Astronaut Skills for Real Life Learning: Ethical Dilemmas as a Launchpad for Problem-Solving, Part 2 | Harbord & Khan | 7 Min Read

How do students manage uncertain or unknown situations themselves? What skills do they need? In this article, we will explore links between astronaut proficiencies and global skills, including extracts from interviews with astronauts and an aerospace engineer. Give your students opportunities to consider how ethical dilemmas relating to real-world issues can inspire them to find innovative solutions. In what ways can the ethical dilemma ‘Expansion to the stars versus staying on the Earth: how can we plan for and create an unpredictable future?’ be a launchpad for problem-solving? Students need to weigh the ideas of humankind having the courage to take responsibility for the state of our planet or to explore new worlds and begin living in an unknown place.

Lately, the news tells us that commercial space exploration will be the next great travel experience as plans are made for paying customers. Controversially Elon Musk of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos (of Amazon fame) and his company Blue Horizons are both promoting space tourism. Critics warn that the money spent on these ‘joyrides’ for the super-wealthy could be used for addressing the climate disaster or other pressing world issues. This would be an interesting debate for your students when considering the ethical dilemma.

There has been renewed interest in space exploration and collaboration from many different countries. Recently mysterious new rocks have been collected by NASA’s Mars rover. These discoveries are hard-earned and it is symbolic that the exploratory robotic rover is called Perseverance. What are the qualities you need to be an astronaut and how can we explore these as learning opportunities to boost student learning? Gary Beven, Flight Surgeon and Chief of Aerospace Psychiatry at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, believes candidates need to have nine suitability proficiencies (Patel, 2016).

Ethical dilemmas, astronaut proficiencies, and Global Skills

We can highlight and explore the links between astronaut proficiencies and global skills as promoted in PBL learning. Making these novel connections with our students using ethical dilemmas, shows them critical skills are essential in life beyond their school experience.

Ethical Dilemma

Expansion to the stars versus staying on the Earth: how can we plan for and create an unpredictable future?

  1. Astronaut suitability proficiency: Judgement and Decision Making.
    • Global skills: Critical Thinking and Problem…
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Harbord and Khan

Meredith Harbord EdD and Sara Riaz Khan are global educators who use ethical dilemmas to enrich and transform curriculum. Their student centric approach is driven by an ethical model and innovative tools that support critical thinking and creativity. Meredith and Sara’s collaboration as Design teachers at ABA Oman International School in Muscat, focused on sustainability, ethical design and global mindedness and inspired them to establish Harbord & Khan Educational Consultants. They develop units of work based on real world issues to engage and challenge students for diverse curriculums (IB, PBL, Common Core and Australian) and are available for professional development and to create programs to meet the specific needs of your school. Meredith and Sara have authored two teacher curriculum books ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 1, 2 & 3’ and ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 4 & 5’ (2020). Website: