Moon, Mars and Chinese missions on agenda at world’s largest space conference in Paris

The International Astronautical Congress will take place from September 18 to 22

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The world’s largest space conference that will bring together heads of space agencies, private space players, engineers, scientists and astronauts, is set to begin in Paris on Sunday.

The annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) helps provide a deeper insight into some of the latest exploration missions.

Under the theme ‘Space for All’, the event, organised by the International Astronautical Federation, is taking place at the Paris Convention Centre until next Thursday.

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

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

Heads of space agencies

Space agency chiefs from China, the US, India, Japan, Canada and Europe will outline their priorities and highlight past achievements.

All except 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 is planning to launch its astronauts on a domestically built rocket and spacecraft, and has already led a Moon mission that made a crash-landing on the lunar surface.

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

It is also trying to launch Artemis 1, a test flight around the Moon but with no crew.

The chiefs will hold a press conference after their panel session.

No participation from Russia

The current agenda indicates no participation from Russia’s space agency Roscosmos nor private Russian companies.

Last year, Dmitry Rogozin, who was then director of Roscosmos, spoke as part of the ‘Heads of Space Agencies’ panel and answered media questions.

Yury Borisov has since taken over the role.

Europe and Russia’s relationship in space has plummeted since the invasion of Ukraine.

This year, Europe’s space agency cut ties with Russia on a Mars mission they were working on together.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos removed its Soyuz rockets and staff from a European spaceport in French Guiana.

Russia plans to quit the ISS within this decade and build an independent one.

China to reveal future plans

China’s space agency — the China National Space Administration — will share plans and co-operation opportunities in its lunar and deep space exploration programme.

China is quickly becoming a global space power, having achieved a Mars orbiting and landing mission, built its independent space station in low-Earth orbit and with plans in motion to develop an International Lunar Research Station.

It aims to carry out planetary exploration programmes, including asteroid sampling, main belt comet exploration, Mars sample return and Jupiter system exploration.

Nasa and private companies

Engineers will gather to discuss the achievements of the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s most powerful that took more than two decades to build.

Nasa will discuss the Moon to Mars objective, a plan that aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon and then launch astronauts to Mars from the lunar surface.

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

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

Most will speak about the future of low-Earth orbit in the next decade, as companies try to commercialise it.

UAE and Saudi Arabia

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, the UAE Space Agency and the Saudi Space Commission will be participating.

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

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

Artemis Accords signatories to 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 UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

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Updated: September 15, 2022, 11:33 AM