The 2014 International Astronautical Congress

The 2014 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) was held from this past Wednesday (October 1st, 2014) to Friday (October 3rd, 2014). A few Orbit members were in attendance:

20141002_180206[1]From left to right: Evan, Obada, Sebastian, Hyun

IAC  is one of the world’s largest aerospace conferences, and it was an amazing opportunity for all the attendees to meet and network with industry professionals. Some topics discussed at the conference include:

  • Space exploration

  • Space science

  • Space life sciences

  • Space debris

  • Applications and operations

  • and many MANY more.

Since I myself was not there (I wish I was, but midterms are too brutal!), Evan was kind enough to share his experience.

Hyun and I finished class on Wednesday evening.  I worked on some applications to the PAF for sponsorship and then headed directly to the airport.  Our flight left at 10:30pm and landed in Toronto at 6:00am.  I took the metro to my hostel, checked in and headed directly to the IAC, where we met Obada and Sebastian.  Sebastian had let no time go to waste: he had already discussed the potential for an internship with 3 different companies who had been enthusiastic about having him next Summer.
I slept for about 2 hours on the plane, but that was it.  I’d slept for 2 hours of the past 26 and counting, but I couldn’t let time go to waste.  It was precious and it was ticking.  The first discussion I went to was about Robotics and the role of robots in our achieving human objectives.  I listened to a speaker from Japan talk about a set of robotic arms that would function like Dr. Octopus from Spiderman and a scientist who gave a solid presentation about tires that were designed to function under the gravity and terrain conditions of the moon.  The presentation was impressive.  But when one of the old timers – like, veteran, expert scientists – came up and asked him a question “did you consider the force that would be applied to the wheel when the vehicle is turning” the speaker sheepishly responded “no, I did not consider that”.  Ouch.  All that time and energy invested into research and an industry expert spots a big flaw upon first hearing about the project.  One of the hosts tried to defend the speaker by suggesting the turning point was insignificant, but the older Italian man said that it was indeed significant, because mass is the main factor at low gravity, a vehicle travelling at 10 mph jumps around like a race car travelling at 200 mph.
A few other questions were asked by representatives from big name companies like Lockheed Martin, and the old Italian man gave a very cool presentation on a vehicle he and a team of young students were working on. I then moved on to another topic: Space Law.
I was fascinated by how unregulated global laws are for information sharing form satellite technology.  I shouldn’t be that surprised, with all the leaks of celebrity nudes on the internet photos, it’s quite clear that nothing is ‘safe’.  But what’s amazing about data-like communication technologies is that they’re so powerful.  Just like international law, there’s no one to enforce decisions that are made.  But it’s surprisingly difficult for space committees and organizations to come to a collective agreement.
After hearing about law, the guys and I went out for lunch, collected our bearings, laughed a lot, and went back for round two.  Obada and I watched a few lectures of people outlining missions they were designing to explore neighbouring moons and planets.  It was like hearing about the wild west: we are surrounded by unexplored space – jam packed with mystery. For example, we can hardly understand the geological compositions of our neighbouring planets and respective moons.  Some of the presentations involved a scientist saying things like “we think that this moon on our neighbouring planet might have water.  If we land on its surface and drill, then we will know” or “if we land on Venus and run tests, we will know more about its geological composition, then better understand earth”.  I was just thinking, in 50 years, we’re going to be looking back and laughing at how much of our knowledge about space was just a guess – and how many of those guesses were ‘wrong’.  Talk about opportunity.
At the end of the day, the four of us had dinner, laughed a lot, and talked about the future.  We were within walking distance to the hostel I was staying at, and the places that the guys were staying at, so we walked home.  I worked on more applications for sponsorship/funding, then went to sleep, so I could balance out the absurd ratio of hours I’d been awake to hours I’d been asleep.  I’d slept 2 hours of the past 40.  Falling asleep when my head hit the pillow was a dream come true.  Literally.
After passing out and sleeping through 2 alarms, I woke up and repeated it again.  Except today, instead of attending two or three different seminars, Hyun and I attended 9.  We learned a little bit about as many things as we could, and we would discuss what we had heard on our walks from lecture to lecture.  I was thankful, because his understanding of the subject matter helped him a lot more from each presentation than I did.  But he would share his perspective and teach me about the bigger picture of every single one of them.
We met up with Obada at lunch time; we went to the same restaurant and decided to make a video for the club instead of attending lectures for the final segment of time.  When Hyun first pitched the idea the thought that ran through my mind was simple: “Fuck”.  We were so sleep deprived and I was afraid that I wouldn’t do a good job in sharing our experience.  But Hyun had been working harder and sleeping less than any of us.  He was leading by example, and it was a perfect example of why I respect him enough to follow.  It would be far from perfect, but it would be a whole lot better than no video.  We took a few minutes to map out how we’d film it and went to work.  We had no rehearsal or practice run throughs.  When the camera man said “action”, he meant it.  We didn’t have sleep or preparation.  What we did have, was fun. If we’d hesitated, we would have missed our opportunity.  People were literally rolling up carpets as we finishing up the video.
When I realized how narrow the window of opportunity was, but that we had succeeded I was so relieved.  We were going to this event on behalf of the club.  It didn’t matter how sleep deprived we were, if we didn’t make the video because we were lazy or “didn’t feel like it” the information and atmosphere would be lost.  We succeeded, watched one final lecture, and the event was over.
What an experience.

 Written by Evan Parrish

Edited by Angela Cheng

 

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