Riccardo Masiero

Former student Challenge Programme 2019/2020

‘If you only think inside your own discipline, you won’t know what the future could be like.’

We live in an interesting period, because the privatisation of the space industry brings a lot of new actors that want to go into space for different reasons. We used to go to space for strategic and political reasons. Research is the main object of the International Space Station, which is the only active human mission. It’s very interesting to study chemicals or agricultural applications in microgravity. Now there are also leisure reasons – space tourism – and people who want to make our species a multi-planetary species. But there are people who wish to see our human interest, to collaborate with countries and cultures to see that we are one humanity on one planet with one big challenge, which is climate change.

Paulo Nespoli, a former astronaut of the European Space Agency, said that astronauts are just very specialised technicians. They have to fix things. The ISS is quite old and needs a lot of fixing. The astronauts are also basically doing other people’s research work on different experiments that need microgravity. Of course, I’d love to go to space because it would be amazing. To see the Earth from space, and to see the darkness of outer space, and second, to feel the microgravity. It would be very interesting to live in an environment that is not ours and that we are not designed to be in. One of my research streams is related to the use of satellites’ images. How can we use this data to reduce the cost of, for instance, monitoring electric cable infrastructures? How can you use the data to increase the sustainability of oil pipelines? There are many fields that could benefit from space data. The space economy is basically the link between the traditional space industry, which produces, launches and controls satellites, and other industries.

‘There are many fields that could benefit from space data.’

I have moved to Stockholm last September because I had the opportunity at IDEA League to be in contact with Swedish people and I liked their culture. During the Gothenburg weekend we were thinking about the development of artificial intelligence and how it can disrupt domains like logistics, education and healthcare. I brought my point of view about air travel and air logistics and it was interesting to see how AI and distribution systems could disrupt the logistics that we have nowadays, for example with autonomous vehicles. If you only think inside your own discipline, you won’t know what the future could be like. In fact, during the pandemic we were forced to do exactly this. How else can you distribute millions of vaccines? It was extremely inspiring because I had the pleasure the meet with other students who were very open to getting to know and collaborate with other people.

In Italy we are very focused on results, the final presentation, the final report. But in Gothenburg the point was to discuss and see different approaches. The main focus was the research. Being in Stockholm is an opportunity for me to grow as a person and make this new journey, studying the innovation of meaning. It’s not focused on technology, but on the meaning people give to products or services that they use. The research shows that it’s very important not only to have a product and a technology that works, but also that people understand the meaning behind it. I’m coming from a deep-tech research field, but I would like to connect new meaning and new technology in the space field. That’s the main idea.