Gary Martin, the new government advisor to the space department, spoke to Delano at the New Space Europe conference on Thursday 16 November.
Photo: Jess Bauldry
Luxembourg government's newest staff member Gary Martin: "I thought we would be on the moon by now"
The Luxembourg government’s newest expat staff member, US national Gary Martin, spoke to Delano at the New Space Europe conference in Luxembourg on Thursday.
Jess Bauldry: Congratulations on the appointment which the government announced this week. When did you begin your new role as government advisor for the space department?
Gary Martin: 16 October was when I started at the ministry. That’s getting a desk, a computer and learning who is in the group.
What will be your role here in Luxembourg?
I’m more of a research guy, science and technology. I’m working with the research areas within Luxembourg to help them bring this kind of expertise up, because I’ve worked in it for most of my career. Luxembourg works on the ability to bring this vibrant space sector out: that people coming out of university, and people coming to the research centres in Luxembourg, are all contributing to the new technology that’s needed. I really respect Luxembourg for that, because it’s not just one solution, but a whole ecosystem that needs to be created.
In your experience, how is Luxembourg viewed by the space community abroad?
This is really exciting frankly. Before I came here, I would go to space conferences all over the place and I would talk about public-private partnerships in my last job. If you say the word Luxembourg to people, they stop and want to know what’s going on. Because Luxembourg in the space community is of great interest to almost everybody. It’s very exciting.
How did your interest in space develop?
I had always been interested from science fiction to see humans in space. I was born in ‘55 so I grew up right in the middle of the space race. They would stop school and everyone would go to the auditorium to watch the launch. You knew every astronaut’s name; you knew everything they were doing. When they landed in ’69, I was 14--which was a great age to be. You would look at the moon and say ‘boy, someday I might be there’. It was really exciting. I ended up being able to work for Nasa and actually be part of the planning for going into deep space. I was head of strategy for a while as a space architect. I did a lot of the new technology work, so I was very excited about it. But it’s hard to make a lot of progress in a big complex country with the politics and the big companies. We make progress. But even as the world, I thought we would be on the moon and Mars by now. We all thought we would.
Photo: Delano staff, Gary Martin chaired a panel discussion at the New Space Europe conference in Luxembourg on 16 November
What do you think has slowed down the development in space projects?
This is getting to why I came to Luxembourg. As a space architect, I had studies done all over about how do you make sustainable architectures that would allow us to have a sustainable space programme. It came back with a really easy answer--you’ve got to create a place where people are making money. Where jobs are being created. Where all kinds of possibilities and innovation can flourish. That’s different from what governments have been doing until recently. I would say that the last ten years there’s been a big change. But before that we had missions. It was all mission oriented. But this idea of a sustainable ecostructure with business as the main thing is really what will give us the sustainability and something that will innovate, like the internet did, and where all kinds of possibilities will come open.
Luxembourg has adopted that as what we’re going to do. We’re going to create a business approach.
Did you apply for the role in Luxembourg or did they ask you? And what swung it for you?
I had known Luxembourg and been part of the conversations on this whole area for around three or four years. And I had never planned to come here. It was just that we had shared interest. But then the opportunity, with the law that went through Luxembourg, said “we’re serious and we’re really drawing companies here”. So, they’re really doing it. Every time I would read in the paper I was thinking ‘gosh, that’s where I want to be’. So, I’m here. I’m very excited about the energy here. It’s very positive.
What have been your first impressions of Luxembourg?
The people are amazing, the country is amazing. I love the city. I’m really happy to be here.
I will spend most of my time here. I’ve a family in the US and will be going back and forth.