ESA sponsors students at the 64th International Astronautical Congress in China

ESA sponsored students with ESA representatives
11 November 2013

ESA's Education Office has once again provided students with a unique opportunity to attend the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), one of the leading events in the annual space calendar.

The activity is part of the Student Participation Programme organised by the International Space Education Board (ISEB) of which ESA is one of the founding members.

11 students from six ESA Member States and Cooperating States were sponsored to take part in the 64th IAC, which was held 23 – 27 September in Beijing, China. This year’s theme was “Promoting Space Development for the Benefit of Mankind”.

This year’s IAC was held in the China National Convention Centre in the heart of Beijing. Throughout the Student Participation Programme, dedicated lunch-time sessions for the students were held in the International Student Zone. Other special events and excursions were also organised. Meanwhile, they were able to follow the main IAC 2013 programme of specialist presentations.

The student programme began the day before the official opening of the IAC, with a meet-and-greet event at Beihang University, where they were introduced to the Heads of Education of the ISEB, as well as to each other, in an informal setting. Additional activities on 22 September included a tour of the Air & Space Museum.

On the first day of the conference, students had the unique opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with the ESA Director General, as well as with the Heads of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), NASA, South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC). The first question of the session was asked by Stefania Soldini, one of the ESA-sponsored attendees.

On the second day, the ESA students met Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johann Dietrich, Chairman of the DLR Executive Board. There was also an opportunity to hear presentations by students from the United States and South Korea.

Wednesday, 25 September was ESA day in the International Student Zone. ESA students met with ESA engineer Kjetil Wormnes to discuss space debris and later talked about space law and the political situation in the space sector with Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Head of the ESA Policies Department. Paolo Ferri, Head of the Mission Operations Department, from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre also gave a presentation about the Rosetta comet-chaser mission and six ESA-sponsored students presented their feasibility study of a spaceport for manned suborbital flight.

Students attending Q&A session

One of the last days of the student programme was dedicated to an outreach activity. Students sponsored by ESA and other ISEB agencies spent half a day at a local school in Beijing doing various activities with local children. The objective was to show the pupils the importance of nutrition and physical activity.

The students were highly appreciative of their experiences in Beijing.

“The IAC provided an opportunity for me to present my research in a technical session, and to have it peer reviewed following the presentation,” said UK student Andrew Wolahan. “Whether it was meeting Jean-Jacques Dordain, the Director General of ESA, Charles Boden, the current administrator of NASA, or climbing the Great Wall of China with an astronaut, the IAC has created some lifelong memories. Furthermore, through the various networking events organised by ESA, I found this sponsorship provided a perfect introduction into a career within the space industry.”                  

"My participation at the 64th IAC in China was a memorable and rewarding experience both professionally and personally,” said Canadian student Annie Martin. “I had the opportunity to share my research findings and enrich my thesis project. I also met inspiring panels of experts, including ESA employees who generously shared their knowledge with the group of ESA-sponsored students. IAC has also allowed me to briefly immerse myself in Chinese culture and learn about the local issues. A big thank you to ESA Education for this opportunity!"   

The IAC student participation programme is an initiative of the International Space Education Board (ISEB). Founded in 1999 by ESA, NASA, JAXA and CSA, the programme is now well established and it offers students interested in space a unique combination of special talks, discussions and networking opportunities in addition to the many technical sessions of the IAC itself.

Students selected by ESA were reimbursed for the IAC registration fee as well as travel and accommodation expenses. ESA also covered costs involved with the Student Participation Programme, e.g. the setting up of the International Student Zone (ISZ).

The 65th International Astronautical Congress will take place 29 September - 3 October 2014 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, Canada. An announcement about ESA sponsorship for students will be made in the spring of 2014.

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