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Blog: Santiago Cartamil-Bueno

In the final post before the launch of the graphene solar sails, Santiago Cartamil Bueno reflects on getting the project off the ground

Last year, I was hiking with my girlfriend in the Salkantay mountains in Peru, and the first time we camped (at 4400m, -20°C, and half sea-level air pressure) I saw the Milky Way as I had never imagined I could see it. I revealed to her that I had always wanted to be an astronaut (like every kid), or at least astrophysicist so I could think and learn about the Universe, but that was not possible anymore. At the end, my nanotechnology career has little to do with space, and that dream should stay a dream.

But that would be boring, right? And that's why GrapheneX was born: to challenge the present and spice up the daily scientific procedure. GrapheneX represents the daring attitude of its members: the name itself was chosen to provoke our main competitor, SpaceX 😊. They never called us to join forces, so we have to go to Mars alone. And since we are researchers in the Graphene Flagship… well, we thought that making its sails would be a great tribute. To infinity and beyond, with graphene!

This is the last post from us before going to Bremen, and I am happy to say that we are ready to set sail! The road to get here was tough and full of obstacles: from the application to the machining and tests, going through to raising the required budget under tight deadlines. And all of this achieved by a student team working under their own direction.

Being the leader and manager is not an easy task, and I tried to be very transparent: leader doesn't mean the boss, but being a team member that can show the way by doing. As manager, my favorite parts were writing the proposal because that exploited my creativity, and raising support and funds because… well, one projects the vision and ambitions and then collects the different reactions of many people, which is fun and reveals a lot about the human nature.

I have learned management tricks and bureaucratic processes that further increases my understanding of the world of people, institutions and companies. And of course, I got to see the idea and designs become true. But, maybe, the best is that I got the opportunity to talk, learn and be part of an ESA Education program: the child in me now plays among the stars.

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Publishing date: 27 November 2017 21:42