Limitless Minds: A spaceship called earth

Frank Maximilian Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Ventures at the European Space Agency (ESA)

A look at Earth from space

“You don’t see borders. You don’t see fights. You see the beauty of Earth…And that’s changing the perspective of our astronauts when they come back.”

At Innovation Days 2019, Frank Maximilian Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Ventures at the European Space Agency (ESA) gives us fascinating insights about the experiences of astronauts such as Alexander Gerst after they looked at Earth from space. However, it is as breath taking as it is heart wrenching. In space, there is no denying: You see how fast the planet is changing. Beautiful and for the climate indispensable natural resources are diminishing as Salzgeber illustrates with pictures of a lake outside Santiago de Chile, a former water sports paradise, that has completely dried up within the last years.

How to create water in space

Water plays a very important role for the ESA. Be it for living on a space station or for a potentially inhabitable new planet. But have you ever thought about how astronauts produce it up in space? They recycle it from urine. A process invented by ESA’s own recycling unit. It helps astronauts to survive in space for months and it could be crucial when we start populating other planets. In the hope that we never have to populate another planet in the first place, Salzgeber urges to increase recycling efforts also on our current planet - Earth, our home.

Re-use, recycle, re-purpose

Salzgeber reveals that a company like Siemens owns 60,000 different patents and none of them are used more than one time for a different purpose. He suggests becoming more creative and not just recycling water but also recycling innovations as they did, for example, with a small plasma device that was originally used in space. It now helps to heal wounds of diabetes patients or even to make French fries without smelling. Or an ESA data format that is now being used by the Vatican Library for storage. Why? Because the Catholic Church thinks that it will outlast common formats like Adobe. In the end, using the same technology for many different purposes is also less expensive than creating something new. Who would have thought that re-using the old can be so future-proof? 

Plant a tree for your grandchildren

What else can you as a business leader do to guide your company towards a brighter future? Frank Salzgeber has some helpful advice. The most important may be to focus on a longer time scale and act with foresight, especially when it comes to CO2 emissions. Just like you plant a tree for your grandchildren and not for your child. You need to think long-term when it comes to your business too. Choosing the right energy source will pay off, literally. 

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