Karin Nilsdotter: The Sky is Not The Limit – Why Investing in Space Still Matters (Transcript)

Full text of Swedish Spaceport CEO Karin Nilsdotter’s talk: The Sky is Not The Limit – Why Investing in Space Still Matters.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Karin Nilsdotter – CEO, Swedish Spaceport

One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, was uttered by NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, as he, as the first human ever, set foot on the surface on the moon… an event watched by half a billion people across the world.

Earlier this year, on July 20th, we celebrated the 45th anniversary since the first moon landing, and reflected on the fact that only 12 people have walked on the moon, and that only 540 people have actually been to space.

Very soon however, that is about to change. We are at the dawn of a new commercial spaceflight era.

Space is no longer in the domain of governments only, but is being democratized and fueled by the private sector. Private companies and entrepreneurs across the world, such as Virgin Galactic and XCorp are developing a new game-changing technology, where reusable spaceships will offer increased and safe access to space, for tourism, for research and science, development and education. And doing so at a lower cost, enabling space travel for the many, allowing you and me to actually reach for the stars.

But why on earth should we go to space?

Space is critical for the advancement of humanity. To start, we are born explorers; it’s in our DNA to push the boundaries, whether it’s seeking a new trade route only to discover a continent, or achieve a scientific breakthrough. And as such, space has always been a platform for research and technological advancement, and we depend on space technology in our everyday lives.

Satellites, for example, are being used for communications, broadcasting, forecasting the weather or navigation. And we use applications such as heart rate monitors, cordless tools, or to develop new materials and medicine.

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The International Space Station is a research laboratory in the sky, and is an incredible feat by humanity. It has been created by 15 nations, and they together have achieved the nearly impossible. And in doing so, they have attracted the greatest minds and the most dynamic teams, where diversity is the catalyst for innovation.

And I think there’s some great learnings here, as we need to focus on talent rather than gender, belief, color, mobility, or other.

I believe that space is the next business frontier. There is a huge market and it’s growing at a rapid pace. The global turnover is expected to double, from today’s $300 billion to over $600 billion, within the next 15 years.

Entrepreneurs or, as we call them, astropreneurs across the world are capitalizing on the exponential technology and are developing a whole new ecosystem of products and services that are set to reform businesses and communities worldwide.

There are vast opportunities, ranging from satellites to spaceflight, human spaceflight, microgravity research, in-space services, space resources and energy, space habitats and real estate, space sports and training facilities, space themed clothing, gaming, entertainment and tourism experience on the ground, like space the opportunities are endless.

The development of new spaceflight technology also offers an opportunity for remote areas to grow and flourish. Take the small town of Kiruna, located 200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland. Kiruna is an ideal location to see the Northern Lights, and have attracted researchers and tourists for over a hundred years. And due to its remote location and limited air traffic, it offers a clear sky as it’s got less disturbing lights.

Kiruna has also got access to vast areas of low human density, sometimes perceived as a disadvantaged; but in this context, offering a key attribute as it creates a safe area for space activities.

So, today in Kiruna, you find a launch site for sounding rockets, a Research Institute, a University, and even a space high school. So, capitalizing on these components and adding tourism, we established Spaceport Sweden in 2007. And our aim is to create a gateway to space and offer commercial human suborbital space flights for tourism and science in the near future, taking you and me into space.

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So, Kiruna might be as far up north as you will ever go, but I hope to take you as far up as you can ever dream. On a grander scale, new technology and access to space is going to empower the world. Although we live in extraordinary times, two-thirds of the population is still not connected to the Internet.

But through new technology and miniaturization, we are seeing the development of nano-sats; these are small satellites, weighing no more than a couple of kilos or even grams, and being considerably cheaper, these are being launched by small companies and university departments across the world, who use them for science and research, to monitor crop or weather, or cattle, or traffic management.

And through nano-sats and components being developed for our smartphones, it’s going to give us access to education, medical support and business platforms, creating mind-blowing opportunities as it starts to reach all the corners of the world.

As we live in a fast-moving environment, an innovation economy, we must dare to set audacious goals, both to stay competitive but also to attract talent. It is no longer enough to be adaptable to change, but we need to dare to lead.

And space is said to be the greatest challenge of all, attracting the brightest minds, who also have the courage to achieve something which is greater than ourselves.

When you look at Earth from space, you don’t see any country borders; you don’t see any differences between people. We are all one, and we need to start behaving like that.

We were all born to be great. And a sky is no longer the limit. I encourage you all to challenge yourselves. Take that small step. It might just be the next giant leap for you, your business, or for society.

Someone once said that our generation was born too late to explore the earth and too early to explore the stars. But thanks to pioneering leaders and astropreneurs, to keep pushing the boundaries, space is actually closer than you think.

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Thank you.

Resources for Further Reading:

Baking Bread in Space: Sebastian Marcu at TEDxLinz (Transcript)

The Narrative Origins of Spaceflight: Alex MacDonald at TEDxAuckland (Transcript)

Space Exploration is the Worst: Emily Calandrelli at TEDxIndianaUniversity (Transcript)

How Humans Could Evolve to Survive in Space: Lisa Nip (Full Transcript)

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