Featured image credit: ESA/Sarah Jane Muirhead via Flickr (CC BY NC ND IGO 3.0)

The European Space Agency has organized a first TEDx event* on the premises of its European Space Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk.  The date was not coincidental –exactly one year ago, on the 11th of November, the world had collectively gasped when the Philae Lander successfully touched the surface of the Comet 76P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as part of ESA’s Rosetta mission.

The year 2015 was a good year for the space industry. We have witnessed the historical Pluto flyby, and rejoiced at the news of water on Mars; satellites were launched, manned missions were sent, and space probes continued. With all of this happening, the expectations of future space endeavors are rising, exploration goals—getting more ambitious by the year.

“Science Beyond Fiction,” the chosen theme for this year’s TEDxESA event, reflects this—what was once fiction can be a reality today, thanks to technological advancements and our endless fascination with space. As Franco Ongaro (Director of Technical and Quality Management (D/TEC), HEAD of ESTEC) said in his TEDxESA opening speech: “Some say that the best days of space are behind us. I think, that’s very wrong. The best days of space are ahead of us.”

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”Franco Ongaro” link=”” color=”#f44d5e” class=”” size=””]“Some say that the best days of space are behind us. I think, that’s very wrong. The best days of space are ahead of us.”[/pullquote]

One would have to think hard to come up with a venue more befitting ESA’s TEDx debut than its Noordwijk facilities. Although ESA has several sites around Europe, its European Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk is the largest of them. ESTEC is commonly known as the organizations’ technical heart and soul, because the majority of ESA’s projects, including its space missions, are born and developed there. ESTEC has just pulled off a major public event earlier this Fall—the ESTEC Open Day; with the capacity to welcome 12,000 visitors, there was not a spare ticket left by the day. Was anyone surprised when TEDxESA, too, got fully booked weeks in advance?


Below we are listing the stellar speaker line-up. Original source of the videos is TED; the TEDx Talks shared in this post are published under the Creative Commons Licence “Attribution – NonCommercial – NonDerivative”. You can also find them in an official ESA YouTube playlist.


Tommasso Ghidini. Head of the Materials Technology Section at the European Space Agency, which is in charge of qualifying all metallic materials for space flight.



Geraint (Taff) Morgan. Award-winning instrument developer who’s been part of the instrument team creating Ptolemy, which landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko aboard Rosetta’s Philae Lander.



Danko Nikolić. Psychologist, Civil Engineer and Researcher. Associated with Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research; Research fellow at Frankfurt Institute for Advance Sciences.

*Emdedding this TEDx talk was disabled.


Thorsten Schmidt. Top Danish chef. Developed and prepared the menu for the Danish astronaut Andreas Morgensen, who shared his meals with his fellow astronauts during their ISS mission.



Scott Millican. American engineer with more than 35 years of experience in preparing astronauts for their space flights, from Gemini 10 to Apollo 17. He was part of the legendary Huston team that helped rescue Apollo 13, an experience he recounted during his TEDxESA talk (“At that point I didn’t feel like I was involved in a historical development,” he mentioned).



Samantha Cristoforetti. ESA astronaut, who spent 199 days on board of the International Space Station ISS and set a duration record for the longest single space flight by a woman, and for a longest uninterrupted space flight by a European astronaut.



Kanika Anand. A 24-year-old aeronautical engineer, now obtaining a Masters in International Business Management. Air cadet who represented the Royal Netherlands Air Force in Turkey and Japan.



Helen Keen. British award-winning comedy writer and performer. Her first solo stand-up show, “It is Rocket Science,” was picked up by BBC Radio 4 and was shortlisted for the 2014 Writers’ Guild Award for Best Radio Comedy.



Nick Harkaway. British novelist and commentator, author of the books The Gone-Away World, Angelmaker and Tigerman.



Rick Tumlinson. Space entrepreneur and activist, co-founder of Deep Space Industries, Space Frontier Foundation, and other companies. In 2004 listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the space



The next TEDxESA event will be taking place in 2016, at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne.

*TED is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading powerful ideas, usually in a form of short talks. TEDx means a local, independently organized TED event. Learn more about TEDx here.



First TEDxESA event held in Noordwijk.