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Interview with ZARM about the preparations for the International Astronautical Congress (IAC)

Flyer of IAC 2018

Between October 1 and 5, the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) takes place in Bremen. It is organized by the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) of the University of Bremen. We spoke to Annika Teubner from the ZARM about the preparations for the IAC.

How are the preparations coming about, Ms. Teubner? And what is your area of responsibility?

As it is only one more week before the IAC 2018 in Bremen begins, preparations are running at full blast. The overall plan has been devised a long time ago, so it is now our duty to put together and coordinate all the small details. As far as we can tell at this point, however, the IAC will allow for a myriad of opportunities and will hopefully remain in great memory for all its participants.

I myself am in charge of the IAC’s public relations and all outreach activities, such as the “Teen Spirit for Space” student congress and the program for the general public. In total, however, we are a team of about fifteen people, who are all working on making the IAC 2018 in Bremen a wonderful event.

In what way exactly is the focus at this event on the general public? What will the citizens of Bremen notice about the congress?

This year’s motto of the IAC is #Involving Everyone. On the one hand, this motto refers to the participants of the IAC by placing a focus on more diversity, for example by offering childcare services for young families and by demanding an increased consideration for female key speakers from the scientific program committee. On the other hand, the motto refers to the inclusion of the general public. This is why there will be a public day on October 3. On that day, between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., the congress will open its doors to the 10,000 m² exhibition free of charge for all those interested. Not only our Team Germany Partners – the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Airbus, OHB, the ArianeGroup, MT Aerospace, and the city of Bremen as an aerospace location – but also many large space agencies, such as ESA, NASA, ASI, CNES, and JAXA. The University of Bremen will present its aerospace master degrees at a stand there. The absolute highlight will be the show event ‘Space is big, space is public’ at the ÖVB Arena at 1:30 p.m. (in English), during which there will be a live connection to Alexander Gerst on the ISS, who is most likely named commander then – an exciting event that we can all follow live! The whole event is framed by a discussion about space safety, dangers in and from space, and an astronaut round-table that will allow a lot of time for questions from the audience.

Additionally, I want to point out the Bremen Space Year ‘Sternstunden 2018’ that has been offering exciting events around the topic of space all year. Its thematic anchor and, at the same time, highlight is the IAC.

How is the cooperation in Bremen? Between institutes and businesses? How is the coordination working out?

Bremen was only able to apply because we knew that, with the Bremen Exhibition Center, the Bremen tourism service BTZ, and of course the members of Team Germany, we had strong and reliable partners at our side. The idea to host the IAC in Bremen once more, after having hosted it in 2003, was proposed by the department of the Senator for Economic Affairs, Labor, and Ports. Therefore, collaboration is very close and greatly coordinated. It can be said in general, that we work closely together with all aerospace businesses and institutes in Bremen, and the exchange of information works excellently. For example, we offer different excursions into the scientific world of Bremen and to businesses for all congress participants.

What exotic or special offers are there? Where in Bremen can we be closest to space?

Those are two very different questions. At an astronautical congress, the exotic events are creative workshops, relaxation classes, and an excursion to the private art studios in the Bremen Viertel. Additionally, the space film ‘Night Ride’ has specifically been conceptualized for the participants, for which they will bike through Bremen and watch short films or excerpts of films. Everything else is very close to space. In cooperation with the International Astronautical Federation, which develops the program for the congress each year, we offer a wide scientific talk program as well as many tours of and visits to Bremen and Bremen institutions. Therefore, the public will also be in contact with the congress participants from time to time; be it on the tram or in the city center. And surely, one may run into an astronaut on the street here or there during the week of the congress.

How important is science communication, and what role does Alexander Gerst play in that?

Alexander Gerst is an outstanding example of how already the youngest can be motivated for space and other STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Due to his close interaction with his ‘fans,’ he fascinates many people for the subject and brings it a little closer to our daily lives. That is exactly the goal of the Bremen initiated activity ‘Sternstunden 2018’ as well, which has been bringing the topic of space closer to the public since January. That is especially important because young people are the new generation in technology and science. We can be certain that the first human being that will set foot on Mars has already been born.

In Bremen, the universities and other scientific and academic institutions occupy a crucial role in promoting STEM subjects. In our opinion, their institutions with their comprehensive programs, such as the children’s university or special aerospace classes, are on a very good way to make STEM subjects more attractive.

The ZARM itself is also very active in this respect: our projects ‘Drops’ and ‘CanSat’ are designed for school children; our projects ‘DROPTES’ and ‘Drop Your Thesis’ are designed for university students.

This all sounds very exciting, versatile, and very inviting. We are very interested to see everything implemented.

Thank you VERY much for the interview, Ms. Teubner. And good luck for the final days of preparation.

Author: Manuela Brocksieper