People outside of the space industry might be surprised to hear that Toulouse could well be the space technology capital of Europe. With the likes of giants like Airbus DS, Thales-Alenia, CNES (the French space agency) and several hundred smaller organisations active in the space sector employing 12.000 people, Toulouse is one of the rare European cities where saying "I work in the satellite business" sounds rather ordinary. :)
The Toulouse Space Show is a biannual event bringing together 2.000 engineers, innovators, scientists and managers in one place for 3 days. This year was the first that we had a booth at this show and although we had prepared a busy meeting schedule, we've had even more ad hoc meetings with all kinds of companies, organisations, consultants and bright students from the local university: there were a lot of occasions when all three of us were participating in independent conversations with people passing by the booth.
It's a business event and we have compiled a long list of contacts, a sizeable share of which include promising potential partners and customers, but it's interesting how despite personally spending almost a decade in the industry, you feel a little like a kid in a toy factory: the Hungarian team next door was demonstrating their Moon rover prototype, there were 4 metre wing span drones on display, VR sets illustrating one technology or another, organisations with prospects describing launching tens of nanosatellites or setting up 20 ground station across the globe like it was nothing, people working on state of the art electrical satellite propulsion systems, student teams brainstorming business plans to create added value from new public Earth observation scientific data, walking around Space City looking up to observe a 1:1 replica of the Ariane rocket...fun times!
Oh, and while we're on the subject of fun, the 3 of us regularly commute by bicycle and were thrilled to see Velo Toulouse public bicycle stations sprinkled generously everywhere you turn. We bought weekly tickets as soon as we settled into our apartment and rode all over the city during the entire week! The bikes are practically free to use and quite sturdy: we drove all our equipment, laptops and bags in/on their luggage baskets! While cycling infrastructure isn't perfect and in spite of the French laissez-faire driving style, Toulouse has certainly made it practical for people to get around on bikes. We've managed to see a lot of the city, ride through alleys and quaint French squares and move around independently when we needed to. Now that we're back, we look forward to seeing something like that here in Zagreb!