October 28, 2011 Vol. 4, Issue 8
Leaders from Europe, Africa, and the United States talked about the future of space exploration at the 2011 International Astronautical Congress (IAC).
Two Masters with Masters events took place at this year’s IAC in Cape Town, South Africa. The events addressed the global emergence of space science and technology implementation and application, as well as important issues to developing and inspiring the next generation of explorers.
The “Space Africa” Masters with Masters featured Dr. Adigun Abiodun of Nigeria, who formerly served as Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses for Outer Space, and Dr. Peter Martinez, the division head for Space Science & Technology at the South African Astronomical Observatory and chair of the South African Council for Space Affairs. In a discussion facilitated by the NASA Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership Director Dr. Ed Hoffman, Abiodun and Martinez shared their insights on the continued development of Africa as a continent of space faring nations, current space application and astronomy projects in Africa, and the importance of inspiring the next generation of explorers at home and abroad.
“It doesn’t matter what you put in space if it doesn’t impact the people on Earth, on the ground. It has no meaning,” said Abiodun. He emphasized the importance of not only making space data available to Africans, but empowering and teaching its citizens how to use and engage with the data.
Martinez encouraged those who wish to get involved in space exploration to learn as much as they can in school, network with other space professionals, and be persistent. “Don’t be deterred by a lack of activity in your own country,” he said. “If there is not program in your own country, keep at it. You may well be the founding generation of space activity in your country.”
In a Masters with Masters geared towards young professionals, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, and German Aerospace Center (DLR) Chairman of the Executive Board Johann-Dietrich Wörner engaged in a conversation about today’s challenges with international cooperation, the role of strong relationships in successful collaborations, and advice to young professionals on career advancement.
All three leaders weighed in on the need to make the public case for the importance of space exploration. “One of the critical things in convincing anybody is performance,” said Bolden. “You establish a set of goals and objectives, lay them out, and then you actually deliver on that.” He pointed out that the multiyear nature of NASA programs and projects makes this challenging.
“You must always demonstrate what’s good for the nation not only to the politicians, but also to the public,” added Wörner. He and Dordain shared the success they had with 100,000 attendees at German Aerospace Day at DLR despite pouring rain.
“The government, they are working on a business case basis, while the public is not….They are reacting in terms of attractiveness, interest, even sometimes dreams. I have never seen a government [dream],” said Dordain. “Yes, we have to work with governments, but we also have to work on the public, because the public is an important part of the promotion of what we are doing.”
View the IAC 2011 program of events.