The power of satellites | Candace Johnson | TEDxRheinMain


Translator: Nadine Hennig
Reviewer: Mile Živković Dirk, you said exactly the right thing
because I really want to hopefully inspire all of you lovely and wonderful
young people here tonight to have your own satellite systems
and start your own satellite networks, or to start your own launch companies, or to start your own satellite
manufacturing companies, as our speaker just before has said, “It is fabulous to work in this field.” I do love satellites. I always have. And actually, I’ve been in satellites
since I was 5 years old. And you might say,
“Well, how is that possible?” But if you see that kind of funny
little thing there in the middle which looks like a flying saucer, I actually received it
when I was five years old. And it was 1957. And we just learned
that the first satellite was launched in October 1957. And for Christmas that year,
my mother and father gave me this little flying saucer
with Santa Claus inside to put on the Christmas tree. How else could I not love satellites? When I was 6, I was very fortunate
to make my own transistor radio. So that was 1958. You’ll see later on, I think, 6
for girls is a good time to do science, just as I did my first transistor radio
when I was 6, I’m hoping that young women will now
with Raspberry Pi be also making their own computers
and coding and programming, when they are 6. And when I was 8, my best friend – I’m not sure that he thought
that I was his best friend but he was definitely my best friend – was 60 years old. And he had the largest hand radio station
in the United States. And I used to get to go
every single Sunday and call around the world – behind the Iron Curtain,
to China, to Russia, to Peru, all from this hand radio station. So, I got the bug of communications
at a very early age. And when I was 10, in 1962, my father came to my 5th grade class – you know, it’s like show and tell, except for that fathers came in
and talked – and mothers did, too. And my dad was in satellites, he was the head
of military telecommunications, and he had been lent to the White House and to President Kennedy
for the space program. And so, he said to
my class of 10-year-olds: “We are going to have satellites. And when we have satellites, we’ll have satellites
for education, for entertainment, for communication,
for emergency preparedness, and when we have wars,
we will have wars with satellites. We will have peace on earth.” Star Wars came about 20 years later,
so he was pretty good about that. But you know, little girls
believe their fathers. And I did believe my dad. And when I grew up and I looked around, I said: “Wow. Where are these satellites
doing all of these things?” And actually, there was still
a lot to do and there still is. But I started in the United States. I am a classical musician,
I am a singer, actually. At age 24, I was the executive producer of the United States largest
classical music station, Washington’s Good Music Station. And I thought: “My gosh, I am working
so hard on these programs, and it’s just ridiculous that only
the people in Washington can hear this. I should put
these programs up on satellite and send them over the United States.” Which is what I did,
and actually before Ted Turner kind of created the first super station. In 1981, I fell in love. And the person that I fell in love with was the ambassador of Luxemburg
to the United States. (Laughter) You’ll see later on, he is very cute. (Laughter) I was very independent, though. And I said: “Okay, I will marry you
but I am keeping my name, I am keeping my nationality, I am keeping my career, I am keeping my money. I didn’t have any money
but I was going to keep it. (Laughter) But I said, “I will marry you.” And so we did get married. But what I didn’t know
was that actually Luxemburg – you all know Luxemburg, little country – was having a financial, and a steel,
and a broadcast crisis in 1982. And it was so bad that Luxemburg could
not even become a member of the ESA. That’s really bad. Particularly for
what happened afterwards. But we made it up. Because I adored my husband – I’m going to be very independent,
and I’m keeping everything – I felt very bad. I said, I have to do something
for his country. And then I thought,
“What could I do for Luxemburg?” And the only thing what I knew
how to do was satellites. I wrote down on two pages
a note for the prime minister and I gave it to him. And six months later, February 1983, he called me and he said,
“Candace, I need your satellite now.” Now, I am very worried,
because I can’t see what the time is. Thank you. Excellent. Keep it up there. I was 30 years old by this point. The Prime Minister of Luxemburg,
my husband’s country, needed a satellite. So, I went around Europe telling everybody we were going to have a satellite system, trying to get clients,
trying to get money, trying to get frequencies,
orbital positions, satellites, launchers. A lot of people laughed. In 1983, there weren’t
any private broadcasters. They weren’t any private satellite owners. There weren’t any
private satellite dishes. There was no advertising,
there was no paid television. It was not allowed. There was not even
any venture capitalist to finance. There were two people besides
the prime minister who believed, though. One was the angel investor
who gave us our first million euros, and the second one was Frédéric d’Allest. And for those of you from ESA, Frédéric d’Allest was
the president of Arianespace. And in 1983, he told me: “Candace, you bring me a satellite
and I will launch it for you.” And sure enough, December 13th – not 11th, as they say here –
December 13th, 1988, we launched the Astra satellite
on an Ariane. And this was all of us in Karoo. Now, normally I show this picture to say: “Something is wrong with this picture,
which is that there is only one woman.” But they always say that the identity
of the mother is very easy to see. So, we had a huge success.
