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The Space Tweep Society European Branch

@SpaceTweepsIt’s been two years since the European Space Agency (ESA) first opened it’s doors to Space enthusiasts, and already the SpaceTweeps community has grown into a vibrant solid group in Europe, with new members joining everyday.  Inspired by some of the Society’s core U.S. members, who crossed the pond to attend the 1st SpaceTweetup on September 18, 2011 in Germany, the European SpaceTweeps have grabbed the torch and.. have been running ever since!

In the past two years, SpaceTweeps have been invited to more than ten Tweetups in Europe organised by numerous Space & Science Institutions such as ESA, DLR, CNES, OeWF, CERN, ISU etc., and they have spontaneously attended almost all major space related conferences and events on this planet, including the 2012 ISS Symposium in Berlin, Germany, SpaceFest V in Tucson, Arizona and the 64th International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, China. They have also  joined forces with scientists and space professionals in already organizing four SpaceUp un-conferences all over the continent.

While having tons of fun in the process, SpaceTweeps have been spreading their excitement and love for space exploration and scientific research to thousands of people, with their tweets, posts and blogs.  Happily, officials in Europe have not been shy in publicly acknowledging SpaceTweeps’ contribution to increasing outreach and public awareness of their activities on twitter or on their official websites.  ESA was even bold enough to host the second largest European SpaceUp in its Paris headquarters and to promote it on its official website.

The video below was produced, during last week’s ESA/DLR SocialSpace event, by Henning Krause of Helmholtz Association (CC-BY 3.0), who has been fascinated by the Society’s momentum and drive. Many claim that this says it all 😉

SocialSpace interviews: The Space Tweeps Community


SpaceUp Saudi Arabia: A story worth being told!

A small group of female Saudi spacetweeps has taken the challenge to organize the first SpaceUp Unconference in the Middle East. It is really great to see the US-born SpaceUp movement now quickly taking over the world. Last September we saw the first non-US event take place in Europe, while this December 1st we will see the first @SpaceUpIndia event in Bangalore. But the event in Saudi Arabia in January 2013 promises to be a breakthrough event for several reasons: (more…)

The First International Space Exploration Symposium in Japan

I will be attending a two day symposium organized by JAXA in Tokyo. The theme is Space Exploration for Humanity and the Future. It will open Tuesday October 30 at 1300, Japan time. The complete program can be found at the following address:


I will try to cover the event live on Twitter with pictures. Even if it proves difficult (power supply problems, etc.) I will write about it here later in the week.

As you can see, the philosophical aspects of space exploration will be discussed but also its future. With the attendance of top executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Mitsubishi HI, SpaceX among others, we can expect some interesting talks about the commercial aspects of space exploration.

I also intend to make use of the event to contact persons interested in starting a SpaceUp or Space Tweetup events in Japan in the near future.
Anyone interested can contact me through my Twitter account @ScienceInSpace
I am looking forward to having an active exchange with my fellow Spacetweeps from all around the world.

Philippe Valdois


SpaceUpEU – A personal perspective

Wow. How do you sum up one for the coolest things you have ever done?! When I went to Florida last year for STS-134 I thought that experience would take some matching. SpaceUpEU did just that.

As I’d never done anything remotely like a un-conference or SpaceUp before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found impressed me, excited me, blew me away almost. I think what I have experienced at SpaceUpEU is a huge melting pot of passionate, enthusiastic people both individual in their views and interests but also united equally by their love of space and curiosity to discover other people’s passions and interests. Everything from the range of topics to the massive age range of the participants, the 15 countries participating, how far people had travelled. It made you think very differently and it helped me be more encouraged and open about something I usually only talk about online.

With so many topics, talks and discussions and, of course, overlapping slots it is impossible to absorb everyone’s ideas during the weekend but hopefully with the abundance of video equipment and recording hopefully some things I didn’t get to see might filter down later on, probably a good idea given the rather crammed state of my brain! From square one, even maybe before the event began on Friday night I have learned lots of great stuff that I hope I can remember when I need it. The sheer range of topics was also mind-blowing. From the meticulously prepared to the totally ad-hoc, enthralling to the brain-cell popping (Yes, I’m still recovering from Christer Fuglesang’s mass, weight and particle physics!!) to the down-right controversial (Mars One caused by far the most discussion!) and pretty-much everything in between.

