In Berlin this week the International Space Station Symposium is being held. “The Symposium is expected to bring together representatives from the five ISS partner agencies, other space-faring nations, the international science community, space experts, astronauts, engineers and representatives from industry, academia and media,” reports the organizer. The last event of this kind was held quite some time ago.
Attendees were welcomed today by European Space Agency Director Jean Jacques Dordain. He aimed his remarks at the partnership of the International Space Station project saying, “we need to continue to work together and share the benefits” and that “we have made an irreversible step forward.” The later point with reference to the fact that the ISS has now been widely accepted and is widely known globally.
Dordain spoke about the competition that appears through the partnership, and why it stimulates more innovation and creates even more development. The first steps for the ISS were made in the 1980s and since that time, the project has grown and expanded. It is currently coming to the end of 2012 where the next steps for the ISS are expected to be laid. He expressed some fond views of the first Freedom /Mir projects 25 years ago that would ultimately set in place the current ISS. “We have crossed a lot of difficulties,” he said while speaking about 5 current partners including U.S., Japan, Europe, Canada and Russia.
In a light-hearted comment, Dordain said that Werner von Braun indicated that space flight solves two problems, namely, gravity and bureaucracy before presenting some of the benefits of ISS including:
- contribution to human health
- contribution to environmental efforts
- support for operational systems like ship tracking
- engineering knowledge and leadership
- providing information about our common living spaces
“Earth is not a closed system” and ISS can be seen as a step away from earth into the continuing or expanded system he hinted. He explained how ISS is leading the march to living and understanding beyond earth.
As ISS has now been fully developed for over a year, the attention of the partners is turning away from constructing the station to it’s utilization and development of partnerships that will use and innovate upon the platform. Dordain also pointed to the fact that at any given time, the 6 people within the station (more or less) were supported by over 6,000 people on earth – again directing attention to the economic benefits that space development entails.
Dordain also explained the need for developing shorter missions with respect to ISS, highlighting the fact that young people do not develop careers 30 years forward, but respect 5-10 year periods. Not said, but certainly on the minds of some, is the fact that if the ISS were stated to end, then no one would invest or work towards its objectives. Thus, we are really talking about moving forward with ISS, and it is only a matter of discussing how long the next phase will be.
The first days messages by others were also focused on developing higher utilization of ISS for product and services development and raising the possibilities for other partners to join the international effort.