Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] Missions to Mars, Analog Astronaut Training & Astro-Tourism Supporting Remote Communities!

Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) Read our privacy policy for more information.
Did you miss the first online #SpaceUpLive event? Here are my notes of my 3 favourite talks from this inspiring space conference!

Nederlands (Dutch)

I didn’t even know about the space conference called “SpaceUp” until a few weeks ago, when I saw a notification for a virtual version of their physical event on Eventbrite (a website and app for discovering events that match your interests).

Apparently, I’ve been missing out, because the first SpaceUp conference was held a the San Diego Air & Space Museum already in 2010 and it’s been a success ever since.

After several events in the United States, they organised their first European event in 2012.

This year, things of course took a different turn, but that meant that I was able to attend my first ever Space Event – LIVE from my own home.




Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


What is SpaceUp? 

The set-up is simple, but so clever: participants of this ‘unconference‘ decide the topics, schedule, and structure of this space-themed event.

Everyone attending is encouraged to either give a short “T-5 Talk” (5 minute presentations with 20 slides that rotate every 15 seconds), do a demonstration, moderate or participate in a panel or start a discussion.

All suggestions for talks are gathered on post-its in the “Session Grid”, where the usual hallway conversations are turned into full-fledged topics.

Can’t attend, but still want to contribute? Then the “60 Seconds to Land” option is for you! Simply record a one-minute video and send it in to play for the audience!


What is #SpaceUpLIVE?

Of course with the current global situation at the moment, nobody travels to conferences at the moment, but since we’ve all become ZOOM-masters over the past weeks, this turned out to be no problem.

Over 15 experts and space enthusiasts shared their wisdom with people watching (and sending in live questions) from all over the world. 

One of the presenters was Remco Timmermans, a fellow Dutch Space and Social Media expert and the CEO of the SpaceUp Conference.

I’ve met him a few times in the past at travel blogging events and around the time I left London to live in Amsterdam, he left the Netherlands to live in Oxford, what a coincidence! I didn’t even know he was part of this event, my bad!

Hopefully we get to meet at a future SpaceUp event when we can all travel again.


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


My 3 Favourite Sessions

Of course, I cannot summarize all the talks of the day, if only because some were quite technical and went a bit over my head to be real honest with you, but I have picked my three favourite sessions and listed my key takeaways for you below. 

As you might expect when browsing through my blog, my favourite sessions talks were all about tourism and training your astronaut skills, both here on earth as a bit further away! 

If you’re looking for the full replay of the conference, I can highly recommend checking this link out to visit the Space Up YouTube Channel.

Now let’s have a look at some talks that really stood out to me:


Miles to Mars: Funding Humanities’ Future

Chris Bellant has been the Operations Planner for the International Space Station at NASA, Johnson Space Center for over 5 years and is now the Executive Director of “Mars Initiative” – a publicly-funded, international non-profit dedicated to raising money for the Mars Prize Fund.

This fund has been awarded to the first mission that lands humans on Mars and supports space science education in classrooms across the world.

Why outer space?

Mars is the key to the space exploration program that will lead to exploration of planets and stars beyond our own solar system. Because it’s an outpost outside of the earth-moon-system, it will drive technology development such as reducing launch costs, improve radiation protection, further propulsion technologies and much more.


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


What would a Mars mission cost?

30 Billion US Dollars is a reasonable estimate of what a mission would cost. Looking at the largest two government budgets in the world, you can see it’s only a sliver of the total.

More tangible, it’s similar to the cost of two airplane carriers, 40% of the global cost of coffee sales (75 billion dollars in total), all the art in the Louvre in Paris (at least 35 billion dollars)… 


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester
Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Where can we get 30 billion US dollars?

The following companies and people have more than 30 billion US dollars cash on hand… so in theory we could just ask them, right?


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Why not do it ourselves?

Or… could space enthusiasts around the world just come together and finance the first crewed trip to mars?

The support for Mars is increasing over time and with over a billion people in the world (taking in account economic factors, at least 300+ million of them would definitely be able to contribute), it would only really take about 3 US dollars per months (the price of a cup of coffee), for a total of three years per person. 

With the most efficient way to transport humans to mars, it would take about 300 million miles to get there, so if you divide all the costs of the mission by the distance, it comes to about 100 US dollars per mile. 

Sounds reasonable to me!


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester
Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Want to know more?

Don’t wait for anyone to lead the Mars Mission and come together to finance it. This is exactly what Mars Initiative is doing.

Check their website:

Find Chris on Twitter >>


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Analog Astronaut Training: Reflections 12 Months On

Dr. Adam J Crellin is a British medical doctor and a so-called “analog astronaut”. In short, this is a person who conducts activities in simulated space conditions. As part of the Austrian Space Forum, a collaborative citizen science research institution led by space professionals since 1998, he’s just completed an intensive analog astronaut training course and shared his experiences in his talk today.

What does the Austrian Space Forum do?

This organisation conducts cutting-edge interdisciplinary research (anything from astro-biology and geology to human factors and observation) and provides an interface for the Austrian space sector.

They initiate, support and connect careers, build, fly, explain and inspire people about the world of space research and travel, from kids to adults. 


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Where did Adam train?

As part of his latest mission, he went to live a month in the Mars-like environment of Oman to test equipment and procedures for future Mars exploration. Being in isolation, only able to be inside the constructed habitat and in space suits, he got quite te taste of what life on Mars could be like! 

Who is part of these missions?

People from all over the world, and from all different fields of expertise are grouped together for these type of missions. In his latest mission, there was him and another medical doctor, a public health expert, an aerospace engineer, an AI engineer, two astrophysicists and a software engineer. 

