IAC Day One – We Have A Space Agency!

Christopher Miller with Curiosity Rover
Have you seen my Cat?

The first day of the International Astronautical Congress has passed, and what initially shocked me the most about the conference has now turned into a different feeling. There are about 3500 delegates at this conference, which was most clear during the opening ceremony. The auditorium for the opening ceremony was absolutely enormous – so large that a person presenting at the front appeared no larger than my thumb held at arm’s length from where I sat near the back. Expansive monitors were required to get a good look at the performances and the speakers.

ISS Model
Someday I’m gonna buy my mama a place like this

I entered the auditorium somewhat early, when about one third of the seats were taken. While I knew the number of delegates attending the conference beforehand, seeing them filter in ahead of the opening ceremony and rapidly fill up all available seats was what truly allowed me to understand the size of the number. Indeed, there were so many that many delegates sat in the aisles – not something OH&S would be too thrilled about!

The opening ceremony was marked by spectacular performances and inspiring speeches. However, each of these paled in comparison to the announcement of a national space agency for Australia by the Honorable Simon Birmingham. A cheer rose at this, its volume and length surpassing those one might hear at the cricket. The sheer joy in the delegates’ surrounded us and, for a moment, bound us together as one.

IAC pannel
The judges are set

Afterwards, a break session began, which I spent well collecting colourful brochures from various organisations, such as ArianeSpace and Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited. This was followed by the Heads of Agencies plenary talk, the topic of which was “Business before Science or Science before Business”. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the undoubtedly interesting plenary talk as I had to make time to practice my own presentation, which I gave at the Space Exploration Overview session. My presentation’s topic was on how it was becoming easier for small organisations to send up small spacecraft, such as CubeSats, to explore the solar system. Despite some nerves, I’m happy to say that I absolutely nailed it.

Taofiq Huq at the IAC2017
Taofiq presenting his work on CubeSat Exploration of the Solar System

As the day progressed in this manner, my awe at the number of attendees progressed into, as I mentioned earlier, a different feeling. This new feeling was awe at myself and my fellow members of GreenSat. The 3500 delegates of the International Astronautical Congress can be considered 3500 of the most prominent members of the global space industry, and here we were, a small subset of a student projects society among them!

By the end of the day, rather than thinking of 3500 as a large number, I began to think on how tightly this number constrained the size of the global space industry. There are obviously tens, if not hundreds of thousands who are directly involved with the space industry globally, but only 3500 of these came to the IAC. And to think our group makes up 10 of this distinguished 3500! It’s truly incredible that we’re able to be here today.

Christopher Miller with Curiosity Rover
Have you seen my Cat?
Author: Taofiq Huq

Taofiq is a PhD researcher and Aerospace Engineering graduate at UNSW Sydney. He has presented research at the Australian Space Research Conference in 2015 and 2016 in the area of deep space CubeSats. Taofiq's key interests are solving problems on Earth using CubeSat based systems and democratising access to interplanetary space.

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