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Space for Inspiration

The “Space for inspiration – ISS and beyond” event was a unique opportunity to build cross-sector relationships, and learn about promising research taking place onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Over 250 people gathered in one of the world’s most renowned science venues, the London Science Museum, on 14–15 September 2016. Hosted by the European Space Agency (ESA), space and non-space industry organisations met to exchange ideas on what the future of space exploration holds – both on Earth and in deep space. The event was also a launch pad to forge new partnerships with non-space sector organisations and to build new business models together. One third of the audience came from industry.

“We want to draw more people into the future, and explain how they can get involved. The opportunities are unlimited,” said David Parker, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

Several space agencies participating in the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) attended the two-day event and discussed new approaches to achieve future space exploration goals beyond low Earth orbit. Fully in line with ISECG’s Exploration Roadmap, the ISS was highlighted as a centrepiece of space exploration today, leading to future human missions to the Moon and Mars.

Reinventing low Earth orbit

Scientists and private companies were invited to take advantage of ISS facilities. “Research in orbit is something that is not just limited to what space agencies do,” noted Julie Robinson, Chief Scientist for the NASA ISS Program Office.

David Parker confirmed ESA’s intention to open the Space Station to a more diverse set of partners and to new ways of operating it. ESA has committed to participate in the exploitation of the Space Station up to 2020.

As Kirk Shireman, NASA ISS Program Manager, put it, “Our teenagers have never known a time when humans didn’t live and work in space. What a wonderful thing that is.”

Space goes commercial

The Space for Inspiration event was the start of a process, and it is not intended to be a one-off. “We want to build new partnerships and to use this opportunity as a kick starter to interact with a broader community,” said David Parker.

Today, space is a crossroad of sectors, resources and people. ESA is already forging partnerships with non-space sector organisations and planning new ways of working together.

In March 2015, ESA launched an initiative aimed at opening new opportunities to the private sector. Industry was invited to come forward with partnership ideas driven by business plans that would not only help develop products and services, but also advance objectives for space exploration. The idea behind the initiative is to strengthen the economic dimension of space exploration, and ultimately contribute to its sustainability.

Down to Earth

Solutions ‘made in space’ are helping to shape our daily lives and address global challenges on Earth in areas such as energy, health and food production. Many promising ideas were discussed.

Space for Inspiration was also a celebration of the diversity and pervasiveness of space in technology, industry and culture. Some speakers introduced work that used space as inspiration, including Michelin-starred chef Thorsten Schmidt, research doctor Beth Healey – who spent a year in Antarctica –, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s education engineer David Honess.

Engagement is an important part of the process. “Whether you work in the fashion, farming, food or film industries, the message is to be as inclusive as you can,” said film producer Duncan Copp. “The more we assimilate the idea of space into the fabric of society, the easier people will accept it.”

The agenda included talks by ESA astronauts Tim Peake and Luca Parmitano, and NASA astronaut Don Pettit.


You can relive the event and watch every discussion in this repository of videos of the whole conference:

For more information about the event, visit

Flickr gallery:

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