For me personally, the diversity of information and the friendliness and openness of the crowd stands out a lot at events like this. I wore a replica NASA flight suit to day 1 of SpaceUpEU and so many people commented on how cool it was and how good it looked. Also I knew very few people there, probably only half a dozen at most, but *everyone* was open and friendly and wanted to get to know you and talk to you. Most impressive however was actually giving a talk to a group of people, in my case an Astronomy Kickstarter, who were genuinely interested in what I had to say. Although I’d have loved more time and to open the discussion to the people there with me, I still got a massive satisfaction from talking to them about a shared interest and presenting helpful information to people who wanted to get going themselves.

My only regret is perhaps that a lot of passions, information and ideas were presented but perhaps that we didn’t always have time to discuss those within the SpaceUp event format. A lot of the discussion occurred in the evenings and outside the talks themselves which is sort of what SpaceUp and ‘un-conference’ is supposed to be working to bring into the main event. I don’t think this was necessarily a failure of the event so much as so many people were so interested in sharing their passions and, being the first European SpaceUp event, it uncorked a rich source of this passion and sharing. As a first event, an opener and a launch of the SpaceUp concept in Europe, though, it was a hugely successful and exciting event to be part of. Hopefully (and I know there are other SpaceUps already happening or being planned, starting with SpaceUp Stuttgart in October) this will be the spark that ignites the fires of other people to continue the flow of ideas and information in our area of the world.

Last but by no means least, I couldn’t write a blog post about SpaceUpEU without offering massive thanks to our organisers:

  • Remco Timmermans  (@timmermansr)
  • Eico Neumann   (@travelholic)
  • Angie Kanellopoulou  (@akanel)
  • Alex von Eckartsberg (@starlingLX)
  • Marco Frissen   (@mfrissen)
  • Joachim Baptist   (@JustBe74)

Although, as they kept reminding us, SpaceUp is as much a product of the participants as the organizers, their amazing efforts and hard, dedicated work opened the door for so many people to get together under this common banner to share and ignite discussion, some of which will still be going for a good while I’m sure (but hey, the rovers will do it!).

The SpaceUpEU Story So Far

As September is approaching fast, it will also be almost one year ago that I attended my first SpaceTweetUp. Being ESA & DLR’s first foray herein this is all the more fitting. This is the last place where I need to explain what a SpaceTweetUp can do to a person, so not going there.

So SpaceUp Europe, that’s what I would like to talk about. To me it’s a beautiful full circle story. One of the things that immediately struck me was how a Barcamp like event would be great for this topic/crowd. Little did I now at that time that it already existed and the first SpaceUp had already been held in San Diego in 2010. So one throws up the idea but it stayed with talking at that point. The fun part is that at the same time some US SpaceTweeps that already attended a SpaceUp were also talking to some other EU SpaceTweeps about the same topic. But also here, it stayed as an idea to pick up at a later time.

The next step. At some point before #SpaceKoelsch2 some SpaceTweeps started talking about SpaceUp and doing this in Europe. At this point the 2 groups that first talked separate are now talking together, space unites once again! This was the perfect time to bring it to the table and see which traction it could gather. And traction it did gather! One week later 5 SpaceTweeps were exchanging mails and on January 23 we had our first hangout (G+ is great for this:) together. SpaceUpEU was born! The first EU organising crew consisting of @akanel (GR) @mfrissen (NL) @timmermansr (NL) @travelholic (DE) and myself @JustBe74 (BE), a real European team.

Fun and work, lots of both luckily. I think it’s fair to say none of us really knew on what journey we were embarking. Finding a location (Genk, Belgium) and date (22-23/09) primarily and secondly logistics, sponsors, legal things, set-up registration and so on. This last point bringing us to today. T-1 actually! Starting tomorrow registrations will open for the first ever SpaceUpEU. Another great milestone for us, but for sure not the last. So keep an eye out on @SpaceUpEU tomorrow to be part of it.

