Blog Post

My Time At Space For Inspiration 2016 | Melissa Molseed

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On September 14th – 15th, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the Science Museum, (one of my favourite places in London) to participate in Space for Inspiration – the ISS and Beyond. Space for Inspiration, was an ESA event, which in itself was not unusual. What set this particular event apart from other ESA events was that Space for Inspiration would bring together leaders and experts from the Space community and the non-Space community and look at collaboration between the two; how research into Space is creating opportunities to meet challenges on Earth and discuss the broader implications of Space-based research.

The day started with a brief history of the International Space Station and introduced the idea of Space 4.0. The global partnerships and relationships the ISS has created and cemented the benefits it has delivered for humanity and what will happen when the ISS becomes obsolete.

We then discussed the best way for ESA to Stimulate Commercial Research; was it to create business models to maximise the usefulness of Space [Research] for Social or Private Institutes, to stimulate discussion on common topics and to transfer technology via trade fairs, events, mailings, direct contacts and sector specific workshops or was it to offer access to the ISS for companies to do their research? The first of these proved to be the most popular.

We then moved on to how the ISS has enabled experiments and scientific discoveries that simply wouldn’t be possible on Earth; breakthroughs in Space have shown how to solve some of the biggest challenges of our times in energy, health and food. We heard from STFC’s Chris Bee, former Schlumberger’s Research Director Walt Aldred, the incredible Beth Healey and Tech2Market’s Mathieu Cynober. We also heard about the wonderfully named MELiSSA initiative; a consortium of over 30 organizations across Europe, this initiate aims to develop the technology for future regenerative life support systems for long term human space missions.

As the day progressed, the conversation turned to the next stage in Space: how to improve competitiveness globally, new challenges for the European Space Economy (more actors, global value chains, the rise in “New Space”), the journey to Mars and looked at the different and sometimes unexpected areas in which Space has provided innovation and inspiration such as fashion, urban farming, food and of course the entertainment industry. We ended the evening with a drinks reception in the Exploring Space Gallery before moving to the Making the Modern World Gallery for a lovely three course dinner and entertainment!

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The second day focused on New Space: trends and opportunities in the domain of Space Exploration, Space as a driver for economic growth, the opportunities and challenges associated with Humans in Space, a talk from Tim Peake about his time on the ISS and finally life beyond the ISS.

I must confess my particular highlight of the day was hearing Thomas Reiter, Don Pettit, Luca Parmitano and Tim Peake talk about their time and experience of Space and life aboard the ISS. Luca Parmitano in particular really knows how to hold and captivate an audience. The way in which he tells a story, has you feeling that you were with him, experiencing what he was experiencing. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, I would absolutely advise it! I also managed to catch up with him after his talk and ask a few additional questions (and grab a cheeky photo). Of course hearing Tim Peake, the first British ESA Astronaut, talk about his adventures in Space, his experiences aboard the ISS, in the Soyuz Capsule and as well as his pre-post experiences to launch felt like hearing a parent tell a tale from their childhood.

As the first modern age British Astronaut to inspire the next generation of Space leaders, the excitement in Tim’s voice recalling his time, adventures and thoughts on his time in Space was truly exciting. The excitement in his voice, the passion that was exuding from him, much like Luca Parmitano had you feeling fully immersed in his experiences.

In terms of Space 4.0, I feel that Space more so now than ever is more accessible to everyone. In the Social Media age in which we live, we are able to connect with likeminded individuals in the same town, country or halfway across the world. The access to information we have is incredible and we have global platforms in which you can share your passions, thoughts and ideas! In terms of inspiring the next generation, and kicking off Space 4.0, we definitely have the means to do so and the fact that Space/Science as a whole is no longer seen as an inaccessible industry for some is truly inspiring. I for one never would have thought that with my degree in Sociology & Media that I would be invited to participate in such events and hold serious conversations with engineers, astronauts and graduates about the future of Space, how we can inspire the next generation and what the next few decades have in store.

With regards to the U.K. in particular, I feel that Tim Peake time aboard the ISS be key in inspiring the next generation, as there is finally a face for this younger generation to recognize as one of their own and to inspire them. Although there have been a total of 7 British Astronauts; Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick became Naturalized American citizens so flew under the American flag, Michael Foale and Richard Garriott had American mothers which gave them citizenship and again had them flying under the American flag. Mark Shuttleworth held Dual South African and British citizenship but flew as a Space Tourist. Helen Sharman was of course the first British Astronaut (and woman), flying to Mir in 1991. She was certainly an inspiration for me, but the lack of progress in the UK’s own space program or agency, which we didn’t establish until 2010, meant that Helen was forgotten about and “written out of history” and truly hindered the UK’s position in Space as well as showcasing the talent we have here. Until Tim Peake there has never been a figure in modern times for children, teenagers and young adults to inspire to. Since 2010 a lot of money, energy and effort has gone into making the UK Space Agency something to be proud of, and things like inspiring your country’s citizens both young and old is key to Space4.0 and preserving the future of Earth and its citizens.

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We closed the day with a panel on the relevance of Space Exploration to Societal Development (highly relevant, it is giving us the tools and data needed to progress as a society on this planet of another). The two days I spent at the Science Museum with ESA at Space for Inspiration, were truly inspirational (no pun intended). This event and all the participants completely captured the essence of Space 4.0, inspiring the next generation and looking at how Space plays a part not just in Science but in every walk and industry of life. This event left me truly excited for the future of Space, and I cannot wait to see what developments happen over the next few years!

My final highlight of Day 2 of Space for Inspiration was getting a photo with Luca Parmitano and Tim Peake. I’ve definitely gained some street cred in the office, but I don’t know how I am going to be able to top this! (I must say the lighting in the Flight Gallery is not the best!)

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