The Next Golden Age of Human Space Flight.
“Integration and Cooperation in the Next Golden Age of Human Space Flight" was the focus of the recent 18th International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Humans in Space (HIS) Symposium. The event was held in Houston at the Westin Galleria Hotel, April 11-15. NASA and the University of Houston co-hosted the weeklong conference, which drew more than 500 researchers and space industry professionals from around the world.
Health and Human Performance Professor William Paloski played a major role in the months of planning that went into the successful forum that addressed subjects such as space technology and habitats, space medicine, education and outreach, and commercial space flights. He served as chair of the scientific organizing committee, and was co-chair with Dr. John Charles (NASA Johnson Space Center) on the local organizing committee.
“The whole reason for having meetings like this,” Paloski said, “is to keep the communications among space life scientists from the world’s space-faring nations moving along.” Because the need for global integration and cooperation is vital for the future of space flight, the organizers restructured the traditional conference organization to enhance a broader dialogue across disciplines.
(From left) HHP faculty Dr. Mark Clarke, NASA Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats,
UH President Dr. Renu Khator and HHP Chair Dr. Charles Layne at the 18th IAA Humans in Space Symposium.
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In past HIS Symposia, multiple scientific sessions were usually scheduled concurrently, with 10-minute oral presentations given by scientists to small groups of other scientists having specific interest in the narrow topic of the session. In Houston, oral presentations were limited to morning plenary sessions covering topics of general interest to all attendees.
Afternoons were reserved for detailed presentations of new scientific findings. Instead of 10-minute talks to small groups, participants presented their work on posters that were displayed in a large hall during the entire week. Each day had a different research theme and investigators from multiple scientific disciplines were available at specific times to explain their work.
“The advantage of a poster session is that you can actually get conversations going and establish connections and discuss collaborations during the course of the entire conference,” according to HHP Professor Richard Simpson. The weeklong poster presentations provided time for him to make important contacts with space life scientists from Russia and the U.S. as well as immunologists from Germany.
Paloski also noted a continuum across generations that the symposium created in order to encourage younger generations to begin participating in the next golden age as well as to recognize contributions from the previous generations of veterans in human space flight.
The symposium’s International Youth Art Competition was for students from 10-17 years of age with multimedia categories. Winning art and selected pieces were displayed in various media during the symposium, including a reception attended by some of the artists and their families.
There was also a student poster competition for those in graduate programs who are interested in pursuing careers in space life sciences. Senior investigators judged the submissions and gave awards to the top five chosen as most outstanding.
During the week there were two special panel sessions commemorating historical milestones in human space flight. One panel convened on April 12 to mark the 50th anniversary of the heroic first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. The other convened on April 14 to mark the 30th anniversary of the first landing of the U.S. Space Shuttle Mission STS-1, which culminated its successful two-day inaugural flight with a spectacular piloted landing on the dry lake bed at Edwards Field, CA on April 14, 1981.
Special evening events included dinner at the Houston museum of Natural Sciences followed by an exclusive presentation of the Hubble 3D IMAX movie with live comments from Dr. John Grunsfeld, one of the astronauts featured in the movie. VIP seating was provided for the annual Rockwell Lecture on the UH campus, which was presented by well-known astrophysicist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. At the gala banquet, eight new members were inducted into the IAA in recognition of their contributions to space life sciences throughout their distinguished careers.
Paloski hopes that attendees walked away “not only with the latest global developments in their own areas of expertise, but also having learned some new things about Houston, UH, and some of the broader challenges we face as we enter into the next golden age of human space flight.”