• Online

17 June, 2020
11:15 - 12:00 h

  • Presentation: NL
  • Slides: EN
  • Q&A: NL EN FR

ONLINE: Nancy Vermeulen (Private Astronaut Trainer & Space Ambassador)

20200617 Visual Harvesting Adm Nancy Vermeulen

Since April 1 we held our events online and what a success it has been! The program was a mixture of business insights and ‘tips & tricks’ on new technology. To end this series of digital events and due to the fact that the yearly reception had to be delayed, the two keynote speakers were asked to present at the last events before summer.  Last week Hans D’Hondt revealed the compelling story on how the Federal Public Service Finances succeeded in realizing a transformation by means of ‘doing more with less’.

This week Nancy Vermeulen accepted the challenge – as the last speaker of our online events before summer holidays – to not only bring us in space but also to motivate women, youngsters and everybody present in the call to go for STEM and make their (space)dreams come true. 

As an introduction but also pointing at the interest in the subject: we had a 30% female participation in this session!

From girl fascinated by space to commander (of her own life)

2018 03 27 Nancy Vermeulen9985 Web 1

Nancy has always been fascinated by space. ‘Maya the bee’ has been the main influence for her to construct a telescope at the age of 6. Consequently her parents bought her a telescope when she was 7. School was definitely not ready to embrace STEM. But when she turned 17 she met Dirk Frimout (NASA) who advised her to combine a STEM filed with pilot training in order to become an astronaut. She did, was very successful and even executed military flights to Baghdad.

It was Frank De Winne (ESA) who explained her that an application as an astronaut is only opened approximately every 15 years. There are about 15.000 candidates and they only need 6… She ended among the last 400 that met the requirements… It goes without saying she was very disappointed not to be among the elected. Due to age and since she had to wait for the call of applications for 16 years there is only one chance to apply in a lifetime.

Her main statement is ‘we are all astronauts and that is what connects us all’…

After the disappointment of not being selected by ESA, Nancy decided to help building the way forward to heading to Mars. In 2010 she was commander of the Mars simulation in the desert of Utah. Again, being a woman didn’t help her, but she did it!
She broke the glass ceiling at a lunch in 2011 with Sir Richard Branson… after the meal when everybody saw her at the honorary table with Branson himself.

When pioneering with the Space Training Academy educating private astronauts in ‘zero gravity’, simulations of commercial space flights, she found the motivation she was looking for. By means of these trainings they turned the trainees into ambassadors for the commercial flights in order to boost the ‘space’ economy.  At last she became captain of her own life

Space travel: a gateway to knowledge

By the time the moon landing in 1960 – 1970 was driven by geopolitics, meaning speed of delivery was imperative. Afterwards the objective changed into a more peaceful and slower development of space initiatives.

Already today there is tremendous added value generated for the ‘earth economy’ from space specially for the telecom and multimedia segments. GPS is one of the major examples of the successful technology transfer from space into our daily lives. Also the moon landing of 1960 – 1970 gave raise to the ‘miniaturisation’ and the current prosperity: 3D printing, bio-medical solutions,…
In the meantime other countries than USA, Russia and Europe have become very keen on experimenting with space trips: China, India, UAE. Indeed, those who are present in space will dominate the ‘space economy’.

Future will tell how successful the implementations of space technology will be. She mentions the success of aerospace after worldwar II as an example of what we can expect.
Focus will be on initiatives based on ‘private-public-cooperation’ (PPS). As a result new medicines will be developed, labs will create new products, tourism will develop new destinations that become accessible within 20 to 30 years from now…

Perhaps a weird question: Who is the owner of the moon?
In 1967 the United Nations has stated that the moon is not owned by anybody. The raw materials belong to everybody. We have a tendency to treat this commercially cf. fishing in territorial waters.

During the last few years more waste from spacecraft is returned to the earth and we see that carrier rockets become reusable. In the future vehicles will have to be developed with the feature that they must be able to return to earth 'after use'. Older materials can be taken along to earth by means of nets or harpoons (they burn along the way in the atmosphere).

The convergence of knowledge and technology brings us as human beings together and can prevent man from destroying himself by moving our boundaries and become a space faring species. We have to live in a sustainable way. In space, sustainable development of solutions for virtually inaccessible places on earth is a major learning project. 

Headed for the future

And as a conclusion, watch out what the future will bring:

  • Jeff Bezos from Blue Origin and Richard Branson from Virgin Galactic will bring people into space on short suborbital flights.
  • Elon Musk (SpaceX) together with Axiom Space wants to take people to the ISS very soon.
  • The new “Starship” under development from Elon Musk will be able to carry 100 persons and can transport people from one place on Earth to another remote place in less then two hours via space. He wants to bring space tourists around the Moon in 2023 and his ultimate goal is to establish a colony on Mars.
Astronaut Earth Heelal

THANK YOU from all of us :

Thank you Nancy! Your passion, motivation and belief in the space program of tomorrow was really impressive and at the same time catchy. Wow what a performance!

At the same time, we're keeping our fingers crossed with you that one day you'll be able to go to Space. In the meantime you are the perfect ambassador for our children and all woman to make them believe that STEM is something woman like and can make them successful!

See &

On the "Related" tab of this page you can find

  • the presentation by Nancy Vermeulen (ADM members only after logging in to the website)
  • the recording of the whole online session
  • the visual report of the session by Kristof Braekeleire 
  • interesting articles and websites

About Nancy Vermeulen

2018 03 27 Nancy Vermeulen10173 Web


Nancy Vermeulen is a commercial airline pilot-instructor, Master in theoretical physics and astronomy, was Commander of a Mars simulation in Utah and took part in the ESA astronaut selections of 2008.

Bringing the universe closer to people and vice a versa, that is Nancy Vermeulen’s personal mission. For that reason, Nancy was the first in Europe to develop a non-governmental training program in which prospective space travelers can prepare themselves for a space voyage. In 2011 was the kick-off, when Nancy Vermeulen gave training to a future private astronaut of Virgin Galactic.

In 2018 she founded the "Space Training Academy".
More on Nancy and her impressive CV

ADM members have access to other (member-restricted) documents after signing in into the website

You might also be interested in: