Australia kindly hosted the 49th IAF Congress
By Adriano Autino
It was held in Melbourne, from september 28th to october 2nd, the 49th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation. I had the honour to participate, presenting my paper "Concepts for a World Space Program based in the Society". Once in Melbourne, I had the first cold shower (literally!) in the hotel, when I noticed that the hot water was completely missing. The whole Victoria state, infact, was without gas for one week, due to a violent explosion that blew up a pipe: a national catastrophe, with losses for 100 million $ per day. The second cold shower, this time figurative, came when, confident, I asked a taxman to carry me to the astronautical congress. "Which congress?" he asked me, as an answer. Now, if the taxmen aren't informed (considered that they work on the international conventions) it's no hard to imagine how much the town could be informed. Last year I wrote that our media ignored the IAF Torino's Congress; well, compared to the australian media, our media appear today definitely enthusiast of science and space! Torino, at least, couldn't ignore the congress, being rather invaded by posters. Melbourne, instead, could not avoid to ignore the congress: I didn't see even a poster, nor in the neightbourhood of the Convention Center, by the way perfectly equipped and higly professional as to the halls and rooms supplied for the different plenary events and symposia (not the same we could always say at Lingotto). The impression was exactly this: the Space Community was kindly hosted by Melbourne. If the Federation and the Academy decided to hold the congress, let say, at Haway, we could at least to take some sea bath, and the Countries of the Pacific Rim had been represented as well. To complete the list of negativities, we cannot avoid to mention the Exhibition Center. Snobbed both by NASA and by ESA, forced in a medium-small hall, the exhibition could by rounded in five minutes, and could always be used as a point to meet the friends, sure to find them, seen the visitors number, not surely oceanic. I can't avoid to remember the thousands of visitors, students, intersted and curious people those, last year, crowded the very much richer exhibition at Lingotto, and the held debates, with excellent pubblic attendance. Being a Country still characterized by a pioneeristic culture - with a ground extension comparable to the USA and a few 13 millions population - Australia has maybe a little interest for the exploration of space and the exploitation of its resources.
Quite different is the approach of Japan and NASDA (the Japanese Space Agency), whose scored an excellent presence in the whole convention, with very qualified statements, very attentively followed, in all the plenary events and in many symposia. The "Rising Sun" Country thus introduced itself, both for its scientific and economic engagement (Japan alone invests, in space, one third of the european expense), as the real space leader in the region of the Asian and Pacific's Countries, whose look forward to the space as an opportunity of development. The quality of the japanese engagement in Astronautics (and not only in the telecommunication commercial space), can be noticed also observing the typology of some sponsorized projects: the Energy from Space, for instance (please see our interview to Patrick Collins, leader of SPS 2000). This is one of the most interesting themes emerged from the Congress, for its concreteness and actual feasibility, togheter with the theme of the Reusable Launch Vehicles, and for its "transitory" character; able to help a step forward, both technological and economic, of Man into the Space and the Astronautics.
More or less all the plenary meetings and the symposia listened to a leit-motiv: the need to involve private investors in the space enterprise or, if you prefer, to privatize the space. But while the past year, in Torino, this refrain was sang on some "allegretto" and hopeful air, the australian execution was this year more doubtful and problematic, even due to the more and more violent world wide recession winds. Overall, dominated the clearness without pietism of a japanese panelist, which said: "The privates will not invest their money in the space, because they don't see the return of the investement". A realistic vision, from which to start, to elaborate new solutions: a not economicistic approach to the problem, to give more room to the politics, and, most of all, to really open the discussion to the society. We are confident that, if we will export the discussion outside of the relatively closed world of the scientists and burocrates (with all the respect for the ones making honestly and with dedication both the jobs), solutions will flow like fresh water: to achieve an world open to the Space and to the Astronautics, the Space Community should first of all to open itself to the Society! By our side, we will do our best: during 1998, we finalized the Manifesto of the Greater Earth, that's a philosophical/ethical base for more political elaborations. This year we will start the elaboration of a draft political program, togheter with our friends and partners, and all the new friends interested to open the Space Adventure to the Society!