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Moon & Mars

Plenary sessions

October 19th, 2022, Egmont Palace, Brussels

With a possibility to attend plenary sessions online

Plenary sessions | Evening Plenary session | Cocktail 

Plenary sessions
With a possibility to attend plenary sessions online

Opening of the event (09:00 - 9:20)
The Chair of YouSpace and Switch to Space Dominique Tilmans. Testimonials from students & young professionals: Benoît Devries, Cem Berk Senel, Antonio Gil Bonnet, Elisa Tasev, Guillaume Noiset, Corneel Bogaert, Emma Buckinx.

Panel 1 (09:20 - 10:20)

The role of Europe and Belgium in Mars Exploration?

Panel 2 (10:20 - 11:25)

The place of Belgian industry in the Moon and Mars gateway


Panel 3 (11:30 - 12:30)

How can we benefit from Moon & Mars Exploration technologies?


Panel 1


Didier Schmitt

Strategy and coordination group leader for robotic and human exploration – ESA

Stella Tkatchova

EIC programme Manager for Space

View the presentation

Thomas Dermine

Belgian State Secretary for Recovery, Strategic Investments & Science Policy

The role of Europe and Belgium in the Moon and Mars Exploration?

Lunar Craters

Panel 2


Bart Desoete



Federico Rossi (Telespazio)

View the presentation


Frank Preud'Homme (QinetiQ)


Ina Maller

(CEO of Thales Alenia Space Belgium)


Richard Aked


Koen Puimège (Antwerp Space)

View the presentation


Olivier Dupont (Lambda-X)

View the presentation

Pierre-François Migeotte


The place of Belgian industry in the Moon and Mars gateway

Register for Switch to Space 3


Panel 3


Frank De Winne

Head of the European Astronaut Centre

Koen Vriesacker Technology Transfer Broker for the Belgian Space Solutions Center

Jan Van Baelen

Founder & CEO at The Lunar Grid

Mieke Sterken Education & Outreach coordinator at International Polar Foundation

How can we benefit from Moon & Mars Exploration technologies?

Space Supernova

Plenary session

Frank d e Winne, Dirk Frimout, Robert Thirk, Charles Bolden, Anna Fisher and Nicole Stott

The evolution of Space Exploration - point of view of Astronauts

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All participants are invited to the evening cocktail

Networking & Fun

Plenary sessions photo gallery

Photo collection by Francois de Ribaucourt


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Didier Schmitt

Strategy and coordination group leader for robotic and human exploration – ESA

The United States and China are clearly embarking on a major rivalry for a presence in the Solar System. The "reconquest" of the Moon is only an intermediate stage, like a base camp before reaching the maintain top. Indeed, the Holy Grail on the horizon, in the 2040s – that is, tomorrow – is to land the first humans on Mars. This outlook and the recent geopolitical turmoil is a powerful reminder that European autonomy and sovereignty in space exploration must be a highlight on the agenda of the ESA Council at ministerial level on 22-23 November 2022.

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Stella Tkatchova

EIC programme Manager for Space

Stella’s expertise is in the commercialization of space technologies. Previously she worked as a commercialization and project manager in the European space industry, managing a number of projects in the telecommunications (e.g. ESA ARTES INDIGO public private partnership, GOVSATCOM, O3B) and Earth observation (e.g. Copernicus Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 3) domains. Her expertise also includes managing and reviewing R&I exploratory projects in the aviation industry for the European Commission. As a commercialization manager, she co-founded a company and helped several SMEs and start-ups grow in the Newspace industry. Earlier in her career, she worked at ESA’s European Space and Technology Centre (ESTEC) on the EU Galileo and the International Space Station (ISS) programs. She was awarded a PhD by the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering of TU-Delft, The Netherlands and a Master of Space Studies from the International Space University (ISU), Strasbourg, France.

She has written numerous articles, books, produced webinars and podcasts on problems related to the commercialization of space technology, the Newspace economy, space debris mitigation, on-orbit servicing, active debris removal and cis-lunar exploration. Her recent scholarly interest is focused on the future evolution of technology innovations for space debris mitigation, on-orbit satellite servicing and active space debris removal services.She is the founder and former editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Space Technology Management & Innovation (IJSTMI). 

