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International Astronautical Congress 2012 Recap

Posted by Bill Nye

09-10-2012 23:42 CDT

Topics: Space Policy, personal stories, Bill Nye, Future Mission Concepts

Again this year I represented The Planetary Society at the International Astronautical Congress. This year, we met in Naples, Italy. This meeting brings together space scientists, rocket people, and spacecraft engineers from all over the world.

Italy from the International Space Station


Italy from the International Space Station

The days' events feature plenary sessions. The first day had the heads and the deputies of the world's space agencies seated together on stage taking questions from the audience. Listening to Jean-Jacque Dordain, Charlie Bolden, and Sergei Savliev, I just got the feeling that everyone would like a mission to Mars in 2018, the ExoMars spacecraft, but nobody is quite willing to pay for it. For us seeking answers to deep questions. This is a loss. One by one, the Mars exploring agency heads of NASA, ESA, and Roscosmos mentioned the budget tightening they're faced with. The exception was Yafeng Hu, the Chinese representative. He spoke as though his program was well funded and on track. As always, I feel there's a strong connection between investment in space and the success of a country's economy- rather than the other way around.

Meanwhile, I delivered our technical paper about our Living Interplanetary Flight Experiments (LIFE). Bruce Betts our Director of Projects did a great deal of the work on the paper. During my talk I pointed out how enthusiastic our members are for this kind of research. Although many experts made predictions about the status of living things sent on a round trip to the vicinity of Mars, no one knows what will happen. As the Boeing test pilot Tex Johnston remarked, "One test is worth a thousand expert opinions." So, our Shuttle LIFE test run, and the effort and spirit of the Phobos-LIFE mission, were applauded by the technical audience. Once again, thank you for your support. In response to a couple of questions, I discussed the possibility of sending one of the remaining LIFE biomodules to the Moon on a Lunar X-Prize spacecraft. We'll see.

I also moderated a panel discussion of the use of social media in space missions. Outlets like Facebook and Twitter are ideal of space agency Education and Public Outreach (EPO). That is kind of what many of us might expect. But the panelists pointed out the remarkable nature of multiple sources of information available for news of space events. If there is a meteor streaking through the skies of the United Kingdom, scientists can monitor Twitter and get a nearly complete assessment of its path, size, and composition. The aurora borealis was observed by hundreds of tweeters. Social media are being used to coordinate experiments on the International Space Station and to run whole rocket programs at universities. Those with the need to know what's going on, log on, provide the information they're responsible for, and stay connected to the team. All this in ways my father could imagine perhaps but not quite visualize. What a world.

I attended meetings of the Space Education and Outreach Committee and the World Space Week organization. We hope to become increasingly involved with these groups, as they are comprised of people with whom we have a great deal in common

There is a great deal of activity between meetings of course. I made connections with all sorts of people that we hope to work with in the near future. Thanks for supporting our participation in this planet-wide gathering.

See other posts from October 2012


Or read more blog entries about: Space Policy, personal stories, Bill Nye, Future Mission Concepts


Marcia: 11/08/2012 09:15 CST

I have always been an Astronomy fan long before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. My Ggrandfather came from Ireland to Matanzas, Cuba in the 1800's and brought back telescopes and books on the subject. Anyways, I truly hope that our, the U.S. space program will endure regardless of who is in office.... I've always felt that way. Also, I've always hoped that the private sector would have a say and hand on the subject. I hope they still can (tax withholding) :) We will be keeping watch of New Horizons as she makes her way towards Pluto, Charon and the rest of the moons as well as the Kuiper Belt objects still to be 'seen' and discovered. AD ASTRA!

logan garner: 12/20/2012 11:04 CST

Mr. Nye, I am going to be donating to the Planetary Society's advocacy efforts (I saw the link in Casey Drier's article), but not until after the holidays...budgeting issues of my own, don't you know. Thanks for all you do and for all that Planetary does! Logan Garner

Martin Haber: 01/16/2013 08:58 CST

Hi Bill. Hey, what's up with China? How come they are excluded from the International Space Station? We all (the whole world) need to work together in this thing. Can we see more co-operation with the Chinese, they seem to have the bucks to do research now.

James Wengert: 02/06/2013 05:50 CST

Dear Bill, I've been a member before you came on the scene.I was also a Fan of yours on Saturday mornings,with what I thought was the BEST science education program EVER on TV. We couldn't of picked a better CEO for the Planetary society in my mind. So I just wanted to say THANKS and I know we're in Great Hands.

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