What Did The Basic Training Consist of?

Before going to Oman on mission, Adam went through 5 training blocks spread out over 5 months to prepare for this mission. Each block was about four days in length. He trained mostly in Innsbruck in Austria, but also spend time at the University of Stuttgart in Germany

In total, the entire training package consisted of 160+ hours of tuition and assessment and in between the blocks there was over 1500 pages of homework (books, training documents and space suit manuals, etc.) to go through. That all resulted in 8 final exams.

Nobody ever said it would be easy to become an astronaut!


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


What did the astronaut training cover?

The basic training was divided into 5 sections: 

  1. INTRODUCTORY – An introduction to the Austrian Space Forum itself, spaceflight history and the modern context of developments over the years and looking at basic formats of human missions to Mars. [read more about the astronaut skill cultural understanding >>]
  2. GENERIC SKILLS – Non-space specific skills required to run a Mars simulation, including radio procedures, safety measures and first aid, etc. [read more about the astronaut skill social skills >>]
  3. SYSTEM SPECIFIC TRAINING – How to operate the space suit simulator. It takes 2 hours to put on the suit! [read more about the astronaut skill adaptability >>]
  4. PHYSICAL, PSYCHO-MOTOR & PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAINING – General health & fitness, managing stress and isolation and working as a team in that environment. [read more about the astronaut skills physical well-being and mental well-being >>]
  5. SCIENCE TRAINING – Field geology, astronomy, etc. [read more about the astronaut skill planet care >>]


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


What astronaut skills are required?

  • The Desire to Learn (having an all-round curiosity and being willing to participate in everything)
  • Being Persistent (try tying your shoelaces with 3 sets of gloves on, good luck!)
  • Being a Team Player (living in close proximity in a remote, extreme and sometimes stressful environment for a long period of time requires you to be adaptable, good in resolving conflict and easy to get along with)
  • Being an Educator (you’re the public face of the organisation and do a lot of outreach on various platforms)

Want to know more?

Read more about the Austrian Space Forum on:

Find Adam on Twitter >>


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Community Centric Astro-Tourism for Livelihood Creation

Ramasamy Venugopal has an engineering degree  in electronics and a master’s from ISU (the International Space University – yes, it really exists!). Since graduation, he has been working at the IAU-Office of Astronomy for Development. Their shared mission is to use Astronomy and Space for the betterment of the planet and the human condition.

Why Invest in Space and Astronomy?

We all know the joke about the reason the dinosaurs got extinct (they didn’t have a space program), but of course the answer to this question is more complex.

The goal of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) is to figure out how and where to use astronomy (and space) for social-economical development.

They fund small to medium-sized projects globally, reaching people in over 160 projects in 100 countries already.  Funding assignment goes through an open call for proposals, that anyone from anywhere in the world can apply to. No astronomy or space qualification is required. 


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Why astro-tourism in remote communities?

Communities doing astro-tourism is one of the projects the OAD funds through these proposals, thus tackling problems faced by many remote communities around the world: the limited livelihood opportunities and lack of basic infrastructure. 

The project had a pilot last year in the Himalayan Mountain Range in the Ladakh region in Northern India. The area is home to over 50 million people with another 450 million settles at the base of the mountain range, one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth.

Because of the remote location, there is a lack of electricity, education and access to sustainable monetary income. 

On the other hand, there is a rise in tourism in this area, which provides an opportunity… but how do you get tourists to go off the beaten path? 


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


How to use astronomy for community development?

The clear night skies is one asset of the Himalayas that could provide a draw of visitors to the area.

The social enterprise “Global Himalayan Expedition” is powering remote communities with solar energy, to create a life-changing experience and a long-lasting impact on the traveller and the people in these remote areas. 

They help set up home stays and train the villagers on hospitality and hygiene, ensuring there is a good overall experience for the visiting tourist. 

On top of that, community members from some of these villages were trained basic astronomy and telescope operations (including many women, who were specifically targeted since they have less opportunities), with one village selected to pilot a project called “Astrostays”. 


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


What is the Astrostays Project?

With Astrostays, you don’t just stay in the home of one of the villagers, but you also get to experience the amazing night skies with the help of a trained, local astro guide.

The guide will tell you about their local folklore, their lives, making astronomy a gateway to an authentic local experience and provides much-needed interaction between remote and urban communities. Of course it also provides additional income for the locals.

In the four months the pilot ran in 2019, 5 stays were created, attracting about 700 tourists and opening the community to more than 5000 dollars, which is a HUGE amount for this region. 


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


Want to know more?

Interested in the work of IAU, the Office of Astronomy for Development? Visit their website:

For the Global Himalayan Expedition website, click here:

Find Ramasamy on Twitter >>


Notes From The First Virtual Space Conference [#SpaceUpLIVE] || The Travel Tester


The Travel Tester - Practical Information

Practical Information About SpaceUp

The SpaceUp LIVE event was organised by R&R Space and presented by Ryan Laird (@rjmlaird), Ryan Bradley-Evans (@astro_ryanbe) and Remco Timmermans (@timmermansr). 

R&R Space develops exciting concept events and training to inspire a new wave of entrepreneurs and space explorers by unlocking their potential and linking them with new skills to build the future of space.

Their events include SpaceUp Leicester and Build4Space

Sponsor of SpaceUp LIVE was Spacebit (@SpacebitOne) – a privately held UK company that is working on space data analytics tools and robotic concepts of space exploration that include AI and advanced micro-robotics.

For the full list of speakers and their contact details, please visit:  


Nederlands (Dutch)

More from Nienke

16 Top Ethical and Sustainable Beauty Brands You Should Know About

At home, we're always trying to do better each day in taking...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.