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Thomas Dermine

Belgian State Secretary for Recovery, Strategic Investments & Science Policy

Thomas Dermine, born on 1 May 1986 in Charleroi, is a French-speaking Belgian economist and politician who is a member of the Socialist Party.

On 1 October 2020, he was appointed State Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investment with responsibility for Science Policy, deputy to the Minister for the Economy and Labour in Alexander De Croo's federal government.

Thomas Dermine was born in Charleroi and spent his entire childhood and adolescence there. He then went on to study management engineering at the Solvay Brussels School, which he completed with a course in political science at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

He continues his academic career at Harvard University in Boston on a scholarship from the Belgian American Education Foundation (Francqui Fellow). There he will collaborate with Professor Jeffrey Liebman, advisor to President Obama on issues related to social innovation.

Thomas then worked until early 2016 as a consultant at McKinsey in several countries and joined the Kamet Ventures start-up incubator in London working on technological innovation projects.

After several years working abroad, Thomas returns to Charleroi in early 2017 to work on the Catch plan, aimed at accelerating job creation in the Charleroi region following several industrial restructurings. As a result of this commitment Thomas is the winner of the Bologna-Lemaire prize as "Walloon of the Year 2018", awarded by the Jules Destrée Institute.

In November 2019, he becomes Director of the Institut Emile Vandervelde (IEV), the Study Centre of the Belgian Socialist Party, succeeding Gilles Doutrelepont. In this position, Thomas will actively participate, alongside Paul Magnette, in the negotiations for the formation of the Belgian federal government for the period 2019-2020.

When the De Croo Government was formed on 1 October 2020, Thomas was appointed Secretary of State for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments in charge of Science Policy, attached to the Minister of Economy and Labour, Pierre-Yves Dermagne.

Within the federal government, he is responsible for steering the coordination of the Belgian Recovery Plan and ensuring close cooperation between the European Commission and Belgium.

In parallel with this mission, Thomas also supervises the Federal Science Policy, including 10 federal scientific establishments and a multitude of competences ranging from Belgian aerospace policy to the management of federal museums and federal research policy.

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Frank De Winne

Head of the European Astronaut Centre

Frank De Winne holds a master’s degree in telecommunications and civil engineering (1984) and is a graduate from Empire Test Pilot school (1992). He also commanded the BAF 349 Squadron and  the Deployable Air Task Force during operations Allied Force in 1999.

In 2002 he flew his first 10 day mission to the ISS. In 2009, Frank flew a six months mission to the ISS, during which Frank became the first European Commander of the ISS.

Currently, Frank is the head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne.

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Jan Van Baelen

Founder & CEO at The Lunar Grid

Jan Van Baelen is a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of The Lunar Grid, a NewSpace startup enabling a sustainable lunar economy by providing continuous energy to robotic systems for lunar night survival. With a M.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering and graduate from the MBA Essentials course at the London School of Economics, Jan also completed the summer programme at the International Space University (ISU) and worked at the European Space Agency as YGT for Research, Technology and Innovation Management. He has an holistic view on the NewSpace economy and thriving spirit to foster a lunar economy and interplanetary human exploration.

“Space has always been a source of inspiration, pushing technological boundaries and expanding the human envelop. NewSpace is now providing a fresh leap of opportunities for students & young graduates to follow their dreams and pursue a career in space."

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Koen Vriesacker

Technology Transfer Broker for the Belgian Space Solutions Center

Koen is running the broker and technology transfer activities for the Belgian Space Solutions Center. He has extensive experience in innovation and entrepreneurship in a collaborative environment. Koen combines both technology and business knowledge (MSc, eMBA) to build successful projects that lead to win-win situations. His track record and background contains activities in a global setting, with all types of companies and organisation (SME, institutional, multinational, academia, ...). 

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Mieke Sterken

Education & Outreach coordinator at International Polar Foundation

Mieke holds a degree in Geography and Marine & Lacustrine Sciences (UGent, 2003). After finishing her PhD in Paleolimnology - the reconstruction of the climate by analysing lakebed sediments - she started working as a science communicator and facilitator in different scientific and environmental institutes across Belgium. Her interests are all geo-related, ranging from polar and climate science to air quality, noise monitoring, meteorite detection and citizen science as a method to engage people into science. She recently joined the International Polar Foundation in order to help them bridge the gap between science and society.

