Lundi 19 Août 2019  

N°122 - Deuxième trimestre 2018

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Émirats Arabes Unis
Fédération Internationale d’Astronautique (IAF)
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     Fédération Internationale d’Astronautique (IAF)
  Dr Jean-Yves Le Gall / Dr Jean-Yves Le Gall

Connecting @ll Space People

Interview with Dr Jean-Yves LE GALL,
President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF)

More than 65 years after its creation, the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) has emerged as a key player in space cooperation. As a bridge between space agencies, state administrations, private companies and the general public, the IAF is increasingly playing a leading role in tackling the great challenges facing the planet, starting with sustainable development. On the eve of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) that will take place in Bremen (Germany) from 1 to 5 October 2018, Dr Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the French Space Agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), and President of the IAF since 2016, explains the missions of the Federation and the priorities of its mandate.

The Diplomatic Letter: President, the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) defines itself as the world’s leading space advocacy organization. Could you tell us how IAF came into being and how its role has evolved to support the space sector’s development?

Dr Jean-Yves LE GALL : After the Second World War, the United States, the Soviet Union and their allies moved in very different directions as they each sought to achieve military supremacy. In this tense Cold War atmosphere, scientists found themselves in an increasingly polarized world where dialogue between the major powers was virtually inexistent. Six years after the Iron Curtain came down, scientists working in space research thus formed the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) in an effort to restore this dialogue.
In the early years, the IAF and its annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) were one of the few forums where East and West could meet while the race to space was in full swing. In 2011, IAF celebrated its 60th anniversary and in the intervening years it has witnessed history in the making thanks to the great achievements of its members. IAF has seen its membership grow considerably as new space players have joined its ranks. Its accomplishments in the field of international cooperation over the past six decades have proved most enriching and a source of pride, with the result that IAF is today among the world’s largest networks of space experts and decision-makers.
IAF fosters dialogue between scientists and supports international cooperation in all fields related to space. It has become the world’s leading space advocacy organization, with 343 members including space agencies, manufacturers, museums, associations and institutes from 69 countries. It has more than 40 administrative and technical committees supporting its mission to advance knowledge in the domain of space and drive its development through international cooperation.

T.D.L.: The 69th IAC is set to take place in Bremen, Germany, from 1 to 5 October 2018. In the light of the huge success of IAC 2017 and its more than 4,500 attendees in Adelaide, Australia, what are your expectations for this next edition?

J-Y.L.G.: IAC 2018 will be bringing together at the heart of Europe a unique audience from the public and private sectors, and from emerging and established markets. It will be addressing all the key topics in space: science and technology, policy and economics, education and research. IAC will thus be attracting a broad attendance from research bodies, industry and renowned experts in technology, development and education.
We’re very excited about the upcoming IAC. We’re very proud of what the space industry and scientific community have to offer and we’re keen to showcase it. I believe delegates are set to be surprised by everything they’ll see there.

T.D.L.: The theme for IAC 2018, Involving everyone, is one of the three strands of the Global Innovation Agenda you set out in 2016. What advances do you think have been made towards this aim and what benefits do you expect to see from opening up IAC to the general public?

J-Y.L.G.: In 2016, when I began my tenure as IAF President, I set out an agenda to sustain its development and prepare it for the global challenges the space community is facing. This agenda defines the flagship actions IAF will be undertaking in the years ahead to take it into a new era.
This strategic roadmap is focused on seven priority actions:
- Reaching out to emerging countries and connecting with new communities
- Focusing on the evolution of IAC with a view to achieving future growth
- Organizing more global and regional conferences
- Fostering relations and interaction with our partner organizations
- Evolving IAF’s funding structure
- Leading IAF towards the future with innovative projects
- Fostering the principles of 3G diversity (geography, generation and gender)
It is naturally this last point that is closest to my heart and the one I believe is the most important for IAF, as 3G is vital to everything we do and must be embraced by the world at large.
The first G (Gender) concerns the place of women in education, in particular in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Their under-representation in this domain affects not just women themselves but is a missed opportunity to take advantage of the fresh perspective they can bring to the table. Getting more women into STEM will benefit society as a whole and IAF wants to abolish all prevailing stereotypes. Ability and qualifications are the only things that count, not special privileges.
For the second G (Generation), IAF is committed to harnessing the enthusiasm of young generations and giving them free rein to pursue their passions. Their thirst for knowledge helps organizations to evolve, particularly in the field of research by fostering the experimental approach required to conceive new solutions. In the world of work, young employees always strive to excel and impress with their first results. This makes organizations more productive. Young generations are more comfortable with new technologies and can thus stimulate fresh innovation. They are also a source of new ideas that form the bedrock for development.
For the third G (Geography), ethnic diversity is a rich seam of talent, experience and cultures to be tapped into, stimulating creativity and boosting innovation. A broad range of points of view and experience generates ideas, perspectives, knowledge and skills that significantly enhance a community’s ability to prosper.
This is why we’ve created a platform to nurture lively and open debate on diversity within IAF called IDEA, for International Diversity and Equality in Astronautics. This platform is designed to help IAF play a pivotal role in promoting the principles of diversity and equality within the world space community and to lead by example in the area of 3G. It thus aligns perfectly with our motto of Connecting @ll Space People.

