Angelo Vermeulen is a space bioengineer, ecologist, and artist who works with space agencies such as NASA and ESA. He draws from his experience designing sustainable outer space environments to illuminate how we can use these innovations to build a greener, more peaceful existence here on earth.
He holds a range of research, advisory, and c-suite positions including Chief Art Officer at SEMiLLA Circular Systems which transfers technologies from space to a range of terrestrial industries including water treatment, waste management, and air quality control. He is an Advisor at SpaceBorn United which tackles reproductive challenges in space, and at Fondacioni Jeshil, an NGO that works to restore Kosovo through permaculture. He is a member of the Committee for the Cultural Utilisation of Space, and the Co-Founder of Space Ecologies Art and Design (SEADS) which blends art and a range of scientific fields including neuroscience, ecology and space technology to re-envision models of the future.
For over ten years he has conducted research at Delft University of Technology on how design approaches inspired by the natural world can be used to deal with the unpredictability inherent to interstellar travel. This involves approaches such as employing 3D printing to transform asteroids into evolving spaceships. His insights on adapting to the uncertainty and complexity of outer space resonate across audiences, many of whom are adapting to the sudden shifts in society brought on by Covid-19 and climate change.
Angelo has a particular interest in radical sustainability, increasing food security and reducing food waste. Already, a third of food production goes to waste each year, and with the increasing pressure on food supplies caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, radical sustainability is now more urgent than ever.
In 2013, Angelo Vermeulen led the NASA-funded HI- SEAS Mars simulation in Hawaii as crew commander. During this project, he lived in a dome with five other ‘astronauts’ for four months, studying the effects of long-term isolation on a small crew. The central focus of their scientific work was food and how to combat menu fatigue in an environment with a lot of repetition, and limited space and resources..
Angelo’s talks often address the ‘closed-loop’ food production innovations developed by scientists working on life in space. The Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) program managed by the European Space Agency has, for instance, developed a system which accounts for and recycles every single molecule in an environment. With human waste, for example, every molecule of faeces, urine, sweat, and CO2 is captured, broken down, and ultimately transformed into nutrients and CO2 for edible plants and algae.
Food is just one of the many areas where innovations from outer space can enrich life on earth. Angelo often reflects on his time as Crew Commander at the HI-SEAS Mars simulation, as well as his extensive community building experience, central to his cross-disciplinary work at SEADS. This includes discussing successful co-creation, diversity, and inclusion.
At the core of Angelo’s talks is a recognition that the distinction between space and earth is fading as strategies and technologies developed for space missions increasingly bring new materials, innovations, and discoveries to earth. He offers a vision for the future that embraces these technologies and uses them to infinitely improve life and community on earth.
His speaking consistently leaves audiences inspired and hopeful. His TED Talk “How to go to space, without having to go to space” has been viewed over a million times.
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