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Conferences: Spaceflight Conferences in the Era of COVID

9 Nov 2020 10:01 AM | Brett Bennett (Administrator)

Conference season is upon us! Organizations including the International Astronautical Federation, AIAA, and the Department of Defense have been hard at work in recent months developing plans for the delivery of their regular conferences in an environment that does not allow face-to-face interaction. Planning for and executing a high-quality event during any other year is large enough of a task; accounting for a worldwide pandemic while continuing to ensure the advancement of key initiatives in spaceflight is a substantial undertaking. And, as highlighted below, three key organizations have excelled in meeting the challenge to showcase the latest advancements in space flight across the globe.

Photo Michael Gallagher, 2018

While a significant portion of the infrastructure that enables these annual conferences was already based on digital platforms, administrators and steering committees have needed to balance the disadvantages of a virtual conference (e.g., lack of in-person networking) with providing researchers and thought leaders a forum for continued conversation. Importantly, a key effect of the switch to virtual conference platforms is a reduction in price and the associated increase in attendance, with the capacity to accelerate involvement and advancement of key initiatives.

Here is a cross section of this season’s major conferences and their efforts to continue to advance spaceflight initiatives amidst major COVID-related concerns.

International Astronautical Congress, October 12-14, 2020

The International Astronautical Federation was founded as a global body for space advocacy and coordination, and reaches across academic, commercial, and governmental sectors to encompass proceedings in all major areas of astronautics. The IAC provides a unique combination of international collaboration and depth to their annual conferences, as well as the opportunity to present amongst many other field leaders.

At this year’s congress, the IAC has maintained all of the core meetings of a regular IAC, including the Plenary Program, Global Networking Forums, Technical Sessions, Special Sessions, and a virtual Exhibition. Major highlights include:

  • 10/12: A panel of the heads of national space agencies and NASA’s Human Exploration Directorate

  • 10/13: Insights on public/private partnerships and Artemis international collaboration

  • 10/14: Plans for a new era of commercial spaceflight as well as the launch of worldwide missions to Mars in the 2020s

Register and attend here.

AIAA ASCEND, November 16-18, 2020

AIAA, as a national organization founded in collaboration, recognized the need for a conference that would be innovative and multidisciplinary by nature, with the goal to inspire and provide technical expertise for the advancement of spaceflight.

AIAA launched the ASCEND conference in 2020, and had originally planned a standard conference for November. The lineup of speakers and content planned for the conference reflects ASCEND’s goal of a global and interdisciplinary approach to solving some of the key questions for planned spaceflight capabilities. Major highlights include:

  • 11/16: Plenary discussions on space economics and sustainability

  • 11/17: Keynote on plans for human exploration in the coming decades beyond LEO

  • 11/18: A technical session as a primer on cognitive assistants for flight crew

  • Technical and interactive sessions throughout

Register here.

NASA HRP IWS, January 25-28, 2021

The purpose of NASA’s Human Research Program is to address key concerns for human health and performance, as anticipated for various mission profiles. HRP partners with universities and businesses to research and provide solutions to gaps in the Human Research Roadmap, ultimately buying down the risk for human missions of increasing complexity and duration. Importantly, NASA and its partners thrive on innovative solutions to key issues, a trend which we can expect to continue in a virtual version of the event.

The 2021 Investigators' Workshop Series agenda has not yet been released, but will likely include keynotes from breakthrough researchers as well as a wide range of the newest research addressing core elements of the Human Research Roadmap. Some of the newest researchers, postdocs, and companies will also be highlighted.

Photo Brett Bennett, 2020

Find out more here.

As key annual events in the human spaceflight environment, these conferences provide critical forums for the presentation of the state-of-the-art in spaceflight innovation and development. Join our membership to connect with us at these events and to continue learning more about how we can advance human spaceflight.

Association of Spaceflight Professionals

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