T.D.L.: Your Global Innovation Agenda has also set the goals of "preserving IAF’s heritage and building on existing strengths" and "listening and opening up to the world". Could you explain the initiatives and accomplishments through which these aspirations are being pursued?

J-Y.L.G.: IAF has created a special portfolio within its Bureau with a Vice-President for diversity initiatives. A special diversity award has also been created to distinguish IAF member organizations for their exceptional contributions to fostering 3G diversity in the space sector. This yearly IAF Excellence in 3G Diversity Award was presented for the first time at IAC 2017, where the laureate was the Mohammed Ben Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).
IAF has also been pursuing its commitment to diversity through greater participation of younger generations at IAC. We have increased from 14 to 25 the number of students and young professionals supported under the IAF Emerging Space Leaders Grant Programme, which each year enables them to take part in IAC and in a number of major workshops.
In addition, IAF has organized a series of events on sharing and devising solutions to 3G issues within the space community, including roundtables, presentations by leading authorities in the field and networking meetings in Paris, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Adelaide and Guadalajara, where participants had the opportunity to discuss their points of view and methods.

T.D.L.: For the second edition of the International Space Forum (ISF), you opened the African Chapter on 13 February in Nairobi, Kenya. What are the goals of this chapter? How can space technologies and applications help to shape social and economic policies in developing nations? And more broadly, how can IAF help to boost international cooperation on sustainable development?

J-Y.L.G.: On 13 February, the Kenyan Minister of Defence, the ministries of science, universities and research, space authorities, space agencies, representatives of international space organizations and top-level space experts from more than 42 countries came together in Nairobi under the auspices of IAF, the Italian space agency ASI and the Kenyan Ministry of Defence. This gathering enabled open and productive debate on how space science and academia can support Africa’s socio-economic development.
In Nairobi, delegates, representatives from academia and experts exchanged points of view, shared experiences and made statements showing that universities form a worldwide network of choice to help conceive, develop and operate space programmes, irrespective of where they are located. In particular, African universities must be part of the global space network to benefit from technological know-how. Space applications and services should be leveraged to protect Africa’s environment, insure its security and manage its natural resources and biodiversity to make it a source of wealth and socio-economic transformation.
IAF knows that space offers the opportunity to develop high-level technological and scientific expertise. Good environmental stewardship, sharing of available resources and the sustainable development of Africa are tied closely together. In this respect, Earth-observation, navigation and telecommunications satellites are precious tools for collecting data and preserving the environment. Partnerships and collaborations between nations whose space sectors are at different stages of development help to achieve knowledge transfer and secure the funding needed to fuel new businesses.
IAF is thus helping through such events to boost international cooperation on sustainable development. Space cooperation is driving the strengthening of capabilities and sustainable development in Africa, which IAF is supporting.

T.D.L.: Getting into space is becoming a key means for nations to affirm their presence in the international arena and, beyond that, a vital challenge for the future of humankind. What is your perspective as President of CNES, the French space agency, on the rise of national programmes like China’s lunar exploration and India’s Mars exploration missions, the launch in 2020 of the United Arab Emirates’ Mars probe or the creation of the new Australian Space Agency?

J-Y.L.G.: It’s clear that space is increasingly a mean for nations to affirm their presence on the international scene. There are three reasons for this. First, advances in technology are constantly bringing down the cost of access to space, so developing and launching a satellite is no longer the preserve of major world powers. Second, space applications are increasingly present in our daily lives; indeed, satellites have become irreplaceable in sectors like telecommunications, Earth observation and positioning. And third, space is the stuff of dreams inspiring younger generations. In short, space is a great draw!
That is why CNES is fostering international cooperation with most of the spacepowers on the planet. In Europe, of course, where we are the chief contributor to the programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission, with major spacepowers like the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan, and with new entrants from the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Oceania.
At the end of the day, we are seeking to project the image of a space sector that is open and forward-looking, working to benefit our scientists and industries, and more broadly to develop technologies serving all humankind.

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