Read about Dutch e-resident Remco Timmermans’ successful space career in this translated interview from Estonian news website Postimees
Dutch engineer Remco Timmermans, who has been named the EU’s most important space influencer for the second time running, has headquartered his business activities in Estonia. Timmermans operates a media agency, SpaceSide OÜ, and wants to bring outer space down to Earth by popularising the idea that space is a vital resource that belongs to all of us, not only to billionaires. When this UK-based Dutchman landed at Tallinn Airport in 2017, he arrived with a baggage of antiquated assumptions about former Soviet bloc countries. Much to his surprise, this tiny country offered him the perfect gateway out of Brexit through its innovative e-Residency programme.
It is already the second time that you have been crowned the EU’s pre-eminent space influencer. What does that mean?
There is an agency in Brussels that publishes annual reports on the people who have been able to influence EU-level policies. They track, for example, how many members of the European Parliament follow your social media accounts, and interact with you. They cover a wide range of categories, and space happens to be one of them. This acknowledgement is actually pretty cool, especially considering I don’t even live in Brussels.
So this has very little to do with the types of Instagram influencers who share images of their daily meals?
That’s for sure — most of my work focuses on B2B (Business-to-Business) marketing. At the same time, I’m also trying to educate the general public on issues related to outer space. Luckily, my day job and hobby are one and the same. Besides, I’m a total nerd! I am extremely passionate about this topic, and on top of that, I also have an in-depth understanding of how those things work, meaning that I can engage with other nerds on these issues, because nerds really hate it when someone makes mistakes when talking about technology.
But you weren’t born into the space business, were you?
There are two great passions in my life. One of them is space, and the other is social media and online marketing. I originally began using social media in my work long before Facebook and Twitter were launched, but I connected with other space geeks only somewhere around 2009-2010, when social media platforms went mainstream.
Was it then that you realise your affinity to outer space?
Yes, that’s what gave me the idea to go back to school, and pursue a second degree at the international space university. Before, I thought that you need to be a rocket scientist to be taken seriously in the space sector. It is actually a widespread misconception – people usually think of astronauts, but they don’t see the hundreds of thousands of experts working behind the scenes or, for example, on unmanned space vehicles, which are actually much more relevant when talking about the modern space sector.
The global space community is actually quite small and friendly. Recently, I consulted the management of a financial company, and it was clear that they are competing with practically everyone else – who has the most money, the biggest car – very trivial things. In outer space it’s completely different – it’s all super expensive, but it will not make you rich.
What does the space industry actually mean?
Satellite applications comprise 93 % of commercial space markets worldwide — television, telephones, internet, GPS, etc. This is all closely intertwined with space and society. Naturally, astronauts are the coolest, but that’s only a tiny part of the space industry. Regular people are primarily shown billionaires taking super-short trips to space, and criticise how they spend their money. Mainly they just pollute the environment. This is not the real story we should be focusing on when talking about outer space. I am committed to telling the real stories about the space industry. There are a lot of cool technologies and applications that need experts. Perhaps some of them can become astronauts as well — the most recent competition announced by the European Space Agency attracted around 22,000 people. That shows a lot about the opportunities available. In my opinion, the possibilities are endless.
Estonia’s space budget is still rather small, but this year it is four times larger than in the previous year. I follow these developments with great interest. Take, for example, the ESTCube project, which has elevated Estonia to the ranks of space nations, demonstrating to other countries that enthusiasm goes a long way. Overall, the space industry offers super-fascinating career avenues for tech-savvy people — too little is known about the opportunities available for young people and committed entrepreneurs.
What kinds of developments do you foresee in the space industry in the next 10 to 20 years?
First and foremost, I hope everyone will see how cool outer space actually is.
I also hope that governments will look beyond the economic aspects, and also acknowledge the idealistic side, which it is worth investing in.
Furthermore, I also hope that people will understand that what we do in outer space will determine the future of humanity. Therefore, it is well worth our time, money and effort. Considering our current way of life and consumption, we won’t be able to stay on this planet. There will come a day when we will have to move elsewhere, and I would like for people to recognise that.
Do you dream of relocating to Mars?
No, I really don’t — Earth is my favorite planet!
Besides, I’ve tried zero gravity, and it’s not much fun.
Timmermans is an e-resident of Estonia, and runs a media agency SpaceSide, specialising in social media marketing for the space industry
Remco Timmermans studied space research at the International Space University, and joined the faculty in 2021. Although media focuses mainly on billionaire joyrides (pictured Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin), space plays a much larger role in our daily lives. For example, Estonia is planning to launch its second student satellite ESTCube-2 later this year.
This interview was originally published in Estonian daily newspaper Postimees on 27 March 2022 as “ELi edukaim kosmosemõjuisik: «Mina Marsile ei taha!” by Mariliis Kolk