And you know why? Because we believed – remember what I said about peace
and doing anything with satellites – we made the footprint
of the Astra satellite to cover all of Europe,
not Western Europe, all of Europe. And the wall fell down in 1989 and we were the only satellite
who could cover all of Europe. And we were amazingly successful. Everyone wanted to have a satellite dish,
and they did, they had it. So, two years later,
three years later, in 1992, we were Europe’s largest satellite system. Now, that’s wonderful
but it brings a lot of challenges, and people who want to take you over. And in 1992, the digital revolution
was happening. And besides me on the board,
there were 11 bankers. And risk is something
that bankers don’t like, and the unknown is something
that bankers don’t like. And so, when the digital revolution
came about, there were three broadcasters: Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Leo Kirch
and Mr. Berlusconi. (Laughter) And they decided that they would like
to take over the Astra satellite. And they told the bankers,
“Well, no problem. 15% return on investment,
we’ll take over all of the capacity and you would just have
to sit back and do nothing.” I tried to explain to the bankers that the digital revolution was
going to bring untold opportunities and we would have even
more wonderful channels and more freedom of choice
and more diversity and more celebration
of the European culture. They didn’t believe me. They presigned an agreement. I was so worried because
if you are working in space – and we’ve seen that all tonight – you have a responsibility
to your fellow man. You have to make certain
that space is open for everybody. And so, I went to the press and I said:
“A cartel was trying to take over Astra.” The dodoo hit the fan.
(Laughter) And it kept on going until one year later, the chancelor of Germany called
the President of Luxemburg and said, “Who is this Candace Johnson?” And the President said,
“Well, why?” (Laughter) He said, “Because”
– and he was pretty sure that Leo Kirch was sitting
in the room with chancelor Kohl – “she is not letting
Mr. Kirch and his friends Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Berlusconi
take over the Astra satellite.” And Mr. Sander, the President, said, “Well, Miss Johnson has always defended
the independence of Luxemburg and the independence of Astra,
and we stand behind her.” I tell this story again because you can do
amazing things with satellites, and even one person can make a difference,
if they’re on the right side, if they have the force with them. (Laughter) I want to also talk a little bit
more about peace because in 1995 the Astra satellite became the first
occidental satellite to ever be launched on a Russian launcher. And you know, this was
an American satellite at that time, owned and operated by a European company,
being launched on a Russian launcher: first stage over Russia, second stage falling off over Siberia,
third stage over China, and it was really international peace,
like my dad had said it would be. If you’re number one,
it’s one thing to be number one, it’s another thing to stay number one. And so in 1997, I architected a system
that I was certain that nobody would ever take over Astra again
to become SES Global in 2001. We became the world’s
largest satellite system and we are still the world’s
preeminent satellite system. Over the years – I’m a satellady. I did mobile telecommunications
with Iridium, I did broadband internet
with Europe Online. But you know, you have to go on
and so I got into cyberspace. These are young women with Raspberry Pi
– all of you know about Raspberry Pi – learning how to code and program. And just recently, I was in Beirut. That’s the minister of education
showing the Raspberry Pi and they will now be going
into the Syrian refugee camps learning kids how to code and program, so they can get out
of those refugee camps. Two years ago, I told this story
and two young New Zealanders came up to me and said:
“Wow! Candace, that’s so neat. We are going to try and get some
satellite capacity on Australia to help us with our broadband internet
in New Zealand.” I said, “Don’t be ridiculous.
Do your own satellite.” They are 30 years old. We’ve created OWNSAT,
Oceania Women’s Network Satellite. It’s going to cover all of those islands
with KA band and focused beams from broadband internet
bringing Broadband PC’s, One Laptop per Child, eGovernment,
eHealth, you name it. Climate change. The climate is bringing
about terrible situations where we need to save lives. And I was on Tuesday in the United Nations speaking with the
small island developing states. Our satellite, Oceania Women’s
Network Satellite and Kacific, that is the satellite system
we will be using to save lives for the island developing states. I want to look just one minute
ahead in the future. I’m excited, I am working
on a system today that combines technology
from NASA and ESA. It’s the first ever optical
terrestial satellite system, and it’s combining the power of satellites
and the power of lasers. It will be offering a totally integrated global backbone network
for internet connectivity. And we are looking at basically
blanketing the Earth with broadband and maybe even connecting
to this Google Titan satellite as the backbone to spread WiFi
around the world. So, you can understand why I always have my little satellite dish on
my Christmas tree every single year. You’re all invited to come. (Laughter) And why children around the world
need satellites to dream and to do impossible things. Thank you so much. (Applause)

3 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *