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European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017 Riga


Bringing the EPSC to Riga was the personal initiative of BinS Executive Director and senior planetary scientist Amara Graps, starting in 2014. Her goal was to show real space applications to the Latvian and Baltic people and to inspire the young for space activities. Here is a One Page Brief on the EPSC 2017  in English and in Latvian.


The EPSC 2017 Riga scientific Programme included astrobiology, lunar studies, Mars research, comet exploration, asteroid exploration and exploitation, planetary defense, planetary protection, and exoplanet studies. The scientists study solar and extra-solar system bodies from the smallest dust particle to the largest planet. The Space Agencies : NASA, ESA, JAXA, Chinese Space Agency were represented.


In her linking of the international space community to the Baltics, Graps succeeded. See the Outcome Report. Amara Graps formed Baltics in Space (BinS) along the way to support the EPSC 2017 Riga. She was the primary Local Organizer, managing nearly 200 people for their fifteen, paid, local parts in the conference.


Photograph by Manuel Núñez, Riga, Latvia with permission. Graphics Art by Edite Kirse and  David Sudweeks (The Planets in their Orbit. 2012. FontShop, San Francisco) and Amara Graps.

    Communicated Our Baltic



Communicated our Baltic capacities with the international space community to help build new and competitive space collaborations.

An elegant ‘Baltic Space Facilities’ booklet was developed and printed (1000 copies), and given to the 800+ EPSC 2017 Participants, combining the efforts of the space workers in the Baltic Sea Region.  See the Full Report for its development.

Baltics in Space will maintain a current version.

You can  Read the Introduction and Download the PDF.


Photo by the Latvian Investment Agency.

The Latvian Space Exhibits showcased Latvian space skills.


These Exhibits were developed by the Latvian Investment Agency (LIAA), using suggestions and detailed information provided by Amara Graps. LIAA followed up with the space facilities themselves.

Other Baltic Facilities exhibiting on the EPSC 2017 Riga floor were the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), the Moletai Ethnological Museum and more. The FMI competently coordinated the EPSC 2017 Riga Conference Floor Exhibits (FB and YouTube-Italian).

Read the Report about those developments and see more photos.

Photo by Amara Graps

   Space Education for

   our Youth


Provided education to inspire our Latvian and Baltic young via their schools and families.

We put Baltic youth in every space niche available to us.

Student of Riga elementary school: Rigas. 6. vidusskola participating in the Solar System for Kids Exhibit. It was located in the ground floor of the Radisson Blu where the EPSC 2017 Riga was held. Photo by Amara Graps.

Six hundred Latvian school kids learned about space during the EPSC week from the new portable Zinoo Space Exhibits, and about ten thousand more will learn from Zinoo at their five science centers in 2017-2019. BinS coordinated the Zinoo Solar System for Kids Exhibit with two partners from Speak Science and (FB description and photos and Full Report).

BinS coordinated the participation of 25 Estonian and Latvian young of the Interreg SpaceTEM project at the EPSC 2017 Riga to show their summer space internship work and be evaluated.

Photo by the SpaceTEM team.

One Latvian team (here:is half of the team: Anni Kasikov) from LU/UT won an EPSC 2017 Riga early career poster, evaluated by the European planetary community.

Photo by the Europlanet Press Office

Baltics in Space (BinS) provided youth passionate about space to work for Copernicus Meetings on the conference floor.

Photo by the Europlanet Press Office

BinS fully developed the EPSC 2017 Riga Public Event. The Public Event titled: "Moon, Mars, and Beyond?" topic was a roundtable discussion of what is the role of the astronauts in the entreprenurial New Space/ Space 4.0 (ESA parlance).

Photo by the Europlanet Press Office

With Partner: LMT's streaming 1/6 of the Oral talks, and Baltics in Space post-processing ("What's Wild in the Worlds of Planetary Science"), small Latvia is making a substantial contribution to the world’s available planetary space education.

In our Public Event, we heard a lively discussion between an ESA manager: Bernard Foing, a Rocket project manager: Jānis Ķirpītis, and a New Space worker: JL Galache.  Fun! The Latvian Minister of Education and Science : Dr. Kārlis Šadurskis gave an introduction in Latvian (15 m, starting @ 00:01: 54),   with the rest of the roundtable in English (45 min, starting @ 00:19:00).

