2011 IAC South Africa – African Astronomy

South Africa from space - Cape of Good Hope

The International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is a coming together of international astronomers at a conference dedicated to educating, informing, and sharing information with space lawyers, engineers, astrobiologists, technicians, astrophysicists, astronauts, administrators etc. It is an exceptional opportunity not only to learn from some of the most famous and well-informed minds in the field but also to share in a world of possibility and discovery in astronautics and space engineering. Attending the IAC puts you at the forefront of something amazing because you get the rare opportunity to ask important questions of influential people with regards to space-faring, budgets, legalities, technicalities, and general queries. It puts you in the position to disseminate knowledge and possibly generate new ideas in the various branches of astronomy.

This is the 62nd IAC since its inception decades ago. Over the years it has been held in Prague, Korea, India, Spain, and many other countries from around the world have played host to this detailed conference, which involves a week of symposiums, lectures, exhibitions, plenary sessions, and keynote speakers. This is the first time it will be hosted in South Africa.

Not only is this the first time the IAC is going to be held on the African continent, it also coincides with the fiftieth year of human spaceflight, beginning on April 12th 1961 with the historic launch of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space.

South Africa has so much to offer the world in the field of astronomy. Our bid to host the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) has been placed and the Meer-KAT just captured its first ever image. Naledi Pandor, our science minister, has been taking great strides to put Africa on the technological map.

600 news sites have plagiarised the same shark attack story from all across the internet, but for some reason the ability to conjour up enough earnest excitement for something as historical as the IAC in South Africa, which is barely three days away, is just too much for SA journalists to research. Even IOL News, a news site on which I read everything with the utmost hesitance, along with News24, had a two paragraph article on the IAC in which it incorrectly stated that it ran from Monday to Wednesday. A simple visit to the home page of the IAC website shows that it runs from the 3rd of October to the 7th. Online journalism in SA seems far too focused on spammy news involving real-time updates and sensationalism, leaving science reporting in a shoddy state.

I am very fortunate to be living in Cape Town, the city where the conference is being held next week. If you are in SA and interested in attending but haven’t heard about it yet then here’s a quick rundown on what the IAC has to offer this year. Registrations are still open from physical locales though online registrations are currently closed. Mobile applications are available for free download from the site for Android, Apple, and Blackberry users.

I’m not going to post everything that the IAC has to offer this year since the list is far too expansive but these are some of the talks I’m going to try to make during the course of the conference. Some notable speakers include Bill Nye the Science Guy,  NASA administrators, current and past astronauts, and many familiar names and faces.

  • Behaviours, Performance and Psychosocial Issues in Space
  • African Space Leaders Round Table
  • From Space to Earth: Challenges and Opportunities
  • SETI Science and Technology
  • Impact of Satellite Communications in a Global Market: Future Direction in the 21st Century
  • Gravity and Fundamental Physics
  • Human Exploration in Deep Space
  • History of South African Contribution to Astronautics
  • 50th Anniversary of Manned Space Flight
  • Long-Term Scenarios for Human Moon/Mars Presence
  • SETI and Society
  • Astronauts: Those Who Make It Happen
  • Astrobiology and Exploration
  • Human Space Flight: Fifty Years in Orbit
  • Multilingual Astronautical Terminology (having completed my postgrad in Linguistics this is a lecture which I’m particularly excited about since it combines Linguistics and Astronomy, a rare combination)
  • Space Debris: a 50-year Retrospective and a Look Forward
  • Scientific and Technical History
  • Solary System Exploration

Check out the full IAC 2011 programme

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