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Home » How New Drugs Could Come From Space: Hilde Stenuit (Transcript)

How New Drugs Could Come From Space: Hilde Stenuit (Transcript)

Here is the full text and summary of Hilde Stenuit’s talk titled “How New Drugs Could Come From Space” at TEDxBrussels conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


Dr Hilde Stenuit – Principal Scientist at Space Applications Services

Why on earth would anybody go to space for applications meant for earth? I want to take you on a cosmic ride to show that space is not just about discovering new galaxies and new planets, but that even secrets to cure diseases for us on earth may be found in outer space.

But first, let’s time travel back to 1998. I, a freshly minted astrophysicist, found myself with six weeks of free time between the end of my PhD and the start of a job in a space company. So what did I do? Did I lounge on a beach in Bali? No. I went to Florida, and I had honestly no idea at the time how significant that trip would be.

Little did I know then that I was witnessing history in the making. I saw, live from the launch area, how the first two modules of the International Space Station were coupled together while flying at 28,000 km per hour in space. That International Space Station has been permanently crewed since the year 2000, and all launches to the space station and all science done then was through the space agencies, through NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian Roscosmos, Canadians, Japanese.

And the research done up there then was academic and descriptive, looking, for example, at how the bones and muscles of astronauts degrade over time. Yes, it taught us a lot about how space affects the human body, biological organisms, life and matter in general. But the space sector was about to undergo a major makeover.

In the year 2012, the first commercial spacecraft, SpaceX Dragon, made a visit to the International Space Station. SpaceX, in particular, led the shift in the whole space sector, not only because now a commercial company was launching rockets to the space station, but also because SpaceX relentlessly pursued making its rockets reusable by landing them after each flight instead of burning them in the atmosphere.

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