Neither of us have formally visited Philadelphia, but as a team that works on all things space-related, we were familiar with the Planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In a future iteration of the manuscript, we thought we may include the Planetarium as one of the scene locations or give it a shout out to encourage caretakers to plan a visit there with the child.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

The first thing we did was look at the demographics of the area and read the challenge personas to better understand the audience and decided that, with a 43% population of Black or African descent that the main character should be Black. We intentionally made the character a darker skinned Black girl as that identity is further marginalized within the Black community. In the book, we subtly hint at inter-generational family life with the inclusion of the grandmother as a character. Then, knowing that public transportation is frequented by urban communities, we wanted to include what may be a familiar activity of using the SEPTA transport services.

Location: Country

United States

Location: State or Department


Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

Lizbeth and I are Graduate research assistants at the MIT Media Lab and work in the Space Enabled Research group. Prior to coming to MIT, I graduated from Stanford University and then worked at a nonprofit called Public Lab that works on creating citizen science tools for environmental applications. Lizbeth worked at NASA JPL as a creative strategist and is formally trained as an artist. In Space Enabled, our mission is to "advance justice in Earth's complex systems using designs enabled by space." In our work, we ask questions about how we can use space technology to address development challenges such as deforestation or famine, how we can make it easier for new actors such as formally colonized nations or historically marginalized identities to get involved in space, and how we can design future space systems and technologies to not amplify biases or divisions among us. Our commitment to working with and for marginalized identities is reflected in this book submission.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • No

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are a formal part of a University or Research Institution

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Dawnnbooks .

mmmmm reading the story makes me realise that maybe I do qualify for Mars One after all. LOL
But is it more likely that the toddler reading this is the one bound for space.
Good luck to us all.