Monday, May 12, 2014

Rocket Scientists Share Their Ideas at TEDx RocketMinds Event

Dr André Schiele, Head of ESA’s Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory, performed a breathtaking demonstration of how robotics technology developed for the International Space Station may enable breakthroughs for robotics operations down here on Earth. Donning an exoskeleton that weighs just 10 kg, he controlled a robot at ESA’s technical heart in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, over 400 km away. Credit: C.Riemenschneider

Visionary ‘rocket scientists’ shared their ideas on Thursday, 8 May at the TEDx RocketMinds event at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Speakers presented their visions of how our missions to Mars and beyond will create new opportunities, linking science to business and to global issues. The goal was to inspire us towards new ideas to help us all to make Earth a better place to be, making us all RocketMinds. Dr André Schiele, Head of ESA’s Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory, performed a breathtaking demonstration of how robotics technology developed for the International Space Station may enable breakthroughs for robotics operations down here on Earth. Donning an exoskeleton that weighs just 10 kg, he controlled a robot at ESA’s technical heart in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, over 400 km away.

The robot copied André’s arm and hand movements as commands and feedback are sent over the regular cell-phone network.

“Doing this live is nerve-racking,” André said, “but this is a game-changer. The technology we developed for space has enormous potential for assisting in emergency situations where humans cannot go – like the Fukushima nuclear meltdown or the Deep Water Horizon oil spill.”

Stefania Druga, Founder of Hackidemia and Afrimakers, shared her experience on how she takes technology and education to places where proper training rarely exists, and how she helps to give kids all over the world the chance to become RocketMinds. Under the motto “If you can image it, you can create it”, she talked about the success in teaching technology and electronics in Africa to young children, some even well below 10.

With the help of Gernot Grömer, Druga also showed how difficult it is for an astronaut to carry out tasks wearing a spacesuit.

With the help of Gernot Grömer, Stefania Druga shows how difficult it is for an astronaut to carry out tasks wearing a spacesuit. Credit: V.Augustin
With the help of Gernot Grömer, Stefania Druga shows how difficult it is for an astronaut to carry out tasks wearing a spacesuit. Credit: V.Augustin

Prof. Dr Marco Durante, Director of Biophysics at GSI, talked about how colliding heavy ions can keep astronauts happy and healthy in space, and how this type of radiation can also help us here on Earth, for example in medical cancer treatments.

Candace Johnson, Co-initiator of SES and the architect of SES Global, shared her personal story of how she continues to use the power of satellites to transform global society, illustrating how local initiatives to provide Internet links can change lives in the developing world.

Dr Gernot Grömer, astrobiologist and President of Austrian Space Forum, presented the challenges of complying with the right dress code for landing humans on the Red Planet in the quest to find traces of life. 

The evening was organised by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office in collaboration with the ESA Operations Centre and TEDxRheinMain, to help bridge the gap between space exploration and our daily lives.

Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) is a global set of conferences started in 1984 by the private non-profit Sampling Foundation, under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading”.

The main TED conference takes place in Vancouver, Canada, every year. Other TED events are held around the world, offering livestreaming of the talks. TEDx are independent TED-like events, organised by anyone who obtains a free licence from TED.

TEDx events are non-profit, but may use an admission fee or commercial sponsorship to cover costs. Similarly, speakers are not paid. They must also relinquish the copyrights to their materials, which TED may edit and distribute under a Creative Commons license.

As of January 2014, the TEDx talk library contained some 30 000 film presentations from over 130 countries.

Credit: ESA

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