European Interparliamentary Space Conference focuses on education

12 November 2013

Politicians from across Europe have gathered in Brussels for the 15th European Interparliamentary Space Conference. This year, the focus has been on space education as a means of preparing Europe’s next generation workforce.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano addressing parliamentarians

Space dominates our lives more than ever before. From global navigation and telecommunications, to Earth observation and the science of climate change, the use of satellites is inextricably woven into modern living. Yet, there is an increasing shortage of qualified young aerospace engineers and technicians. This is a gap that must be bridged.

Established in 1999, the European Interparliamentary Space Conference (EISC) fosters cooperation between European parliaments by providing a forum for an ongoing dialogue on space policy issues. It supports the efforts of national governments and the European Institutions with a view to developing a common European Space Policy.

Each year a different country assumes the presidency. This year it is Belgium, and the ambition of their presidency is to focus on students and their interest in space education. The goal is to better match space education with the challenging needs of space industry.

ESA's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain giving an opening speech

On 14-15 October, at the 15th EISC conference in Brussels, European parliamentarians came together to discuss how to interest upcoming talents into the space sector, and to share the success stories and best practices that have already been noted in this field.

In his speech to the EISC delegates, Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, said, “ Expertise is not in the books, expertise is not in the computers, expertise is not in regulations, expertise is with the people. People of ESA, people of industry, people of research organizations. Today we have the best people, but we have to maintain this expertise.”

ESA is resolute about being a model agency for clean, responsible and sustainable space activities. At the conference, the first EISC-ESA Space for Sustainability Award was presented.  The competition is open to students and young professionals under 30. This year, the prize was given to Maxime Puteaux, a student at the Institute of Space and Telecommunication Law (IDEST), Université Paris 11.

His proposal, Mars 4 Earth, seeks to kickstart innovative sustainability projects by discussing the requirements for the human exploration on Mars. This was motivated because such a mission would have to be entirely sustainable. So, he proposes that lessons in sustainable development on Earth can be taught by the discussion of space exploration. His prize is a flight to Kourou, French Guiana, in December to witness the launch of ESA’s Gaia mission.

ESA's astronaut Luca Parmitano talking to the delegates from the ISS

Speaking from the International Space Station, ESA’s Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano addressed the conference saying, “The support of national parliaments in education is essential because it ensures the future of Europe’s primary and main source of wealth, and that’s the knowledge society.”

He then sent a special message to young researchers in Europe: “Study hard, work hard and follow your dreams. Do what you love and love what you do because we need you. There is a lot more to discover.”

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