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“Space has merged into all economic sectors”

Publication date 12.10.2023 16.05 | Published in English on 27.10.2023 at 11.30
News item

On Wednesday, 11 October 2023, Josef Aschbacher, President of the European Space Agency ESA, and Luca Parmitano, Astronaut visited Helsinki. In the morning, Aschbacher was one of the speakers at the Nordic Deep Tech Business Summit.

On Wednesday 11 October Josef Aschbacher, President of ESA, and Luca Parmitano, Astronaut, visited Helsinki and attended many high-level meetings. In the afternoon, Aschbacher and Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman discussed ESA's topical issues, space geopolitics and responsible use of space. After the ministerial visit, the top guests were available to meet citizens at the Science Corner of the University of Helsinki. On the Finnish side, the visit was organised by Business Finland, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

Director-General of ESA as a speaker at the NORDEEP event

A precise minute schedule synchronised the ESA delegation's programme in Helsinki: in the morning, Josef Aschbacher and Luca Parmitano, invited by former Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä, visited the House of Parliament where they met representatives of the Education and Science Section.

Aschbacher spoke at Aalto University, at the Nordic Deep Tech Business (NORDEEP) event, the world's leading technology and business summit. Aschbacher talked to the participants about the increasing importance of space in the deep technology business environment.

Following the NORDEEP event, Aschbacher directed the space technology company Iceye, which manufactures remote sensing technology, to the premises where he signed a partnership agreement on the civil security programme between ESA and Iceye. After this, Finnish space companies presented their activities to ESA's guests during their business lunch.

“Astronauts are exceptionally common people”

In the morning, ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano was interviewed at the Team Finland House, after which he shared with the staff his experiences of cooperation at the International Space Station. “We astronauts are not super people in any way – in fact, we are exceptionally common people, which is one of the reasons why we were selected as astronauts in general. It is important for space missions to be aware that conflict situations are inevitable. In terms of effective cooperation, it is essential that conflicts are not avoided – if possible, conflicts should be approached with curiosity,” Parmitano said.

 "Space has merged into all economic sectors”

In the afternoon Aschbacher and Parmitano visited the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment where they met Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman. Aschbacher opened the themes of this year's Space Summit and the ESA ministerial meeting to be held in 2025. In addition, Aschbacher and Rydman discussed space geopolitical issues and responsible space activities.

At the end of the day, Aschbacher and Parmitano were available for citizens to meet at the Science Corner discussion event of the University of Helsinki. The event was facilitated by Professor Minna Palmroth from the University of Helsinki, who leads the Centre of Excellence in Research of Sustainable Space, and Emilia Kilpua, Professor of Space Physics at the University of Helsinki.

The discussion focused on the sustainable use of space and the future of space exploration. Aschbacher also opened up the growing economic significance of space: “Space has merged into all economic sectors. If we shut down all satellites for one day, the consequences would be catastrophic. Telecommunications, for example, would collapse completely.”

In his speech, Luca Parmitano talked about the benefits of space exploration for science and technology. At the end of the speech, Parmitano highlighted the significant inspiring potential of space exploration: “We all need inspiration – space provides an exceptionally strong source of inspiration.” 

© ESA: Josef Aschbacher from Austria took up the post of Executive Director of the European Space Agency in 2021, prior to which he served as Chair of the ESA Remote Sensing Programme Committee, among others.

The Italian Astronaut Luca Parmitano is one of the six astronauts of the Astronaut Troops in Europe. Parmitano was selected for Astronaut Troops in 2009, after which he has participated in two space flights to international space stations. He has stayed there for more than a year and has carried out ESA's “Volare” and “Beyond” missions. On his first spaceflight, Parmitano faced a life-threatening situation: during the spacewalk, Parmitano's helmet began to fill with water, as a result of which Parmitano threatened to drown. Despite momentary blindness, Parmitano managed to return inside the ship.