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Global space summit looks to the future, 50 years after Sputnik-1

Our fantasies of what life in space should be like continue to this day.
by Staff Writers
Hyderabad, India (AFP) Sept 21, 2007
Fifty years after the launch of the first man-made satellite, the global space industry gathers in India next week to find ways to benefit humanity -- and make money in the process.

Missions to the moon and Mars, the completion of an international space station and efforts to ward off earth-threatening asteroids and natural disasters through space technology will top the agenda.

Multi-billion-dollar business opportunities in satellite launches and broadcasting and telemedicine will also be discussed by the 2,000 delegates who assemble in Hyderabad, southern India, from September 24 to 28.

"The congress will bring together all the stakeholders in the global space industry," said K.R. Sridhara Murthi, head of Antrix Corp., the marketing arm of India's space agency.

"There are several commercial efforts under way in satellite launches and communications, propulsion and navigation systems and earth observation, which the congress will explore," Murthi said.

Space scientists, satellite operators, manufacturers and launch service providers will attend the event, whose theme is "Touching Humanity: Space for Improving the Quality of Life.

-- Half-a-Century Into Space Age --

The international astronautics congress is taking place in the 50th year of the space age, symbolically ushered in by the beep-beep-beep transmitted by the Sputnik-1 satellite, launched on October 4, 1957 by the then Soviet Union.

The Soviet lead in space technology disturbed the West, spurred the United States to establish the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, the following year and set off a Cold War space race.

Space scientists will use the Hyderabad congress to commemorate that pioneering launch, take stock of how far their industry has come since and map out future endeavours including inter-planetary missions and deep space probes.

"Lunar exploration will be an international endeavour, even more for Mars expeditions," said Philippe Willekens, executive director of the International Astronautical Federation. "These programmes will require new forms of international cooperation."

Willekens said the congress would also discuss the completion by 2010 of the international space station, a research facility being built in orbit by the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and several European countries.

Sunita Williams, an Indian-American NASA astronaut who went on board the station this year and set a record for the longest stay in space by a female astronaut, will talk about her experience.

-- Humanitarian Needs, and Making Money --

Experts will discuss how space technology can help farmers through the establishment of rural resource centres connected by satellite to provide advice, weather data, disaster alerts and market trends.

In India, thousands of farmers kill themselves every year because of distress caused by repeated crop failures. And many of the country's 650,000 villages have been left out of the communications revolution.

"If there is a nation particularly concerned with the improvement of the quality of life, it is India," said Willekens.

"India has not only the competence to talk about humanitarian needs, but also the knowledge on how to respond to these needs with space technology."

India, whose space programme dates back to 1963, has already launched satellites to map natural resources and predict the weather and to boost telecommunications in rural areas.

Conference-goers will also debate how to profit from the expected strong growth in the space industry over the next decade.

Paris-based market research firm Euroconsult estimates the sector will grow to 145 billion dollars over the next 10 years, from 116 billion dollars in 1997-2006.

Some 960 satellites are expected to be launched into space in the next decade on demand from both governments and commercial customers, it said in a 2007 survey.

The Hyderabad space event will "open India's capability to the world," said G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

"There is increasing international competition," he added, citing China's space ambitions. "It is important for India to set a higher national agenda and bring the minds of researchers and marketers together or we will be left behind."

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Call For More Vital Role For University Of Leicester In Space Exploration
Leicester, UK (SPX) Sep 21, 2007
As one of the UK's leading university centres of space research, the University of Leicester is expected to play a more vital role in human and robotic space exploration if the findings of a review of UK national space policy are adopted. The review, held at the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) in York on 13th September, follows a nine month investigation by 23 independent scientists, industrialists and educators from around the country.

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