Reportage from Amsterdam IAF 50th
by Michael Martin-Smith
The IAF Amsterdam was the 50th congress of the IAf and my own fourth congress; as usual there were many sessions in parallel so that I could not attend all of them, but I was able to contribute two papers. One -- my own -- was at the "Cultural Perspectives on Astrobiology", at which under Arthur Woods' Chairmanship. I gave a paper on "A cause and solution for Fermi's Paradox". My second was as co-author for a paper by Pat Dasch and Anne Pierce of the National Space Society about their December 98 Conference on new legal proposals for space property Rights. There is emerging a clear need for such property rights to be agreed and defined by the world community as commercialization in Space will within a few years lead to serious issues for business and enterpreneurs wishing to establish industries beyond the Earth.
The emerging multidisciplinary field of astrobiology - which looks at the question of Life in the Universe more from a multifaceted systems approach than as a quest simply for ET by SETI techniques, is becoming a cornerstone of Dan Goldin's and NASA's scientific activities in Space. It is understood that there is a continuum between the origins and growth of life and its longterm future and its ability to establish itself in Space. Astrobiology research is now taking place in several US institutes under the NASA Institute for Astrobiology (NAI) umbrella, and a starr has been made in Spain with ESA support under Professor Juan Perez-Mercader, with the INTA Institute.
Work continues on various X planes in the US, with Boeing developing the X-37, a testbed vehicle which, unlike X 33 and X 34, will explore the higher mach numbers by being launched from the Shuttle into automatic re-entry and landing . First flights are expected in 2002, while X 33 and X 34 are both expected next year. ESA is about to start the definition studies for future reusable spaceplane demonstrators identifying the various technologies required. This study is to run for 2.5 years with a decision to build an X type demonstrator likely in c 2003. Development of an actual next generation vehice to replace Ariane 5 is expected to start in 2007 with operational status in or near 2015.
At a last day plenum on future space technology needs for the 21st century, it emerged that the Japanese space agencies are preparing a report for parliament by the end of the year, in which it is stated that public opinion in Japan is supportive of space development, especially with humans in space, but, so far, disinclined to put in the necessary resources. I had the chance to suggest that the recent nuclear accident in Japan might be turned to account in that solar power from space offers a clean and safe longterm way out, especially in view of Japan's space achievements. I was told by Dr Ohkami, special advisor to NASDA's President, that a 2 year study of solar power from Space is underway. I hope that the opportunity to make this point in the Concil report is not lost. I am now on the IAA Arts and Literature sub Committee and am working to encourage a large representation , in personnel and papers, from the Brazilian space community at the next IAF -- in Rio, October 2000! Our group is thus gaining in representation at the IAF, and bit by bit, some of our ideas are finding a voice.