For the love of space science

PUBLISHED: Mount Gambier/ Berrin doctor Vienna Tran has written an informative deck of cards about space. Picture: Supplied

Sophie Conlon

A love of space and a career in medicine has led one Mount Gambier/ Berrin doctor to publish an informative deck of cards about the solar system.

Vienna Tran said she had been interested in space since she was around five-years-old.

“So basically my whole life, for a long time I wanted to be an astrophysicist or an astronomer,” she said.

“I got into medicine because I wanted to help people, but I always had that love for space as my first love in the back of my mind.”

Outside of medical school Dr Tran began studying space medicine, something she said was niche, but important.

“It was a keen interest of mine which focuses on how to keep astronauts healthy before, during and after flight and studying what happens to the human body when they are exposed to space flight environment- things like radiation and microgravity,” she said.

“Space and medicine aren’t as different as you think, they both involve discovery, and contemplating how the human has a relationship with the rest of the universe.”

This study led to Dr Tran writing for Space Australia, a news website coving the country’s space events, and ultimately writing the deck of cards – The Solar System: An illustrated guide to our home in space.

“Smith Street Books is an independent publisher in Melbourne, and they somehow found my profile on Space Australia and they were looking for somebody to write a manuscript for a concept,” she said.

“This was a deck of 30 cards about the solar system.”

Dr Tran said it took her about a month to write all the facts and it was exciting to see the finished product now in her hands.

“It feels wonderful to have it out there, every single step in this process has been a small win for me,” she said.

“From the time I submitted the manuscript, the the time I saw the draft as a digital file and then months later seeing it pop up on Amazon as a pre-order and then finally to see it actually come to life, to ring around to my local book stores in Adelaide, like Dymocks and Dillons, to hear they already had some on order and the copies were on their way,” she said.

“It came to Collins Booksellers in Mount Gambier because I walked in there one day and I told them about the book and that I was a local and so they ordered some in, so Mount Gambier may be the only country town in all of Australia that has this book.

“It is now all around Australia and soon to be, if not already, in the UK and US too.”

Full of facts, Dr Tran said the beauty of the information being in a card from was that it was suitable for anyone and everyone with an interest in space.

“If I put myself in the shoes of my 10-yeat-old self, I would say that I would have enjoyed it,” she said.

“But people of any age can enjoy it, as long as you can read and understand a little bit of scientific concepts and have a general idea of what’s up there I think you would enjoy it.

“I have seen kids younger than eight, so five, six, seven-years-old enjoy the pictures and learning a little bit from their mum and dad about the different concepts of the solar system.”

Dr Tran said space was full of surprises and the deck would allow people to learn a little bit more about our solar system.

“A lot of people know the story about Pluto and that it was kicked out of the solar system category as a planet in 2004,” she said.

“But back in the day it was an 11-year-old girl called Venetia Burney who suggested the name Pluto to her grandpa who passed it onto the astronomical society.

“Imagine being 11 and being credited with the naming of one of the most famous ex-planets.”

She hoped learning facts like this would inspire more people to take on an interest in space.

“Kids are really easily fascinated by the unknown and the scientific, but as we get older we forget to stop and think about our place in space and how small we really are,” she said.

“We can contemplate where we are, how small we are, how physics works on a big scale, I think there is something for everyone.”

While she does not have anything in the works at the moment, Dr Tran said she would publish another book, but she was not sure if it would be about space medicine or ducks.

“Ducks are my favourite animal and I don’t think there is enough information about ducks out there – keep an eye on this space,” she said.