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Serena Bollis

Optical System Engineer at Lambda-X

Serena Bolis received a Master Engineering Physics from the Politecnico di Milano and the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). She then obtained a joint PhD from the University of Ghent and the Université libre de Bruxelles on nonlinear optics and light emission in soft matter (liquid crystals). Since 2018, she is an Optical System Engineer at Lambda-X SA (Nivelles, Belgium), where she contributes to the design, review and integration of complex optical systems dedicated to the space environment.

"Because we believe that the future of space exploration starts today, our team at Lambda-X is focused on bringing developments to the next level of innovation. For many actors in both classic and New Space, we provide state of the art optical systems and offer innovative solutions that meet the many requirements of space exploration, opening the doors to Moon and Mars observation as well as on-orbit services."

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Ina Maller

CEO of Thales Alenia Space Belgium

Ina Maller took her position as CEO of Thales Alenia Space Belgium in 2019. Before that she held various positions in the Thales Group (among which Director of CEO Office and Group Holdings), which she joined in 2013, after having spent eight years in management consulting with McKinsey. She has a Finance background, has worked from over ten different countries and is a French-Swedish bi-national.

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Pierre-François Migeotte

Co-founder and CEO of HeartKinetics

Pierre-François Migeotte is a Physicist, (M.Sc. Ph.D., & M.Mngt.);  specialist in cardiac monitoring and space physiology; Passionate for space exploration and entrepreneurship, he combines these passions into the first solution developped by HeartKinetics: KINO which is a cardiac remote  monitoring solution based on his research funded by space gagencies (for over 20 years)  and discoveries he made while developing a solution suitable for astronauts. KINO is using smartphone motion sensors assisted with ai to remotely predict the health status of a patient or of an astronaut in space. In 2017, he received the first price of innovation from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC-EHRA) for making this technology available to the largest number of patients. His vision is that patients have an unconditional right to access their data. This should be faster and much easier than it is today. This will help all healthcare stakeholders provide faster access to diagnosis, improve the outcome of the patients, and eventually help our societies face the huge and growing burden of cardiovascular diseases.


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Sabri Mekaoui

Sabri is a Programme officer at the European Commission. As an EU diplomat, he is supporting the European Union in the conception of international partnership strategies in the areas of climate change, digitalisation, Space and STI in West Africa. Sabri has been in charge of various space programmes including GOVSATCOMnanosatellitesspace mission conceptsroboticlunar explorationISRU and Earth Observation technologies and services. Sabri has been working at the Royal Meteorological of Belgium in Solar physics where he was in charge of space instrumentation on the space shuttle, the ISS and SOHO. He holds a PhD of Engineering from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a master of space science and techniques from the University of Liège. Sabri is an Alumni of the International Space University (Space Study Programme of 2002).

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Prof. Dr. Ir. Vladimir Pletser

Vladimir Pletser is Visiting Professor at the Scientific Adviser at the Technology and Engineering Centre for Space Utilization (CSU) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China. He supports the preparation of scientific experiments in microgravity for the future Chinese Space Station and for aircraft parabolic flights. He worked previously from 1985 till early 2016 as senior Physicist-Engineer at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) of ESA. He is an expert in microgravity during aircraft parabolic flights for which he holds a world record. He was also astronaut candidate for Belgium and participated in international campaigns of crewed Mars mission simulations.

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Natacha Callens

Natacha Callens graduated with a double PhD in Physics awarded by the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She started her career in the space sector as local research manager of the ESA/PRODEX (add link project BIOMICS (BIOMImetic and Cellular Systems) successfully launched in the MASER 11 sounding rocket ( add link She joined ESA Education Office (add link in 2009 as programme coordinator where she developed and coordinating for several years some ESA hands-on programmes, including the Fly, Drop and Spin Your Thesis! Programmes. Since 2015 she is in charge of the ESA Academy's Training and Learning Programme (add link offering short duration training sessions to university students to complement what they learn at university and better prepare for a space-related career.

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