 International Planetary / Space Press from Riga

Twitter output from the EPSC 2017 Riga during the conference week. The #EPSC2017 hashtag was trending in Latvia. Photo by Mareks Matisons.

For one week, Riga, Latvia was in the center of international space news.


The International Press pieces number at about 600, reaching the most visible press such as The Economist.

See the EPSC 2017 77 pg. Press Report.


Latvians heard all about it, daily from all of their local news: print, radio, TV). 

International EPSC 2017 participants talked about what they learned, here in a Storify form:

   Valuable Public Speakers


Communicated SPACE to all  of Latvia’s and the Baltic’s  stakeholders ranging from  school children to space  companies to Parliament


Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga as our Opening Speaker, speaking about the Sun in the Latvian Dainas, at the Opening Session of the EPSC 2017 Riga. Photo by Mareks Matisons.

BinS coordinated five key speakers: Drs. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (The Sun in the Dainas), Ene Ergma (How Space was Supported in Estonia in the 2000s), Mathias Link (The Luxembourg Asteroid Mining Initiative)Dana Reizniece-Ozola (The Role of Space for Latvia's Industry), and Kārlis Šadurskis (The Role of Space in STEM), who gave helpful, interesting and informative (recorded) space-related presentations addressed to

  • the international scientific community,

  • to our Latvian space workers,

  • to Latvia’s youth,

  • to the Baltic Public of all-ages, and

  • to the Latvian policy makers


The presentations gave weight to the educational and economical value of space work, what Latvian politicians can do better to support space, and the natural ties between the Baltic pagan cultures and the cosmos.

Photograph by Manuel Núñez, Riga, Latvia with permission. Graphics Art by Edite Kirse and  David Sudweeks (The Planets in their Orbit. 2012. FontShop, San Francisco) and Amara Graps.

    Cultural Education


Raised public awareness for the linkages between and our deep Latvian and Baltic cultural traditions to build on the theme of ‘space’ for our cultural Future.

In the Opening Session, Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga) explained how the cosmos and the Dainas are linked.

Vija Grapa learning about the Lithuanian linking of humans to the Cosmos at the Moletai Ethnocosmological Museum EPSC 2017 Exhibit. Photo by Amara Graps.

With our partners at OGA Events and Copernicus Meetings, we gave 210 new visitors to Riga a warm introduction to Baltic dancing and music at the EPSC 2017 Social Event at ALA Pagrabs. Photo by Amara Graps.

Industry Editor at Physics World magazine: Margaret Harris‏ @DrMLHarris: This is genuinely one of the most adorable conference social activities I've ever seen, and I go to lots of conferences. Well done, #EPSC2017

Impact and Cost Documentation

* Here is a 8-week-after-event Full Report, including the important Lessons Learned.

* Here is a two-week-after-event Impact Summary.

* Here is the LMT-recorded EPSC 2017 Riga Opening Session, where Amara Grapa spoke about the Coordination of the EPSC Local Organizing amidst the austere presence of the other Opening Speakers: Manuel Grande @ 00:00:00, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga @ 00:10:15, Ene Ergma @ 00:30:11, Nigel Mason @ 00:51:00, Amara Grapa @ 1:05:00 (pdf of talk).

* Here is the total Local Organizing costs (spreadsheet). 145 KEur total.

* Here are our sponsors.

* Amara Graps' 10 months full-time on the EPSC 2017 was underfunded (7K€ was covered of her 30K€ time). Apologies to the local tech companies that she didn't start her fundraising with them first.  See the Lessons Learned of her Full Report and the stories of the fund-raising of this event below.

Participation Outcome.


The EPSC 2017 Riga saw 808 participants from 40 countries with 1000 abstracts (650 Oral, 350 Poster presentations in 100 sessions). It was the largest single EPSC showing since the EPSC 2012 London meeting, and the largest number of countries, ever. There were 80 Latvians attending with the numbers from Finland, Estonia and Lithuania larger than usual too.

The EPSC 2017 Riga was the first EPSC in Eastern, Central or Northern Europe. It was the Baltics largest science conference ever.

The audience of the Opening Session of the EPSC 2017 Riga. Photo by the Europlanet Press Office.

The Tuesday evening Sept 19 Poster Session of the EPSC 2017 Riga. Photo by the Europlanet Press Office.

