By Hannah Ashford
Each year as we gather for Karman Week, our objectives are clear: to facilitate trusted connections between our Fellows, to provide a rare opportunity to pause and consider one’s impact in a global world, and to inspire these individuals to lead courageously and cooperatively. Throughout this year, we have met virtually as a group with our 2022 Fellows on a number of occasions to begin the process of building relationships and intentions, and had anticipated that a certain level of magical interaction would ensue when these outstanding leaders were brought together physically for an intensive program.
Yet, nothing quite prepares us for the journey that we encounter during the annual Karman Week. What we witness is an intensity that is characterised through the depth of conversations and debate, and an authenticity that is enjoyed when people live together for a short period of time. There is a never-ending stream of ideas that emerge when you gather brilliant people who are equally driven to make a difference in their respective regions, disciplines and orbits, and the emergence of true friendships, ensuring that our WhatsApp group is still regularly ‘pinging’ with updates months on from our gathering.
Karman Week Principles
International: We host Karman Week in a different country each year, in an effort to reflect the diversity of cultures that are represented in our community. The program is designed to tap into local customs and history, leveraging new perspectives.
Chatham House: Karman Week - like all Karman Fellowship activities - occurs under the Chatham House Rule. What this means is that Fellows may speak freely, representing their own individual thoughts and feelings, and the content of such discussions will not be revealed without express consent. This mechanism is employed for ultimate transparency and authenticity of participation.
Connect, Understand, Lead, Create: The core guiding principles of all Karman Week activities.
Our 2022 Journey
We met in Paris, France at the Arc de Triomphe, and travelled together to the 17th Century Château de Villers Bocage in Normandy, where we stayed for three nights before returning to Paris for our final evening together at the Karman Gala Dinner.
Our Fellows flew in from nine countries worldwide, bringing with them a range of unique experiences, perspectives and topics of importance for discussion.
Throughout the week, the Fellows interacted with a diverse group of distinguished guests who were invited to speak, representing the space, film, venture capital, entrepreneurship, agency and academic realms. Our immense gratitude to:
✨ Former Director-General of ESA and Karman Board Member Jean-Jacques Dordain, who shared an appeal to our Fellows to be active participants on ‘Spaceship Earth’.
✨ Our Board Member and General Partner of Global Ventures Noor Sweid, who shared her journey in becoming one of the most prominent VCs in the MENA region, being the first woman to lead an IPO in the UAE, and overcoming health challenges along the way.
✨ Co-Founder and CEO of ADA Health Daniel Nathrath, who shared his vision for the future of #healthtech and how entrepreneurial minds can change lives for the better.
✨ Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of HelicitySpace Setthivoine You, who shared with us his deep knowledge of fusion energy and space propulsion - and how it will change the future of #spacetravel.
✨ Award-winning director, writer and producer Nicholas Ma of ‘Won't You Be My Neighbor?’, whose motivational abilities transcended beyond his on-screen masterpieces.
✨ Founder of Amorelie and Pink Capital Lea Sophie Cramer, who has built a leading #ecommerce and #sextech company operating across 15 markets worldwide.
✨ NASA Datanaut and University of Oxford Space Initiative contributor Laura Anne Edwards, who truly brought our Fellows closer together - paving the way for innovation and impact with her unique perspective and understanding.
Reflecting on - and learning from - the past is key to any leadership journey, and our Fellows were led on a private tour to Omaha Beach - known as the ‘Landing Beach’ and the largest of the D-Day assault areas during World War II. We were then guided through The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, which contains the graves of 9,386 military personnel who lost their lives during the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
Fellows then had the opportunity to admire a rather epic 11th Century artefact - The Bayeux Tapestry - depicting the adventure of William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) in 1066. It was a remarkable display of the power of storytelling through art and served as a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts.
Beyond these organised activities, we shared the week enjoying a local wine tasting (you can’t go to France without tasting wine!), and various activities around the grounds of the Château (ping-pong tournaments, swimming, canoeing and more).
Commitments for the Future
Importantly, the Fellows engaged in rigorous discussion and debate - and formulated a series of projects and commitments towards cooperation and impact in space. In a nutshell, here’s what our Fellows will be turning their attentions to following Karman Week 2022:
✨ Melania Guerra (Director of Science Strategy, Planet) & Mike Lindsay (Chief Technology Officer, Astroscale): Investigating the impact of space debris on deep sea ecosystems.
✨ David Dana (Head of Disruptive Tech. & Innovation VC Investments, European Investment Fund): Fostering access to capital for deeptech and space-focused startups throughout Europe by increasing education among non-specialised VC investors.
✨ Theresa Condor (Chief Operating Officer, Spire Global): Promoting Public Private Partnerships for satellite weather data.
✨ Group Commitment of Grier Wilt (EVA Flight Controller, NASA), Siti Nur Aazzah Abdul Aziz (Deputy CEO, Network Integrity Assurance Technologies), Joseph Abakunda (Chief Strategy Officer, Rwanda Space Agency), Martin Langer (Chief Technology Officer, OroraTech), Balachandar Ramamurthy (Director of Flight Safety, SpaceX), Xin Liu (Artist, Engineer & Curator, MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative) & Erika Wagner (Senior Director Emerging Market Development, Blue Origin): International student payload program designed to inspire collaboration across the globe.
✨ Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian (Artist, Tour de Moon, International Space Orchestra & University of the Underground): Investigating the impacts of intergenerational trauma on future space civilisations, and creating a new forum at the International Astronautical Congress engaging critical thinking and cultural theory to address concepts of international cooperation.
✨ Martin Langer (Chief Technology Officer, OroraTech): Providing access to critical wildfire data to at least three remote communities globally, and fostering an information exchange with First Nations communities.
✨ Tricia Larose (Principal Investigator, Tumors in Space, University of Oslo): Identifying a mutational signature of the gravitational force in the human cancer genome as a pathway to cure cancer.
The Karman Gala Dinner
To round off an intensive week, we made our way back to Paris for a final evening of celebrations with our wider community - the Karman Gala Dinner. Here, we gathered 120 Karman Community members from 20+ countries, and were delighted to host Clay Mowry, President of the International Astronautical Federation as our keynote speaker. Each of our 2022 Karman Fellows then took to the stage to declare their voices and visions for positive impact in - and using - space.
The Karman Fellowship is fundamentally about fostering cooperation through action and promoting lifelong trust between those who are shaping the future of space. The end of the Fellowship marks the beginning of many other journeys for this unique community of leaders - journeys that we’re delighted to embark on with them. Watch this space.
About the Karman Fellowship
Each year the Karman Fellowship Program supports 15 carefully selected Karman Fellows in strengthening their mutual relations, meeting with global leaders and shaping common agendas for the future of space. It promotes cooperation through action, working with curated decision-makers who have been recognised for their outstanding leadership and who are motivated to amplify their impact. We foster values-based leadership, trusted relationships and independent dialogue, and take strategic action for positive impact across key areas - in space and using space.
About the Karman Project
The Karman Project strengthens trust, fosters independent dialogue and encourages cooperation between global leaders in business, technology, politics, science and the arts who want to positively impact space. The Karman Project is a nonprofit and independent foundation headquartered in Germany.
Director, Fellowship & Community, The Karman Project