Who is Space for? “For everyone”,
as it was heard at the Web Summit

Session of the Portuguese Space Agency at the technology summit featured the participation of geophysicist Rui Moura
and Beatriz Jorge, a finalist in the 2023 edition of Zero-G Portugal - Astronaut for a Day.

What do a geophysicist and a teenage student have in common? A passion for space and the possibilities that exist beyond the limits of Earth. Bridging generations through Space was the theme for the Portuguese Space Agency’s session at this year’s Web Summit. Considered the world’s largest technology and entrepreneurship fair, the Web Summit returned to Lisbon last Monday, November 13, and concludes this Thursday.

The DeepTech stage hosted the panel “Bridging Generations Through Space,” moderated by Joan Alabart, industrial relations officer at the Portuguese Space Agency. The speakers were university professor and geophysicist Rui Moura and student Beatriz Jorge, one of the 30 finalists of the 2023 edition of the Zero-G Portugal – Astronaut for a Day initiative.

The session focused on space exploration and the possibilities that space can open for everyone, exploring the perspectives of the two speakers in a conversation that wandered between the present, past, and future of space in Portugal. Despite nearly 40 years separating Beatriz Jorge and Rui Moura, both expressed a shared fascination with space. “For me, it started in a science museum in London with my mother when I saw the Apollo 10 capsule. It was a visit to the museum as a child that captured my imagination about what space could be,” recalled the University of Aveiro professor. In Beatriz’s case, childhood also opened a portal “to the vastness of space.”

Rui Moura, the first Portuguese to join the POSSUM program (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), has conducted research on the geophysical properties of planetary and lunar materials, including experiments in microgravity. For the geophysicist, “Space can be used as a means of scientific exploration.” Moreover, “something very important has happened in recent years: the democratization of space. Many countries that previously had no opportunity to launch satellites or conduct experiments can now do so. Space should be inclusive, more democratic, and more accessible.”

Joan Alabart pointed out that this is one of the Portuguese Space Agency’s focal points, as since 2022, they have been promoting Zero-G Portugal – Astronaut for a Day, an initiative that allows teenagers from across the country to experience microgravity, just like astronauts. At the same time, it “awakens the interest of the younger generation in the sector,” he said. According to Beatriz Jorge, the mission was accomplished: “Even today, we talk a lot with each other and all say the same thing: this changed our lives.”

The young student emphasized that the competition promoted by the Portuguese Space Agency proves that “anyone can have access to the various possibilities of space.” “It’s not just for engineers, and it’s not a difficult area. It’s for everyone,” added Joan Alabart.

At the beginning of the session, the project manager for industrial relations at the agency asked who had dreamed, as a child, of the possibility of becoming an astronaut. Almost the entire audience raised their hands. In the end, another question: “If in 25 years, they told you that you could go to the Moon, would you go?” The scenario repeated itself, with several hands in the air and the fascination for space filling the DeepTech stage.

Portugal Space
16 of November, 2023