The EPSC 2017 Riga and Baltics in Space provided Space Engagement at all levels of Latvian Society.

   Some Feedback

"I am really struck by the level of public/cultural engagement that you created at EPSC." --Mark Sykes,  Executive Director of the Planetary Science Institute (one of the world's largest planetary science institutes)

BinS has collected five pages of Feedback:

  • From locals: On the Planetary Scientists in Riga

  • From teachers: On the Zinoo Space Exhibits

  • From the Congress participants: about the Conference

  • From the Congress participants: On the EPSC 2017 Riga Social Event

  • From the Congress particpants: On the City of Riga

In the International Space Science Community, Latvia is now on the Map.

    Tourism / Local Business Engagement


Provided guidance to our EPSC 2017 Riga participants to the local favorite eateries.

Amara Graps collected her own and friends/colleagues' favorite restaurants around the Radisson Blu to make a Recommended Eateries list and interactive Google Maps. Such a list was the first time that the EPSC had provided restaurant recommendations.


News from colleagues is that the restaurants were very busy! Graps' Google Maps was accessed 505 times by the EPSC 2017 participants (now the bots know about it).


Thank you to the local restaurants for providing good and memorable service! See our Feedback for how much the participants enjoyed Riga.

    What about the EPSC 2017 Riga Event Fund-Raising?


We learned alot!

When Amara Graps learned in March 2016 that Riga won a 2017 EPSC bid, she had only 1.5 years to both 1) fund-raise and

2) implement the four-country, Eastern Europe, multi-level engagement with the space workers and Centenary cultural groups in those countries (FI, EE, LV, LT). To her surprise, the 'winning' of the EPSC to Riga included 0 funds from all of the involved local and international organizations for the local financial support of the EPSC 2017 Riga. There were no allocated funds at the European level (Europlanet) even for telecommunication software, email list communication or file sharing with her colleagues in 4 countries. She had to pay that herself. The 'Lessons Learned' part of her Report  explains more.


So she did what she knows best as a scientist: wrote proposals to government agencies. That led to the involvement of the government: Latvian Investment Agency (LIAA) for implementing the Latvian space exhibits and their large role in the Space Facilities booklet. LIAA did an excellent job implementing both. But for reasons she still doesn't understand, LIAA could not pay the creator (Graps) of the Latvian space informational materials, which LIAA used to implement their parts. So she went on to a new (to her) fund-raising: event sponsorship and crowd-funding.


Event Sponsorship. We had 'in-kind sponsors' implementing their paid parts (nearly 200 people), but we needed to also support the primary person and entity who developed and was managing the fifteen parts, so we built a mini-event sponsorship business.


Amara at Baltics in Space priced the conference assets (i.e. columns and walls and roll-ups) in the Radisson Blu Latvija and the cost of providing branding with a variety of advertising means (USB thumb drive, pens, ...) She gathered prices for making those branded items from Riga vendors, and she costed them with an elaborate spreadsheet. Then she wrote a Sponsorship Guide for companies with those calculated prices. She gained one sponsor: Planetary Science Institute (PSI) as a 'Terrestrial Sponsor'. PSI's director and Graps wrote all of the largest aerospace companies they knew, including SpaceX. No luck. After communication with the Baltics' largest bank: Swedbank, they learned that they were too late. For sponsorship, the companies need at least one year in advance. Graps' sponsorship efforts occurred after her government proposals were written and won, leaving her only half a year to engage the local companies. Apologies to those companies which would have liked to have been involved.  We would have liked you to be involved too.

Crowd-funding. As there was a clear interest amongst Graps' international and local colleagues and friends to support her and the Baltic space workers, she ran two crowd funding campaigns in FundRazr in the Spring of 2017, where 53 international people donated (total about 3K). She made three movies to tell the community the stories of the Baltic space workers. See the list of people Graps thanked at the end of her EPSC Opening speech:  starting @ 1:05:00 The crowdfunding results was the most supportive of Graps' 10-month effort, without it, she would have quit. Thank you to all of you individual Baltic space enthusiasts who provided that important financial and moral support.

Finally, we'd like to give a special thanks to the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Their management of the conference floor exhibits was superb and their additional 3K donation was a critical one. They understood the (lack of) financial support of the  EPSC 2017 LOC situation more than anyone. A heartfelt thanks to FMI from Amara and Baltics in Space.

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