ESA-sponsored students at the International Astronautical Congress in Canada
As in previous years, ESA’s Education Office provided 13 European students with the unique opportunity to attend one of the most important events in the annual space calendar - the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which was held in Toronto, Canada, from 29 September to 3 October.
The university students from six of ESA’s Member States were sponsored by ESA not only to participate actively in the IAC technical sessions where they got to present their own projects and research, but also to take part in the IAC Student Participation Programme organised by the International Space Education Board (ISEB), of which ESA is one of the founding members.
This programme, entirely built around the students, offers special presentations and events, as well as meetings with senior representatives of space agencies during which any topic, from career advice to current space-related issues, can be openly discussed. The students have the unique opportunity to be directly exposed to the professional experience and opinions of the leading decision-makers of the world space sector and, by interacting with them, can gain valuable and important educational insights.
The student programme began the day before the official opening of the IAC, with a meet-and-greet event, where the students participated in a cross-cultural workshop and mixed with fellow students from around the world. The students were introduced to each other, as well as to the ISEB Heads of Education.
On the first day of the conference, the students had the unique opportunity to participate in a question and answer session, organised especially for them, with all the Heads of the space agencies that are members of ISEB.
Among the interesting questions asked by ESA-sponsored students, was the one asked by Fabio Ferrari (Italy), to NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden regarding his main concern for the future of aerospace. This triggered an interesting discussion about the role of space agencies, privatisation, international collaboration, and challenges that the younger generations in the space sector need to tackle.
On the second day, the ESA students had yet another opportunity to discuss current space-related topics when they met ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain. The future of space industry in Europe turned out to be the main theme of the discussion.
The student participation programme continued with a second cross-cultural workshop, aimed at providing students with useful tips for good communication, followed by a student networking night, where they got to know one another and the ISEB Heads of Education better.
Wednesday was the day when ESA experts Andrea Accomazzo and Arvind Parmar gave their presentations on “Rosetta Operations at the Comet” and “The ESA Cosmic Vision Programme”. Six ESA-sponsored students also gave a presentation on their technical project.
In the afternoon, the students met with Harald Posch, Chair of the ESA Council, and with Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Head of ESA Relations with Member States Department. The discussions ranged from career paths and guidance to the current issues of space debris and clean space.
A similar opportunity for discussion arose the next day, when the ESA students had a breakfast meeting with Prof. Jan Wörner, Head of DLR. The main topic during this meeting was leadership. The group compared and discussed different types of leadership techniques, followed by an exciting exchange of opinions on space ethics and human missions to Mars.
The last day of the IAC included outreach activities with local schoolchildren at the congress. This activity provided the ESA-sponsored students with a chance to play the role of space ambassadors with the younger generation, using their own study path and passion for space as an inspirational and educational trigger for young children.
ESA-sponsored student Dorina Antoni (Greece) said: “The IAC 214 student programme was a very inspirational event, gathering distinguished authors on space law, prominent scientists, and most importantly students from all over the world and various fields who share the same passion, space. I am grateful to ESA’s Education office for giving me this unique opportunity.”
“During my experience at the 65th IAC in Toronto I had the chance to meet young researchers and experienced professionals, to discuss common research topics with them, and to learn from their work,” said Fabio Ferrari.
“In addition, my participation in the ISEB programme as an ESA-sponsored student gave me the unique chance to meet the Heads of the major space agencies and to interact with them on many different topics related to the world of space industry and research. To me, being part of the ESA group represented a great and unique experience which fostered my professional and personal growth.”
The student participation programme is an initiative of the International Space Education Board (ISEB). Founded in 2005, the ISEB now has nine members: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the French Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), Australia’s Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC), the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEM).
The 66th International Astronautical Congress will take place from 12 to 16 October 2015 in Jerusalem, Israel. ESA’s student sponsorship will be announced in the spring of 2015.