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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 5 November 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2016 23 GREECE like the one we experience here on Earth. Other than the promising planetary bodies of our solar system, we are now looking at places outside of it, such as exoplanets that orbit stars other than our sun and for elemental properties that can support and sustain life, not as we know it, but as we have not experienced it. There is a fast growth in these kind of explorations and day-by-day we are getting closer to answers on the issue. Of course, future missions to promising places for the existence of life are top priorities for space agencies, with two of them being ESA's JUICE mission to the Jupiter system, where one of its goals is the exploration of the underground oceans of Europa and Ganymede, and of course NASA's Europa Clipper. What fascinates you most about these worlds you are exploring, and about your research? I can talk for hours about that, but I'll try to keep it short. First of all, the exploration of planetary bodies and physical properties out of our terrestrial boundaries answers many of my existential questions and broadens my perception on limits, fears and diversity. Through the investigation of our distant worlds, like the planets and moons of our outer solar system as well as their exoplanets, we get closer to answers about the formation of the Earth, but most importantly, on how the galaxies and the whole universe works as a unison through a system of independent bodies. Which in a way is a macroscopic view of our planet and society. Do you find the general public is more receptive to exploring other worlds when they see how it contributes to understanding and protecting our own planet? I believe it is vitally essential for current and future generations to be more concerned about our environment and to be more involved in the natural world in terms of either scientific awareness or in terms of the uses of our natural resources. We don't live in a world where the preservation of our planet, its nature and the living species on it or the exploration of our extended 'home' (i.e. the universe) are top priorities. Even though I experience the excitement of people's reactions when they hear about the advances in astrophysics and planetary sciences, I remember that this excitement occurs precisely because it is not as evident in our everyday societal influence or in our educational systems. I can't stress enough how important this is and what kind of influence and advantages this could have in both our everyday lives but also in the way our societies function. The mere concept of beginning to consider where we live, comparing our existence to the grander scale of the universe and pondering the notion that we are all guests visiting a planet, has the potential to change the existential perception of ourselves, thus influencing our interactions with our planet and our human experience as a whole. You live in California, yet you often travel back to Greece. What do you love and hate most about the two, respectively? I travel to Greece pretty often because many of my collaborators are based in Europe and some of the most important planetary science conferences are being held there too. That often gives me the chance to spend a few days in Greece, where I also have active collaborations with the University of Athens, the Observatory of Athens and the Democritos Institute. I don't hate anything about California or Greece or any place in this world per se. What I do repel though, has to do with specific tendencies that hurt human rights and the natural world. That includes any kind of human discrimination and oppression and extends to all types of environmental hazards, from deforestation to water and air pollution. I find these problems present a global pattern that hurts societies all over the world. So I can't specifically name the US or Greece. On the other hand, there are many things that I like about these two places. I love the nature around the US west coast, the national parks, the lakes, the mountains and especially the endless desert. I also love the multi-ethnicity and multicultural experience that Los Angeles offers. In Greece, I thoroughly enjoy the centre of Athens with the numerous little shops and bars, our traditional/folk music such as rebetiko and nisiotika, the Aegean islands, etc. How did your family feel about your decision to move to the US? They are happy about it. They were used to the idea of me living abroad for many years before I came here. It helps that they know that I like what I do and that I am having a good time in Los Angeles. I guess that's all a person who cares about you needs to know. In my opinion, physical distance is not something that should affect relationships in a negative way. Would you consider going back to Greece? Was there ever a choice in staying? There's always a choice. Where there is no war, fatigue or extreme circumstances (political, environmental, etc.) one always has a choice. I would definitely consider going back to Greece or going to any other country that offers me what I consider vital and essential, such as a healthy and strong working environment surrounded by advanced science and all the means to export your work and sustain global collaborations with scientific teams. And of course a nice living environment where I can enjoy my everyday life.
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