SpaceUp EU – a space un-conference!

The first SpaceUp EU unconference took place at the
Cosmodrome in Genk, Belgium on 22-23 September 2012. The organisers, dedicated
experienced space tweeps Remco Timmermans (Netherlands), Eico Newmann (Germany), Angie
Kanellopoulou (Greece), Marco Frissen (Netherlands), Joachim Baptist (Belgium) and Alex von Eckartsberg
(Germany) did a spectacular job of running a top event. The 100 spots sold out
to people from 15 different countries and sadly last minute enquiries for
tickets had to be turned away.
Our hosts: Marco, Remco, Eico, Alex, Angie, Joachim

We arrived on the Friday evening, and headed to the
advertised “Irish bar”, where over 30 space fans arrived over the course of the
evening. The shared interest ensured a constant buzz in the area, as we greeted
old friends and met many new acquaintances and longstanding friends from
Twitter that were meeting for the first time.

Nick Howes, RIchard Scott, John Richards and Amjad Zaidi enjoying the swag
Day one, we arrived early for registration, to marvel at the
amazing swag bags and start on the coffee. Refreshments were conveniently on
hand throughout the day, with a very efficient lunch organised, and dinner also
served at the Cosmodrome for those who wanted it.
The first session started in style with a special video
message to SpaceUp EU from Bill Nye, “The Science guy” (NASA). The organisers
introduced themselves, thanked the very generous sponsors for all their help
and explained the format for the unconference.
Five bold volunteers for the T-5 slots were up first, to the
complete auditorium. These talks had 20 slides rotating every 15 seconds
through 5 minutes, requiring practice to pace it correctly.
Joseph Dudley, T-5 talk about the UK Space Settlement Competition
Joseph Dudley, from UKSEDS, did a fantastic job of
describing “The best thing that ever happened to me”, which was the UK Space
Settlement Competition in 2010. He described the competition, the pressures,
stresses, and many aspects to think about which resulted in his team travelling
to the Johnson Space Centre, Houston, for the world final.
Three more talks followed, and then it was time to “fill the
grid”. This was a board of 15 and 30 minute slots in 4 different smaller rooms,
for people to post whatever they wanted to talk about, which could take the
form of a presentation, questions, discussion groups, workshops or a mini
Initial enthusiasm meant this board was packed full very
quickly and many people realised with disappointment they would have to wait
until Sunday morning to get a slot on the second day. Others realised they
clashed with things they wanted to see, so a few swaps were negotiated.
Christer Fuglesang, ESA astronaut
After lunch, Christer Fuglesang treated us to a mixture of wonderful space pictures and a small physics lesson, in a presentation made specially for SpaceUp EU.

Olivia Haider from OEWF (Austrian Space Forum) talked about
their Mars2013 simulation, which will be taking place in the desert in Morocco
in February 2013. She described the set up, orgnisation, calls for experiments
and volunteers, and went into more detail on the experiments.  I was delighted to take the opportunity to
describe my experiment and look forward to volunteering in Innsbruck for two
weeks as part of the Remote Science Support team in their Mission Support
Olivia Haider, OEWF Mars simulation in Morocco, Feb 2013
Daniel Scuka from ESA communications took the opportunity to
ask space tweeps for their feedback on social media: what they could do
better, what they like, what else could be done etc.
While grabbing a coffee between talks, I suddenly noticed
Paolo Nespoli, ESA astronaut, in conversation with some space tweeps, having
arrived a day early for his Sunday presentation. This was a great demonstration of his generosity in giving up his whole weekend and in no small part due to the SpaceUp EU organisers who had met and befriended him previously.
Jane MacArthur presenting the iTOUR mission from Alpbach
Two of my team mates, Ingo (Germany) and Piotr (Poland),
from the Alpbach Summer School presented our team project with me, which went
down well with the audience and resulted in queries from other students as to
how to apply to go next year.
Nick Howes took a slot to promote the amazing
SpaceFest event in Tucson, Arizona and encourage others to save up for it.  Meeting the majority of the Apollo astronauts
is an opportunity not to be missed, especially given three tracks of talks from
top NASA and university mission scientists and excursions to Kitts Peak
Observatory, Mount Lemmon and the University of Arizona Mirror labs.
At 5pm it was time for SpaceUp EU’s Google hangout with
Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Science Society, 9am in California for her.
She told us about MSL and then took questions from the audience. Next up was Ron Garan, NASA astronaut, who Skyped in.
We were then invited into the Planetarium to see a movie by
ESA, though by this point in the day exhaustion and information overload led to
a few people dozing off. Dinner at 8pm was served remarkably efficiently and quickly
given the number of people in the room.
Sunday morning started with filling the grid, some more T-5
talks, and then breaking out into sessions again.
Paolo Nespoli, ESA astronaut
We came back together at 12:00 to see Paolo’s presentation,
which conveniently whizzed through the school aspects (which some of us Brits
had already seen in March at the Mission X event at the Royal Aeronautical Society) and described the
amazing features of the many images he took from the ISS, while on orbit for 6
months. He questioned why we are not doing more in space, and
suggested a deeper philosophical reason is needed, rather than “just for fun”, and
thinks giving more money to space agencies is not necessarily the answer.

Nick Howes telling “A tale of two comets”

Sadly we had to leave at 1pm, the afternoon session having
been added after we were initially told it would end around lunchtime when we
booked our Eurostar tickets. However, we followed the tweets online and I lhave enjoyed watching the missed presentations which are available online.

The journey home, as from many other space events this year,
was a sad shift back into real life, from the amazing uplifting atmosphere that
surrounds space enthusiasts when they meet. People are looking towards the next one in Stuttgart at the end of October, also follow @SpaceUpPL on Twitter to keep up to date on the plans for SpaceUp Poland in November!