Switch To Space 
Brussels, 19 October 2022

Plenary meeting at Egmont Palace in Brussels. ©SwitchToSpace, Francois de Ribaucourt

Switch To Space made its third edition this year, and we could not miss it! The event - a unique opportunity for young students and young professionals in aerospace - was held at Egmont Palace in Brussels on 19th October and it took place in the framework of the Belgian Space Week. The program of the day was very rich. There were both plenary common sessions and panel discussions on different topics. Although there were a lot of in-person participants (more than 500!), it was also possible to connect online for the plenary meetings. Throughout the day there were also opportunities for students to meet face-to-face with recruiters from a number of both Belgian and international aerospace companies: indeed a unique time to promote young professionals! Several organisations set up their own booths in the hall of the beautiful Egmont Palace. Among the most interesting corners for young people was the "Pin your CV" spot. Here, students and recent graduates could pin their resumes on a dedicated wall, thus gaining visibility and promoting themselves as professionals. It was also possible to check open positions for internships and jobs that were advertised by the participating companies.  Some "Speed Dating" moments were instead planned to talk directly with recruiters.

Switch To Space 2022 at Egmont Palace in Brussels

Switch To Space 2022 at Egmont Palace in Brussels

Topic panels taking place in the beautiful rooms at Egmont Palace

What were the most explored topics during this year edition? There were seven subject areas which were presented in the afternoon panels: “To the Moon & Mars”, “Telescopes: Unravelling the mysteries of the Universe”, “Space Technologies for Moon & Mars”, “Astronauts 2.0: 21st century Explorers to Mars”, “Using local resources on Planets to live”, “Protect & Defend our Planets”, “Space humanities / Leaving the cradle of humanity”. Our LUNEX EuroMoonMars task force split up to be present at the different sessions, which were held simultaneously in the afternoon. However, we were not only there in the audience! Our CEO Bernard Foing was a speaker in the session dedicated to Space Resources and gave a talk entitled, "What are the most valuable lunar and planetary resources, and how to harvest them?". During his talk, Prof Foing also had chance to promote the recent European project EuroSpaceHub, in which LUNEX EuroMoonMars is a founding partner. EuroSpaceHub is specifically targeting the same audience as  the Switch To Space event: young lunar explorers at the beginning of their Space careers.

The session entitled "Astronaut 2.0: 21st Century Explorers to Mars" was chaired by our collaborator Prof Dr Sarah Baatout (Director of the Radiobiology Unit, Belgian Nuclear Research Center) and Anna Fogtman (Crew exploration Scientist at the European Astronaut Center). The speakers were: Kevin Tabury (Dr Eng in space radiobiology at SCK.CEN), Pierre-François Migeotte (Chief Executive Officer at HeartKinetics / ULB), Prof Dr Floris L Wuyts Head of Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace LEIA, Vertigo expert – European Institute for Otolaryngology HNS St Augustinus Hospital – Wilrijk - Belgium), Philippe Lefèvre (Full Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UCL and Dries Demey Senior Systems Engineer at QinetiQ). The topics covered diverse interesting areas: Space, the next frontier in tissue engineering, astronaut cardiac function monitoring, detailed study on how space rewires the brains of astronauts, dextrous manipulation in microgravity, Life support technology for long term. The session also discussed the different biological challenges faced by astronauts and the usage of different technologies to counteract these factors. It was higlighted how Tissue engineering can play an essential role in future space missions. The session also drew the attention of the audience explaining the Neuroplastic changes occurring in the Brain of Astronauts (BRAIN DTI Project) opening the gates for the further exploration of Human physiological conditions in Space. The technologies for sustainable explorations of Humans in Space and Long-interplanetary missions were also presented.

The topics addressed by the expert panels during the two plenaries - the opening one in the morning and the closing one in the evening - were also wide-ranging. Among the issues addressed in the morning: current challenges of  exploration for human survival in Space, resources, radiations, status of instruments and technologies, mental health and psychological challenges. Attending companies were also able to showcase their technological advancements. Participants included ESA, Thales Alenia Space, Space Applications Services, Eumetsat, OIP, Aerospacelab and many others.

Prof B. Foing with NASA astronaut Anna Lee Fisher and  Vladimir Pletser, senior Physicist-Engineer at ESA ESTEC

Lunex EuroMoonMars Communication team with ESA astronaut Frank de Winne

During the day, there were plenty of networking occasions for us. We met several astronauts and leading representatives of aerospace and research companies in this field. We had the honor of interviewing three of them for our LUNEX EuroMoonMars community: Vladimir Pletser - senior Physicist-Engineer at ESA ESTEC, analog astronaut at the Mars Desert Research Station, at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station  and also the only person in the world having flown parabolas on ten different aircrafts; Romain Charles, crew member of the 520-day simulation Mars500; Mieke Sterken - Science Communicator and also Education & Outreach Coordinator at the International Polar Foundation. Curious to know more about these inspiring people? Interviews are available on our EuroMoonMars YouTube channel!

Gala evening with astronauts @Belgian Space Week

Plenary and Gala Evening with Astronauts

The astronauts were the real stars of the evening plenary and of the following gala evening. On the grand speaker's panel were: Frank de Winne, Dirk Frimout, Robert Thirsk, Charles Bolden and Anna Lee Fisher. The audience had the opportunity to ask them direct questions. Young people wanted to know what skills are important to become astronauts and to increase the chances of being selected to go to Space.

Thirsk's advice to young students in this regard was interesting: "Astronauts need two type of skills to be successful. Technical and non technical skills. Personality traits are very important: leadership, group culture, cultural interdisciplinary. You can nurture those skills today: start from now working on these different areas by engaging in your university or school activities". When asked for key advice for the young generation, the astronauts' answers were: Follow your passion! (Charles Bolden) - Perseverance! (Anna Lee Fisher) - Stay hungry! (Frank De Winne) - Stay out of your comfort zone! (Robert Thirsk) - Vision! (Dirk Frimout).

The gala evening was held at the Academy Palace and was organized by Prof. Sarah Baatout, head of the Belgian Nuclear Research Center and EuroMoonMars longtime collaborator and friend. It was an exciting time where we enjoyed stories about the inspiring careers of astronauts, including those shared by their close friends and relatives. Inspiring artistic performances took place during the evening. These included the live creation of a painting and musical performances inspired by the beauty of Space. Thank you to all our Belgian friends for this fantastic event!

Gala event with astronauts at Academy Palace

Astronauts panel at the evening plenary ©Francois de Ribaucourt


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