Our alumnus George Profitiliotis is the Winner of the 2018 Space is Business Competition

For over 100 years, our School of ECE of the NTUA has been providing excellence in research and teaching and producing graduates of the highest calibre.

We would like to extend our congratulations to our alumnus George Profitiliotis who has been awarded the prize of the 2018 Space is Business Competition. The international competition is an opportunity for students and young professionals to share their views and analysis on past, present and future of entrepreneurship and investment within the space sector. It is organized by the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). The scholarship enables the winner to attend and give a presentation of the winning paper at the following events in Bremen, Germany:

George Profitiliotis gave the following response upon accepting the award:

“Being ‘the common heritage of all mankind’, celestial bodies need to be protected from forward contamination in a way that will facilitate -and not hinder- commercial space endeavors by private actors. This prestigious competition gave me the incentive to explore a possible solution and present it to an expert audience.”

The winning paper titled “Planetary Protection Issues of Private Endeavours in Research, Exploration, and Human Access to Space: an Environmental Economics Approach to Forward Contamination”.


In light of the rapidly growing New Space Economy, the landscape of space exploration and development activities will certainly become much more complicated year by year. Relevant commercial space actors have already emerged, pushing the boundaries of entrepreneurial space ventures beyond the Earth-oriented upstream and downstream market segments and opening up the path towards the novel segments of space exploration, space resources utilization, and space research. Planetary protection is usually defined as a set of guidelines concerning the avoidance of bidirectional biological material exchange between the Earth and other celestial bodies. Recent success stories of established and new-entrant NewSpace actors, although posing no realistic planetary protection threat, clearly indicate that serious work needs to be done in order for the relevant guidelines to keep up with the rapid advances of the technology development cycles that occur within NewSpace companies. This need may become even more urgent, as space entrepreneurs acquire and develop the resources and competencies to target the currently underserved market segments of space research, exploration, and utilization. As of now, these capabilities were maintained solely by public space agencies; thus, all planetary protection priorities, strategies, and responsibilities were discussed, agreed-upon, and delegated for implementation among national and international working groups of public stakeholders. Although top-down regulations can be effective in controlling the quality and conformity of the deliverables of private subcontractors to public contractors, international planetary protection frameworks might need to evolve even beyond such unmet public-private interaction and partnership models. For this reason, this study did not focus on the legal and political issues of mandating NewSpace actors to adhere to planetary protection guidelines; rather, drawing from the field of sustainable development on Earth, an environmental economics approach was followed, with the goal of viewing the relationship between planetary protection and private space exploration and development as another “tragedy of the commons” problem that must be settled accordingly. After the problem’s framing, i.e. the conceptual presentation and synthesis of four extraterrestrial non-excludable goods, the initial approach of their total economic value, and the negative externalities of their exploitation, a discussion of the forward contamination mitigation costs was conducted. Drawing from the literature and using examples from both the terrestrial and aerospace sectors, a pre-emptive move was suggested: the establishment of a global industry consortium for the pre-competitive collaboration in forward contamination mitigation technologies, centered on an international planetary protection analogue program and its respective testbed facility.