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Rainer Sandau: Towards a New Era of International Space Cooperation

Rainer Sandau

Technical Director, Satellites and Space Applications of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA)


Audio (mp3):




Towards a New Era of International Space Cooperation

Good afternoon. First I want to thank Mme. Helga Zepp-LaRouche for inviting me to give a talk about a topic which is close to my heart, but probably not that well-known to you. And you will see there are some good connections to the overall theme of this conference, at the end of my talk.

So, this talk was prepared together with Jean-Michel Contant; you will see him in some of the pictures. And first I want to talk about who we are, and what we do; and then what we changed to do better and more of. The Academy was founded in 1960, by Theodore von Karman. He is probably known to you as one of the space pioneers leading the GALCIT project in Pasadena, now JPL. And it is an international community of individuals, 1,200 active leading experts and 1,700 from 89 nations; recognized by the UN in 1996, and the membership is based on strong competition, so it’s not easy to join.

The aims of IAA are:

* Foster the development of astronautics for peaceful purposes;

* Recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves in space science or technology;

* Provide a program through which members may contribute to international endeavors;

* Promote international cooperation in the advancement of aerospace science

And I want to stress the fact that it’s an association of individuals. They can live their dreams and work on subjects which are not maybe in the interest of the entities they come from, in industry or organizations or so on; they are really free to work as individuals.

Leadership is through a high ranking Board of Trustees, for instance 11 heads or former heads of space agencies are involved in that board of trustees. They do have six commissions covering all aspects of space activities, basic science, engineering science, life science, social sciences. And it offers the missing fora where the best experts in all domains can meet, get to know each other and exchange their opinions. And that is really true, I can assure you.

We do have regional secretariats in 30 regions, one of them in Syria. In Syria, we have a regional secretary, Dr. Hussein Ibrahim, who was a former general director of the General Organization of Remote Sensing. And it’s not well known, but Syria had a cosmonaut in space, and had a good space program, but nowadays, of course, it’s a problem. And he’s still a good friend of mine, but he couldn’t come to Germany in the last years, because of visa problems. He obviously does not belong to the group of people which Madame Merkel invited to come to Germany, so he was always refused a visa.

Mme. Shaaban talked about these interesting, historical sites in Syria. And it crossed my mind that when I was first in Syria I was brought to that site, and I was excited about the history and the architecture. And I made a proposal at that time, 15 years ago, to use remote sensing techniques and information technology techniques, to make that site, the experience, available to people outside of Syria, in an adapted way and an interactive way. So I have some good connections to Syria, as well.

Now, some glimpses of who is a member, and I selected some pictures which show the first ones: the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin is a member of our Academy. By the way, that is the Secretary General of our Academy.

The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. The first space walker Alexei Leonov. The first U.S. satellite Explorer I, with the IAA Academicians, William Pickering, James van Allen, and Wernher von Braun. They are all Academy members.

The first man on the Moon was Neil Armstrong, and here is Buzz Aldrin. It’s close to 50 years ago! Imagine that! Fifty years ago we went to the Moon, and it’s an object of dreams.

The first world record we have in space, was one and a half year, Valeri Polyakov. And of course, connected with the Silk Road, Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut, or taikonaut as they call it.

So, we deal with studies and conferences: 18-20 IAA standalone conferences yearly. We have some glimpses here from Beijing, Bangalore, Moscow, and Fukuoka; in Berlin, as well, conferences. We have 42 studies in preparation. What you see here is what’s already printed, dealing with different space-related subjects. We have been a publishing house since 2012, with a book series connected to small satellites, programs, missions, technologies, and applications, to remote sensing of the Earth system, including science, technology, and applications, and proceedings of IAA conferences.

We have a space dictionary, free to be used. The last two contributions are in Gaelic and Afrikaans, always in connection with English, French and German.

And at our 50th anniversary, we decided to do something different, or something more, not just the academic activities, but to give the public a larger output from our activities, so, we decided to build up a summit, a summit of the heads of space agencies, discussing about possibilities in cooperation in four subjects: human space flight, planetary robotic exploration, climate change/green systems, and disaster management/natural hazards.

