The Lunar, Martian and Chinese missions on the program of the world’s largest space conference in Paris


The world’s largest space conference, which will bring together heads of space agencies, private space actors, engineers, scientists and astronauts, is due to open in Paris on Sunday.

The annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) provides insight into some of the latest exploration missions.

Under the theme “Space for all”, the event, organized by the International Astronautical Federation, takes place at the Palais des Congrès in Paris until next Thursday.

Last year’s IAC was held in Dubai, the first time an Arab country has hosted it since 1950.

The National explains what’s on the agenda for this year’s event.

Heads of space agencies

Heads of space agencies from China, the United States, India, Japan, Canada and Europe will present their priorities and highlight past achievements.

All but China and India are partners on the International Space Station.

China is building its own space station – the Tiangong – in low Earth orbit, with astronauts currently on board.

India plans to launch its astronauts on a domestically built rocket and spacecraft, and has already led a lunar mission that crash-landed on the lunar surface.

NASA launched the James Webb Space Telescope last year, built with its partners from the European and Canadian space agencies.

She is also attempting to launch Artemis 1, a test flight around the Moon but without a crew.

The leaders will hold a press conference after their roundtable.

No Russian participation

The current agenda does not indicate any participation from the Russian space agency Roscosmos or Russian private companies.

Last year, Dmitry Rogozin, then director of Roscosmos, spoke on the “Heads of Space Agencies” panel and answered questions from the media.

Yury Borisov has since taken over the role.

Relations between Europe and Russia in space have collapsed since the invasion of Ukraine.

This year, the European space agency severed ties with Russia as part of a Mars mission they were working on together.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos has withdrawn its Soyuz rockets and personnel from a European spaceport in French Guiana.

Russia plans to leave the ISS during this decade and build an independent one.

China to unveil future plans

China’s space agency – the China National Space Administration – will share plans and opportunities for cooperation in its lunar and space exploration program.

China is fast becoming a global space power, having completed a Mars orbit and landing mission, building its independent space station in low Earth orbit and with plans underway to develop an international lunar research station.

It aims to conduct planetary exploration programs, including asteroid sampling, exploration of main-belt comets, return of samples from Mars, and exploration of the Jupiter system.

NASA and private companies

Engineers will meet to discuss the achievements of the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful in the world which took more than two decades to build.

NASA will discuss the Moon to Mars goal, a plan that aims to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon and then launch astronauts to Mars from the lunar surface.

Climate change will also figure prominently in discussions at this year’s IAC, as many parts of the world have experienced severe heat waves and extreme weather so far this year.

Private companies such as Blue Origin, Axiom Space, Lockheed Martin, Nanoracks and Airbus will also participate in the event.

Most will talk about the future of low Earth orbit over the next decade as companies try to commercialize it.

United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and the Saudi Space Commission will participate.

Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in its space program, with plans to explore the Moon and Mars. Events like this provide emerging space nations like Saudi Arabia with a platform to seek out potential partnerships and strike deals.

The UAE is also expected to announce new partnerships at this year’s IAC.

Signatories to the Artemis Accords will meet

Countries that have signed the Artemis Accords – a US-led international agreement that outlines responsible space exploration – will meet for the first time at the IAC.

So far, 21 members have signed, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Stunning images from the James Webb Space Telescope – in pictures

Updated: September 15, 2022, 7:45 a.m.


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