To be continued!



SpaceUp San Francisco!

This is the inaugural year of SpaceUp San Francisco. The amazing space enthusiasm is going to happen on March 31 and April 1, 2012 at Citizen Space and is in partnership with the AIAA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Space is limited so register now to make sure you get a spot.

SpaceUp is a space unconference, where participants decide the topics to discuss and everyone is encouraged to give a talk, moderate a panel or start a discussion. Sessions are proposed and scheduled on the day they’re given, which means the usual “hallway conversations” turn into full-fledged topics.

If you’ve been to a SpaceUp elsewhere, then you know the fun and stellar ideas that are born there. It is truly the place for space enthusiasts, students, pros and wide-eyed kids. What makes SpaceUp SF unique is that we are also encouraging the strong SF culture of hackers, makers, artists, entrepreneurs, and web pros to attend. For example, organizer Sam is part of the steampunk culture, a bot maker and space tourism advocate. Crossing those ought to make for a really radical space movement! We hope to see the brilliance Bay Area people bring to startups, art and tech companies melded with the space community. Come to SF to see a new take on SpaceUp!

If you’ve never been to a SpaceUp, this is your chance! You will be amazed at what comes out of SpaceUp. Based on past SpaceUps, we expect to see businesses started, problems solved, projects kicked off, plans hatched, and amazing friendships born. Plus there is the amazing fun of Moonpie eating contests, the cool gadgets in the Artware Alley, and a chance to talk about the space topics that interest you! From rockets to space settlements, science projects to scifi, if you’re into it, it goes at SpaceUp!

We hope to have the Space Tweeps community in full force at SpaceUp SF. Get more information at www.spaceupsf.org. Please spread the word if you can! We are on Twitter and Facebook.

SXSW Panel: How to Win Friends and Influence Space Exploration

Yesterday at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival the Space Tweep Society was represented on one of the panels: How to Win Friends and Influence Space Exploration. Though I wasn’t able to be there, I could tell by the numerous positive tweets filling my stream that the panel was very well received.

Great job @harbingeralpha, @mrdoornbos, @absolutspacegrl, @chris_radcliff, and @Astro_Ron!

Here are a just a few of the tweets I found about and in response to the panel:

Toronto Space Round Up 2010: Part Deux! This Saturday!

Come meet Toronto’s space enthusiasts & professionals on Saturday Oct. 16 at 9pm at the Madison Avenue Pub! Event details are on Facebook here.



Pens at the Ready

I just watched this video from the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference. I think if all of us follow this advice, we will have a huge impact.

[video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWhLSORCwW0]

What do you think? Should we start a hand written letter writing campaign?

Astronaut Mike Fincke in Lecco, Italy. Chronicles of a wonderful experience.

Every year since 2005, ISAA association (Italian Space and Astronautics Association) is organizing a 3-days convention, devoted to spread space exploration awareness, and giving the opportunity to many Italian space enthusiasts to speak about their resarches on the same topic. The first three editions were held in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, but the last one has been moved in Lecco, Lombardy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lecco), that is also my hometown. Lecco is, my dear US friends, settled on the same lake, Lago di Como, choosen by George Lucas for many shots of his “Star Wars Episode II” film, and by George Clooney as a pleasant place for one of his magnificent Villas. Here you can finde more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Como.

It is also a tradition of our Convention to host great personalities in space world, and let them have public speeches to share their experiences and anecdotes. In past editions we’ve hosted Paolo Bellutta, an Italian JPL employee part of the MER’s “rover drivers” team, and astronaut Umberto Guidoni (STS-75 and 100), the first European to enter the ISS.

This time, from 19th to 22nd November, we had the pleasure to host NASA Astronaut Col. Michael E. Fincke (Exp 9 Engineer and Exp 18 Commander). His presence among us was the result of a lucky series of coincidences, that I want to briefely tell you.

In march 2008 our association helped, with others, a local school to arrange an ARISS radio contact with Expedition 18, onboard the International Space Station. The reaction of teachers and studenrts was overwhelming, and local political authorities were very impressed. After a long year spent preparing the contact, tears were in our eyes when we heard loud and clear the voice of Mike calling for us. I know, it may sound weired, but I assure you it’s a very emotional moment after monthes of classes and technical preparation with students.

