“Welcome, do you want to talk?” asks Jan Svoboda, one of the SpaceUp organisers, pointing at the session grid, a whiteboard depicting all speaker slots for the first day of SpaceUp Cologne. This might seem an unusual conference greeting, but not so with a SpaceUp ‘unconference’.
These informal gatherings assume that every attendee has something of interest to say, so there is no planned programme and there are no spectators – everyone is a participant.
The latest SpaceUp in this series of global unconferences took place at ESA’s Astronaut Centre, EAC, in Cologne, Germany, on 21–22 March. It was a great weekend, for the organisers, participants and ESA.
Imagine a wild mix of over a hundred students, academics, senior scientists and managers, astronauts, their trainers, young space entrepreneurs, outreach enthusiasts, communicators and designers, all bringing together their creative energy for a weekend in the fascinating astronautics environment of ESA’s astronaut centre.
Beginning the event with a talk by veteran astronaut Reinhold Ewald and a live tweet from space by ESA astronaut Samantha Christoforetti set the bar high.
It continued to be raised even higher: analog mars simulation (Austrian Space Forum’s Olivia Haider), space psychology (Alex Hofmann), both giant and miniature International Space Station models built out of custom Lego bricks (Christoph Ruge), astronaut training (Hervé Stevenin), a live Reddit-style AskMeAnything session with EAC staff … to name just a few of Saturday’s sessions.
Sunday continued with a keynote talk by German Aerospace Center’s Jürgen Hill on the Global Space Exploration Roadmap, more on ESA’s CAVES project from Loredana Bessone, and further sessions on the International Space University by Chris Welch.
Holger Voss presented a full family of airworthy ESA scale-model rockets, including Ariane 6, that help to inspire European schools.
One session merits a special mention: 13-year-old Constanze Kramer’s very first talk at a space (un)conference, entitled “The life of an underage SpaceTweep”, in which she describes how social media helped her to connect with space, and how she found new friends and like-minded people.
However, it is sometimes difficult for a teenager like her to get access to events like SpaceTweetups/SocialSpace or SpaceUps, which are often restricted to adult participants for legal reasons.
Constanze’s talk was not the only one providing ESA with valuable feedback. Juanjo Bazán praised ESA’s communication efforts on the Rosetta mission, but strongly advocated ESA should continue an equally Open Content and Open Science approach with other missions and in its other domains.
Fernando Doblas, Head of ESA’s Communication Department and host of the 2013 SpaceUp Paris at ESA Headquarters, is an ardent proponent of dialogue and openness: “ESA has been active in sharing its knowledge via social media and the community for a number of years, fully exploiting its channels not just for one-way messages, but also by engaging in conversations, listening and interacting.”
Marco Trovatello, Strategy Advisor for ESA’s Communication Department and participant at SpaceUp Cologne, adds: “It is crucial that ESA does so in real life too, and SpaceUp unconferences and the #SocialSpace initiative by ESA and its partners provide the perfect opportunity for this.”
SpaceUp Cologne at EAC brought together more than a hundred people from more than a dozen European countries. Twitter was the main social media platform used to communicate about the event. According to hashtracking.com, 4666 tweets by 887 contributors generated 14.6 million timeline deliveries and an overall reach of 2 million impressions.
The next SpaceUps in Europe take place at the International Space University in Strasbourg 11-12 April, the International Astronautical Federation’s Global Space Innovation Conference in Munich, 23–25 June, SpaceUp Rome at University of Rome “La Sapienza”, 24–25 October, and SpaceUp X at the École Polytechnique” on 7–8 November in Palaiseau, France.
For more information on upcoming SpaceUps, please visit http://spaceup.org
For further information or feedback, please contact:
ESA Communication Department
Strategy Advisor & Cross-Media Coordinator
Tel: +33 1 53 69 8168