To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 we catch up with three extraordinary women leading the charge in developing and enabling considerable growth in the UK Space industry from the very heart of Cornwall.
Aerospace and space innovation, satellite technology and the UK’s first Spaceport – three female leaders challenging perceptions.
Gail Eastaugh, Programme Director, AeroSpace Cornwall, Dr Kat Hickey, Senior Business Development Manager, Goonhilly Earth Station, and Melissa Thorpe, Interim Head of Spaceport Cornwall each share with us their opinions and views on what the most exciting areas development are within the Space Sector and also, of course, some of the challenges that need to be overcome.
Commenting on what she believes are the most exciting areas of the industry, Gail shares her thoughts, “I believe that the growing space industry is about the opportunity to have a significant positive impact on the planet and on our society. Who knows, space research may help us find the cure for cancer one day.
“With regards to the exciting areas of our work, and as with many sectors, it’s as much about the people as it is the technologies. I love a wacky entrepreneur who’s full of energy, happy to try new things and prove people wrong and the space industry is full of them!
“Finally, the excitement and enthusiasm that the sector creates for children and the next generation of scientists, engineers, software developers and entrepreneurs – you’ll be hard pushed to find a more engaging STEM industry to get involved with. Rockets, off-planet exploration, innovations that support how we can look after our entire ecosystem, it’s got everything going for it!”
Kat focuses on the sheer opportunity that a united space sector can bring to the planet, “The space industry in the UK is undergoing an important period of growth. Particularly, more and more small and medium enterprises are able to participate, which creates opportunities for young people all around the country, not just in specific “hub” locations where large space sector companies have settled – so the space sector will hopefully see an influx of talent from corners of the country, and the world, that were previously mostly inaccessible from an industry point of view.
“There are also global developments that are important and incredibly exciting. Over the next few years, space missions, especially into deep space (so for example to the Moon and beyond), will be undertaken not just by space agencies but also by smaller, commercial organisations. Through these new players, space sector research, development and innovation will see an acceleration, which will eventually lead to exciting discoveries and new applications for our day to day lives.
“Lastly, these developments might also pose a threat by sending more and more equipment into space and with possibly conflicting interests – but my sincere hope is that this potential threat can be turned into an opportunity for more national and international collaboration and a movement to look beyond boundaries and to use space in a fair way and for the benefit of all humankind.”
Mel talks about the solutions that space provides for us here on Earth, “I am not a space geek at all. What excites me about space is what it can do for us on Earth. We live on the best planet, I am not interested in living anywhere else. But we are on a path of destroying it, and we need a combination of changing our daily activities and big technical innovations that alter our industrial landscape to change this path. Space technologies are a major part of the solution.
“Exploring the unknown is probably the most exciting thing a human can do. And space is that ‘final frontier’ of exploration. Throughout our human history, we have looked to the stars and wondered what is out there, and how we fit. I work with people, often slightly mad people (!), that are the Christopher Columbus’s of our time, actually going to new lands. How amazingly thrilling is that!
“Space tech crosses every single sector and industry. We can use space to make these industries more efficient, effective and sustainable. The applications for space in agriculture, fishing, mining, and health care are endless and very, very exciting.”