#rp24 speaker Chiara Manfletti: Towards a sustainable future for space travel

02.04.2024 - The professor and CEO talks about how we can make space travel more sustainable – and why we need answers from space for a sustainable life on earth.
Chiara trägt schulterlange Haare, ein Halstuch und lächelt in die Kamera. Sie steht vor einer hellen Betonwand.

With the help of satellite data, we can communicate, navigate from A to B or gain important insights into the climate crisis. We owe numerous innovations and future technologies to space research – for example in the fields of robotics, microelectronics and materials science. In short: without space travel, our modern life would look very different!

Hundreds of millions of small parts orbit the earth as space debris – and the number is growing. The production of electronics and other components used in space travel requires many resources such as rare earths. Chiara Manfletti, Professor of Space Mobility and Propulsion at TUM and CEO of the space start-up Neuraspace, is convinced that we can't keep bringing resources from Earth into space forever, but that we need to establish a kind of circular economy there too: "For a sustainable future of space travel, we need to research things that still sound a bit like science fiction today."

At re:publica 24, Chiara will not only talk about how important space travel is for sustainable life on Earth. She will also shed light on the challenges that space travel must face in order to become more sustainable: "There can be answers to climate change from space, for example through Earth observation services, which are the basis for important research – but which also have an economic dimension."

Chiara Manfletti worked for the German Aerospace Centre in the field of liquid rocket propulsion. In 2016, she joined the European Space Agency (ESA), first as Programme Advisor to the Director General and then as Head of the Policy and Programme Coordination Department. In March 2019, she was appointed the first President of the Portuguese National Space Agency, which had just been founded at the time, and built it up from scratch as a modern space agency. She also established a new space implementation strategy for Portugal.

At the Technical University of Munich, for example, she is researching environmentally friendly, water-based space propulsion systems. Water – the cleanest fuel of all – is used in combination with solar energy to enable "space mobility". With her start-up Neuraspace, she is committed to avoiding collisions and minimising space debris.

At re:publica 19, Chiara moderated a session with Jan Wörner and Alexander Gerst - Director General and astronaut at the European Space Agency ESA – on the future of space exploration and its benefits for society. We look forward to Chiara's expertise on the sustainable future of space travel at #rp24!


#WhoCares: An Interview with Chiara Manfletti.

The Motto of re:publica 24 is „Who Cares?“. Whom or what are you currently caring about?

As a professor, I look after my students and doctoral candidates. I ensure that the university fulfils its potential for innovation and I care about sustainable space travel.

What do we care about too little as a society?

For respect and compassion.

Has a book, article or podcast inspired you recently?

I'm currently reading two books that are very different but both inspire me in very different ways: "Chip War" by Chris Miller and "Viva la Retorica, Sempre!" by Flavia Trupia.