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ESA-sponsored students and staff at the IAC

ESA-Sponsored Students attended the IAC 2019

14/11/2019 1070 views 9 likes
ESA / Education / ESA Academy

One of ESA Education’s most prestigious annual conference sponsorships was recently awarded to 10 university students to attend the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which ran from 21 October – 25 October in Washington, D.C. 

The sponsored students, coming from eight ESA Member and Associate Member States, were not only offered the chance to present their individual research in technical sessions at the congress, but also the opportunity to take part in the ISEB Student Programme, entirely dedicated to them and organised by the International Space Education Board (ISEB).

The ISEB Student Programme is designed to supplement and enrich students’ experience at the congress, providing the opportunity to attend specialised events, presentations, panel sessions, and meetings with senior representatives, tailored to explore both educational and professional insights. 

ESA-sponsored students discuss with Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl
ESA-sponsored students discuss with Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl

The ISEB Student Programme commenced one day before the official start of the IAC congress, with a workshop on cross-cultural awareness in an international environment. In this workshop, the sponsored students from each ISEB agency met their peers from around the world and explored behaviour styles as a mechanism to better understand, respect and appreciate diversity. In addition to the workshop, the students attended a meet and greet session where they were introduced to the Heads of Education from each of the ISEB agencies. 

The first day of the IAC began with a congress-wide opening ceremony and lunch sessions presented by the ISEB students sponsored by ESA, CSA, VSSEC, and KARI. The session showcased work on an Artificial Neural Network for Near-Earth-Asteroid missions, by ESA-sponsored student, Giulia Viavattene, and information about an upcoming event in France on the theme of women in aerospace, by ESA-sponsored student, Priynaka Das. Monday also featured a highlight event of the programme, the Heads of Agency Interactive Session.  The session, which took place in the ISEB’s International Student Zone, offered sponsored students the opportunity to interact with the Director General of ESA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) President, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) President, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) Chairman, and the Head of the Australian Space Agency (ASA). 

The second day of the congress kicked-off with lunch sessions from the ISEB students sponsored by JAXA, NASA, UAESA, and CNES. Following these presentations, a Young Professionals Career Panel took place in the International Student Zone, co-coordinated by ISEB, SGAC, SEOC and YPP. After attending technical and plenary sessions in the afternoon, ISEB students attended a Networking Session with special guests, including senior NASA officials and astronauts. 

On day three of the IAC, the ESA students had the opportunity to meet with Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, President of the International Institute of Space Law, discussing the roles of governance and law in the future space sector. In addition to attending technical and plenary sessions, the students volunteered as session leaders for the STEM engagement days, which brought in approximately 700 local students to participate in STEM activities in the congress centre. In the evening, the ISEB students were invited to NASA Headquarters for the live taping of a special broadcast entitled “Space and STEM – How Do You Fit In?”. 

ESA-sponsored students and staff meet with Jan Woerner
ESA-sponsored students and staff meet with Jan Woerner

Thursday morning began with a breakfast meeting between the ESA-sponsored students and the ESA Director General, Jan Woerner, where engaging discussions covering a variety of topics were covered. The day continued with more technical presentations and STEM Engagement volunteering sessions. 

The final day of the IAC was filled with the last of the technical sessions and the IAC closing ceremony. To close-out the week, the ISEB students attended a tour of the DC monuments by night, and a visit to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to see the Discovery Space Shuttle.  The students were highly appreciative of their experience in Washington. Some of their thoughts are shared below:

"Presenting a paper at the 70th IAC in Washington D.C., I had the chance to discuss the most recent common research with leading experts and initiate several new-found prospects of collaboration. Participation in the ISEB programme as an ESA-sponsored student gave us the unique opportunity to meet heads of space agencies, astronauts, senior NASA and ESA staff, as well as interact with fellow students from the other ISEB member agencies. The experiences provided by the ISEB and ESA sponsorship programme nurtured my professional development and left me with a renewed perspective on this extraordinary industry.” -Shaun Andrews, UK

“ISEB 2019  is the unique opportunity every student involved in the space field is looking for. Thanks to ISEB I had the chance to join the IAC 2019 and to dive into an international and fresh environment. I received valuable technical feedback from experts and, most importantly, I felt part of the ESA family and the global space community. ISEB 2019 taught me that sharing ideas and experiences is the key to a fulfilling life from both the personal and professional viewpoint." - Riccardo Bisin, Italy

Esa-sponsored student presenting at a lunchtime session
Esa-sponsored student presenting at a lunchtime session

“Being part of the ESA-sponsored student group at the 70th International Astronautical Congress was a great honour and a distinct step forward in my personal and professional growth. The ISEB programme is an inspiring environment bringing nationalities together in order to expand professional networks and to interact with representatives from space agencies and industry. The event allowed me to discover a new world of opportunities and encouraged new friendships with students from around the globe. It was a truly amazing experience.” – Victor Hertel, Germany

“My time at IAC 2019 in Washington DC was outstanding. Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to connect and learn from professionals in industry and the public space sector. These experiences have reinforced my goal to continue pursuing a career in the Space Industry as a Satellite Missions Engineer. I am humbled to have been supported by the European Space Agency and the International Space Education Board; two organisations who continue to invest in students and young professionals.” – Lisa Drudi, Canada


The Student Programme is an initiative of the International Space Education Board (ISEB).  Founded in 2005, the ISEB now has ten members: the European Space Agency (ESA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), 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), the Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEM), and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA).

The 71st International Astronautical Congress will take place from 12 – 16 October 2020 in Dubai, UAE. ESA’s student sponsorship application will be announced in the first months of 2020. 

List of 2019 Awardees

Anastasia Tezari, Greece

Giulia Viavattene, Italy

Ignacio Dominguez-Adame Palomo, Spain

Ines Rivoalen, France

Lisa Drudi, Canada

Priyanka Das Rajkakati, France

Riccardo Bisin, Italy

Shaun Andrews, UK

Victor Hertel, Germany