And the background for these themes and for these initiatives that there are many current cooperation are aging: ISS was initiated 20 years ago, with only eight countries. At that time. only half of the current space agencies existed; more than half did not exist.

Russia and the U.S.A. cannot taxi any longer exclusively to space, and little cooperation with new space emerging countries have been established, by far not enough.

So the question now was, during that summit, how to balance new aspirations and challenge-solving with existing programs, budgets, and national interests, and needs? They are very different, from big countries to the emerging countries. How to cooperate with a large number of partners? How to build confidence, trust, transparency? How to share best practices? And how to ensure the safe and responsible use of space?

So the Academy is just a kind of catalyst. We are not the executive, we can just bring people together and try to have them work together. But we are trying to work on concrete projects, studies and pilot projects, in the four areas I mentioned before, to prepare space cooperation for the new generations. You know, that’s a cultural change. The situation we are facing right now is inherent in us, so we cannot jump over our shadows, but we have to prepare for the future.

So, here is the historic 30 heads of space agencies in Washington, in November 2010, in relation to our 50th anniversary, and you see people sitting there, side by side and giving their agreement to the big idea of cooperation.

Here you see a glimpse and the flavor of the spirit in that conference. The Vietnamese Pham Anh Tuan shaking hands with Charlie Bolden, the big guy; that wouldn’t happen before. I hope it’s an indication of what will happen in the future.

So the goal of this summit was to reach a broad consensus on international cooperation at the highest level, and encourage new, concrete initiatives of cooperation in the four areas I mentioned before. And these four areas have been prepared in IAA studies before: You see here, for instance, the study is Space-Application in Climate Change and Green Systems: The Need for International Cooperation. And this is also true in the other three areas, for instance, Future Planetary Robotic Exploration: The Need for International Cooperation; Future Human Spaceflight; Space-Based Disaster Management.

These are broad themes. They have to be broken down to tasks which can be acted on, from both sides, the big guys, the smaller guys, and really task-relevant things have to be thought in a form that can be worked on. So this prioritization was done in 2011, and then we have a Steering Group and Coordination groups for all the four different topics I mentioned before, and we are now in the phase of concrete actions. And we are discussing now with 40-plus space agencies to make it happen.

There are a couple of follow-on conferences, meetings, in 2012 for instance, in Kiev, Mysore, Naples. In Naples, for instance, there were 14 heads of space agencies meeting and talking about specific topics.

And the recent milestones, we had was on more specific topics. We have four main topics, and these four main topics are for different kinds of agencies. I mean, the developing countries are not that much involved right now in robotic missions and human space operation. But climate change and disaster management is a topic. So the first milestone was in January 2014, related to Planetary Robotic and Human Spaceflight Exploration, in Washington, again. And that was the occasion where I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet Mme. Helga Zepp-LaRouche for the first time, personally.

So that is a glimpse on the situation there. These are all heads of space agencies, meeting and working together, at least, talking together. The working together is still a phase — it’s in the implementation, but it takes some time to make it really happen, and you know, everybody has his own budget, his own ideas, his own focus points, so that needs to be aligned and synchronized and so on; it takes time. But it’s underway.

The second milestone for the two remaining parts, climate change and disaster management, took place in September in Mexico City, in Mexico, and this process is going on, discussing with more than 40 heads of space agencies, and breaking it down to the working level.

So, to conclude: IAA is a unique elite body, to be a catalyst for new scale cooperation, “Together to Space, To Enrich All on Earth.” And the intention is to convince political decision-makers, to imagine space cooperation for the new generations needs; to conclude and release new reports; to make concrete proposals that the Summit follow-on can leverage.

And I’m convinced that this topic fits pretty much into the thematic of this conference and I hope I could give you an insight into what’s going on in that area, space area, which is for most people on Earth, a more exotic one. But it’s not exotic, it’s our daily life which is connected to space, and you don’t even know what’s going on and what you use from space. And I hope I could convey to you, at least the idea of peaceful cooperation and bring a positive point to this discussion, after the mainly not so good results we have heard about in Syria, and other countries right now.

Thank you very much.

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