Immediately after the contact, that went extremely well, I and some friends of mine thought how it would be awesome if in some way we could manage to obtain a real, face to face contact between the astronaut and the students who have spoken with him by radio.  “Let’s do it, at least we cannot say we didn’t tried”. We were everyting but sure that a NASA astronaut would accept our invitation. Nevertheless we submitted our request, and after about 40 days NASA contacted us saying… YES! We were speechless. What should we do to properly welcome among us such a great guest? You see, maybe for many of you U.S. friends, NASA astronauts are in some way “ordinary”, but try to look through our eyes. NASA is such a myth everywhere, it’s like your favourite rockstar coming for a concert in your small, unknown less-than-1000-souls village. Just unbeliveable.

We started to work hard with local authorities (Province and Municipality of Lecco), and with the local group of astro amateurs, the “Deep Space” Association, to arrange the best accomodations and to plan a schedule for Mike’s public speeches.

Every time we had meetings with local institutions (Municipality, Province, Engeneering Faculty at Politecnico di Milano, Brera’s Observatory) we received requests of public speeches. So we had no choiche than arrange a really tight schedule, even if we were also extremely pleased because of the enthusiasm and curiosity that were raising in the town.

All the planning phase went smoothly (sort of, NASA burocracy is heaven compared to the Italian one) and finally, on 18th November, I with my friends Loris and Gianpietro were at the Malpensa International Airport of Milan, picking up our very first NASA astronaut.

His first words let us very impressed: “I look forward to meet the students. Being here is like a dream becoming true”. His dream? “What a coincidence, Mike, you are making our dream true”, we thought.

I studied every detail of Mike’s bio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Fincke). He accomplished so many things that I was expecting someone that could be a little “snooty”. Forget it. Mike was one of the humblest people I’ve ever met. He proved to be largely superior to my expectations, especially in human terms.

His personality is characterized by an enthusiasm matched only by his humility, and that, above all his accomplishments, has literally conquered all the people he met.

Mike spoke to over 1000 people in 3 different locations in 3 days, and he never spared himself. He *always* had a kind answer, an handshake and a wide smile for everyone. To tell you the truth, my personal opinion is that perhaps, at some point, he regretted the loneliness of the International Space Station. Of course we did our best to reward him with super rich Italian lunches and dinners, and I think he enjoyed them… a lot 😉

The most challenging part of all the Convention was the evening of Saturday 21st. The Major of Lecco reserved the city theater for us. That was amazing, since the “Teatro della Società” theater is ancient and beautiful (http://is.gd/5jgxP), and we were proud to offer it to Micke’s speech. In the same time we were also really frightened: the location is the most prestigious theater of the entire Province, and fill up its 450 empty seats seemed an impossible mission to us. All the delegations of students, all the highest rank politicians were invidted that very night. Everything had to work perfectly: PCs, video projector, our trembling knees (I was among the hosts – http://is.gd/5jgFq )…

Then, while we were in the backstage, Mike asked for a moment of loneliness. Maybe he was praying, maybe he was just gathering all his energies, but in the meantime the entry gates were opened and a huge, pushing crowd started to flow in. One hundred, two hundred… in 20 minutes the theater was filled up to his very top row of seats, and more than 50 people was left outside. As we say, SOLD OUT. We peeked over the curtains and the view was… well, incredible (http://is.gd/5jgI6). Mike was still alone, concentrating in his dressing room and waiting for us to call him on the stage. He did not have any chanche to peek the audience. So when we called him I can only imagine the emtional impact he had, finding himself in front of a overcrowded theater, that literally exploded in a thunderous applause (http://is.gd/5jgMU). We were so happy for us, but expecially for Mike. It was a very special moment.

His incredible magnetic personality conquered the audience in few minutes. We’ve prepared few surprise for him to “break the ice”, like a video of the Star Trek Enterprise’s episode in wich he had a cameo. Everything contributed to make him closer to te attendance.

