National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs
The National Space Symposium has been held annually in Colorado Springs, United States, for 28 years. DLR has been involved for much of this time, contributing aspects of its research and development, and progressing far beyond the role of an 'ordinary member'. A delegation from DLR attended this year's symposium, actively participating by giving talks and taking part in exhibitions.
The symposium was, for many years, more of an 'insiders' tip’ for foreign organisations. But its international focus has grown, with members from 24 countries, and it has developed into an annual crowd-puller for the aerospace community, especially the aerospace industry.
This year, DLR planned a great deal of participation in several areas:
Even before the symposium began, on the morning of 8 April 2013, I had the opportunity to engage in a brainstorming with the 'Young Space Leaders'. I followed up a brief talk on my ideas on the future positioning of aerospace with a call for 'reverse mentoring', an extremely exciting form of discussion that far exceeded the scope of a normal 'question and answer' session.
That afternoon, together with the Space Foundation, the symposium organisers, we initiated a round table on how to intensify German-US interaction within the aerospace sector. Interest was significantly greater than expected, and so the room we had been allocated proved to be far too small. Among other things, the agreement between DLR and the Space Foundation provides for the creation of a German-US dialogue platform with a view to strengthening industrial and scientific relations.
The German delegation was greeted with much interest, which continues to demonstrate the high esteem in which German aerospace in general, and DLR in particular, are held. In many bilateral meetings with protagonists from the world of US aerospace, not only were opinions and information exchanged, but approaches to intensify future cooperation were also developed. Talks with US delegates focused on how commercial developments are changing space transport, while discussions dealt with possible areas of cooperation. Meetings with representatives from the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) dealt with air traffic control in general, and future suborbital missions in particular.
DLR contributed to an exhibition showcased throughout the entire symposium. It presented cutting-edge topics that attracted numerous visitors, many of whom were impressed by the direct visualisation of laser communication and the fusion of radar and optical data.
In addition, the presentations held throughout the symposium provided an insight into the current situation of developments within the aerospace sector in a number of countries, the United States and Japan, especially.
I was able to address important questions about space in an introductory talk to a panel that brought together the heads of space agencies. The presentation centred on the motivation behind space activities. I advocated that, instead of seeking retroactive justification for the exciting projects and missions conducted by engineers and scientists, we should focus first of all on the why. This led to a discussion of the ‘Asteroid Lasso’ project, which Charlie Bolden, Head of NASA, had explained to me that morning during a long telephone conversation dealing with the situation concerning NASA's budget. What motivates United States citizens here is 'pioneering' and technology development.
This mission, which involves using a robot to 'capture' an asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit, and also includes a subsequent manned mission to the asteroid, will doubtless exert significant fascination, in particular due to the planned 'visit' by astronauts – the small size of the asteroid does not really justify using the word 'landing'. But it is the robotic part of the mission that focuses on the danger presented by asteroids, for which we are not yet sufficiently prepared, neither in terms of detection nor defence. NASA has great interest in German participation. Our expertise in robotics would prove a most effective contribution.
Top: Jan Wörner (DLR) and Elliot Pulham (Space Foundation)
Bottom: Panel discussion during the National Space Symposium
Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)