The International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2018

by Inspire Space
Inspire Space checked out IAC 2018

This year the IAC took place in Bremen, Germany from 01 October 2018 – 05 October 2018. Once a year, generally around September/ October, the IAC is organised by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) together with the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL). The IAC is always hosted by one of the national society members of the IAF. The IAC is absolutely amazing, everywhere you turn there are amazing people you want to spend hours talking to. There are astronauts, policy makers, engineers, artists all under one roof and all with one thing in common: space! There were over 6,000 people in attendance, all experts in their field! Of those 6,000 people approximately 47% were young professionals, i.e. they were under 35. The IAC consists of three main elements:

1. Plenary sessions/ major talks
Plenary sessions and other major talks were held in a large auditorium. These were essentially talks or panel discussions on a range of general space interests. There were plenary sessions on monitoring asteroids, moon and mars exploration, digitisation of the space sector, space weather, among others. There were approximately 11 of these talks. On the final day October 5th, there was an announcement at one of these sessions that MASCOT lander (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) landed on the asteroid Ryugu successfully! MASCOT will inspect and take samples from the asteroid 1999 JU3 (discovered in May 1999, now known as Ryugu).

2. Technical sessions
Technical sessions are smaller talks or panel discussions that are on a specialised topic. There were technical sessions on space law and policy, satellite communications, sub-orbital flights, life support,  space debris, Earth observation data, blockchain, propulsion systems, deep space missions, microgravity science and much much more! In total there were 179 technical sessions, with 2,000 oral presentations over the five days. There were also 480 interactive sessions.

3. Exhibition hall
The exhibition hall is a space where space companies and countries can display what they are working on. There were approximately 119 exhibitions stands. There were stands from NASA, ESA, DLR, as well as stands from emerging space nations like Luxembourg and the UAE. You could walk around the exhibition hall and see rovers and robots in operation, as well as funny movements from people testing virtual reality technology.
There was no exhibition stand for Ireland, but there was a considerable cohort of Irish people in attendance! In particular the UCD EIRSAT-1 team spoke during the technical sessions.

The only annoying thing about the IAC is that there is so much going on simultaneously that you cannot physically go to everything so you really have to choose wisely where to spend your time! So if you are starting out your space career, in the midst of your space career, or just simply interested in space, the IAC is absolutely for you. The only downside is the cost – students and young professionals can get reduced rates but others have to pay the full cost. As such, it is advisable to book early to get the early bird rates! IAC 2019 will be in Washington DC!

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