Then, after his entertaining speech and video commentary, as asked at the airport Mike finally met all the students involved in the radio contact. That was another very touching moment. The students greeted Mike one by one, then they gave him a nice present. Right after that, few words were said by the teacher, Prof. Lafranconi, who struggled to make his students involved in the radio contact’s project. (God knows how many of those professors we need here in Italy). One of the things that delighted us more was the presence of delegations from two other Italian cities, wich have had the same kind of radio contact Mike: Pietrasanta (in Tuscany, 380 Km from Lecco) and Porto San Elpidio (in Marche, 590 km from Lecco). I think that such a meeting was quite an unique experience for a NASA Astronaut, and for sure it’s been something very special for the students, the teachers, and for all the people who worked hard to share few minutes of radio contact with Mike.

I want to stress how important are PRs for promoting space exploration awareness. I’ve seen with my own eyes how initiatives like ARISS School Contacts, expecially if followed by the presence of a real astronaut, can lit up the fire of passion for space, and create memories wich maybe will become important in the future, when the kids of today will be called to decide what to do with their own lives.

Mike has left us all and hundreds of “Lecchesi” (citizens of Lecco) with indelible memories. In those three days he was the public face of NASA for the Italians, and he did a GREAT job. As I said, he’s been always patient and flattering kind. Sunday Nov. 22nd he spent his last day with us at the local Planetarium. There were so many people that he had to replay and comment his video onboard the ISS for 3 times. After that he signed more than 400 autographs, each single one of them with a custom sentence. And for every signing there were a photo, each single one of them with a bright smile. Can you imagine the happiness of the dozens of childs who gathered there to meet him in person? They were awed and elated, as he always showed with blue flight suit filled with cool patches.

Such a dedicated behaviour by foreign astronaut, coming from a foreign space agency, was also an indirect lesson to our own space agencies. Despite the efforts of many ESA (European Space Agency) offices, who are very supportive for space-related initiatives, they’re not yet capable to create an extensive awareness campaign. Sometimes even the copyright disclaimers of ESA images and video prevent a free sharing of cool space materials. Anyway I want to stress that, if asked, ESA offers (and offered us) great contribution, and we look forward to collaborate once again in the future editions of our conventions.

I am sorry to admit that we were totally ignored by our very Italian Space Agency, ASI. ASI is a very strong and respected NASA partner, they do great job in the context of space missions and international collaboration. But in my view it’s just half of the job. ASI’s PR and space awareness offices are nonexistent. Despite we informed them about the presence of Col. Fincke, and required their help and PR materials, we obtained a “deafening silence”. No letter, no phonecalls, no noting came from there. So no surprises if in Italy the acronym ASI is well known just to insiders. Of course it’s easier organize space events for few dozens of key top level managers of aerospace firms, like ASI does very often in Rome, but the average Italian taxpayer is unaware that his country has a Space Agency. Unfortunately ASI is not spending efforts to make Ialians understand why is important to invest tax money in fields, like astronautics, that not always return immediate results. The Agency’s website is poor in multimedia content and boring. Even online there’s not an easy way to answer one of the most asked question about space exploration: “Why spend all those money to put an Italian into space?”

Let’s hope things will be better in the future, since we have two incoming missions for Italian astronauts: Roberto Vittori on STS-134 and Paolo Nespoli on Exp 26/27. Paolo will be the first Italian assigned to a long duration mission onboard the ISS. We are proud of them both!

Let’s close our storytelling. Sunday’s evening we were all exausted, and in a very poetic moment, as a “farewell”, while we were pakcing our car with Mike’s luggage the ISS flew over Lecco’s Planetarium (http://is.gd/5jihb). Mike’s wife, Ranita, was waiting for him in Milan, and after all the gift and touching moments we’ve had together, it was just time to finally bring him back to his wife. He looked very very tired (even if he never complained about anything, and if you ask him, he’ll deny) but we’re sure Ranita took good care of him.

This is the end of our story. I hope that even in my poor and twisted english I was able to share with you the emotions that Mike Fincke gifted us with his presence. You U.S. friends have to be proud of him an also proud of your space agency. You guys rock!