Students attend 62nd International Astronautical Congress in South Africa

17 October 2011

A selected group of European students participated in this year’s International Astronautical Congress (IAC) which took place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 3 to 7 October.

Sponsored by ESA’s Education Office in the framework of the International Space Education Board (ISEB), these students had the opportunity to attend one of the most important meetings held by the space community.

Preparing the students

Before leaving for South Africa, the selected students assembled at ESA’s European Space Technology Research Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, where they were given a tour of the test facilities. They visited a 1:1 mock-up of the Columbus module and took part in a 3D interactive tour of the ISS at ESA's Erasmus Centre.

Upon their arrival in Cape Town, an orientation day was organised on 2 October, giving the attendees the possibility to become acquainted. They took part in various activities, including an informal “Meet and Greet” with ISEB representatives and agency Heads of Education. During this session students asked questions and shared their views about their respective education and space programmes with senior agency representatives.

Consistent with this year’s IAC theme, ‘African Astronaissance’, students were then taken to a local museum-restaurant, where all participants greatly enjoyed African culture and food.

IAC Congress

ESA-sponsored students

The IAC Congress was held from 3 to 7 October. ESA-sponsored students presented papers in various technical sessions. During these sessions they learned about the current research status in their field while gaining insight into other students’ fields of research.

The regular programme of the Congress was complemented by a special Student Participation Programme composed of dedicated student sessions and activities. This Programme was organised by the ISEB which, this year, was chaired by NASA.

The International Student Zone (ISZ) was the focal point for student activities, providing an area for students to meet and interact with fellow students, young space professionals, and senior space agency representatives.

ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, met with the ESA-sponsored students and answered their questions regarding the European space sector and its development.

Senior representatives from each of the ISEB agencies introduced the students to a large range of space-related topics. ESA was represented by Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund, who gave a presentation entitled “Astrobiology: European space and ground-based research”, and Dr. Leopold Summerer, who presented “Future research and innovation in space”.

During a workshop dedicated to hands-on experience with educational activities, ESA’s sponsored students talked about their involvement in the BEXUS campaign.

Attending the IAC was a great opportunity for the students, who learned from leading scientists, engineers, and other young space professionals from around the world.

The 63rd IAC will be held from 1 to 5 October 2012 in Naples, Italy. ESA’s Education Office will announce sponsorship opportunities in the early months of 2012.


The 62nd International Astronautical Congress was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, Republic of South Africa. The conference theme was “African Astronaissance”. The event was organised by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).

The IAC Student Participation Programme is an initiative of the International Space Education Board (ISEB), established by ESA, NASA, JAXA, and with the participation of CNES and VSSEC. ISEB members sponsor students to participate in educational activities and programmes, in order to inspire young scientists and engineers and to ensure the long term availability of a well-qualified space workforce.

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