IAC 2016 Plenaries and Highlight Lectures


The IAC Plenary Programme features an exciting selection of high-level Plenary Sessions, Highlight Lectures and Late-breaking News events.

Highlight Lectures


To have more information on the different Highlight Lectures and speakers, please click on the respective title


Highlight Lecture 1: Mars Base Camp

Wednesday 28 September 2016, 17:45 – 18:45
Location: Guadalajara Hall 9&10

Detailed technical discussion of how to safely execute human exploration of Mars by leveraging the heavy lift capability of Space Launch System (SLS) and the deep space human rated capabilities of Orion.  Additionally, an in depth discussion of the significant science that can be accomplished from a human orbiting laboratory providing a global perspective and access to both Martian moons via an excursion system, including low-latency tele robotics; sample collection, analysis, and curation; and direct investigation of Deimos and Phobos and sample return.

Highlight Lecture 2: The Exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt by New Horizons

Thursday 29 September 2016, 17:45 – 18:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 9&10

The New Horizons (NH) mission was selected by NASA in November 2001 to conduct the first in situ reconnaissance of Pluto and the Kuiper belt. The NH spacecraft was launched on 2006 January 19, received a gravity assist from Jupiter during closest approach on 2007 February 28, and flew 12,500 km above Pluto’s surface on 2015 July 14. NH carried a sophisticated suite of seven scientific instruments, altogether weighing less than 30 kg and drawing less than 30 W of power, that includes panchromatic and color imagers, ultraviolet and infrared spectral imagers, a radio science package, plasma and charged particle sensors, and a dust counting experiment. These instruments enabled the first detailed exploration of a new class of solar system objects, the dwarf planets, which have exotic volatiles on their surfaces, escaping atmospheres, and satellite systems. NH also provided the first dust density measurements beyond 18 AU and cratering records that document both the ancient and present-day collisional environment in the outer solar system down to sizes of tens of meters. NH obtained unprecedented data on Pluto’s small satellites (Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra), adding significantly to the scientific bounty returned from the NH mission. The NH spacecraft was targeted toward the flyby of a small  (~20-40 km) KBO in late-2015, and NASA approved the Kuiper belt Extended Mission (KEM) phase in July 2016, enabling the study of an object  (2014 MU69) in a completely different dynamical class (cold classical) than Pluto. Other important scientific objectives of the KEM include: observations of more than 20 other KBOs at resolutions and geometries not feasible from Earth, and studies of the heliospheric plasma, neutral H and He, and the dust environment out to 50 AU from the Sun.

Highlight Lecture 3: The Saturn System as a Natural Laboratory to Investigate the Emergence of Biology

Friday 30 September 2016, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 9&10

Titan and Enceladus comprise a superb natural laboratory for studying the emergence of life, from pre-biotic chemistry in a dynamic geological setting, all the way to contemporary habitability of a salt-water ocean. We are fortunate that both of these important moons are in one planetary system; astrodynamics access to Enceladus is in fact gained by using Titan gravity assists; and Cassini has demonstrated how to conduct operations at Saturn. Mission designs, technologies, and even flight systems can be shared between these targets, making the exploration of both more accessible and affordable than if they were singular. The synergies mean that humanity is poised to follow Cassini back to the Saturn system, this time with the age-old goal in sight of learning how common life may be in the cosmos. The quest to understand how life arises, and where, is an inspiring, provocative, and enduring one.



To have more information on the different plenaries and speakers, please click on the respective title


Plenary 1: Heads of Agencies

Monday 26 September 2016, 13:30 – 15:00
Location: Guadalajara Hall 4,5,6,9&10

The Heads of Agencies plenary event is one of the highlight of the IAC, bringing together the leaders of the major space agencies worldwide. This year’s Heads of Agencies Plenary will focus on the theme “Space Exploration: the past, present and future”. The Plenary will be kicked-off with the Heads of Agencies briefly presenting the main developments within their Agency since the last IAC in Jerusalem: major decisions taken; major projects launched and major developments for the next years. The moderator will then run the discussion on Space Exploration and, to conclude  an interactive Q&A session with the audience is foreseen?

Plenary 2: Satellite Communications Making Connectivity Accessible and Affordable to Latin-American Countries to Reduce the Digital Divide – Host Plenary

Monday 26 September 2016, 18:15 – 19:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 4,5,6,9&10

Connectivity and Internet access has been always a limitation to allow the inclusion and access to the information society for several millions of inhabitants in this world. This has produced the so-called digital divide that not only produces an impact in the access to basic services but also is an important limitation to their economic growth.

In Latin America, this factor is particularly bigger due the added challenge of geographical disperser communities that also are normally with a very difficult access and with many disadvantages. Just as a reference, in Mexico we have more than 100,000 small communities under this description, they account for around less than 10% of the total population adding restrictions to make feasible to find a suitable business model to provided services.

Plenary 3: Space and Climate: How Space Agencies Will Contribute to the Implementation and Follow-up of the Paris Agreement during COP 21

Tuesday 27 September 2016, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 4,5,6,9&10

Climate change is one of the most important challenge humankind is facing. Due to their global coverage at different scales (spatial and temporal), space missions have an important role to play in the fight against climate change since the phenomenon is global with local impacts. This has been highlighted in particular through the Mexico Summit Declaration made under the umbrella of International Academy of Astronautics in September 2015. About one year after the great success of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties number 21, the so called COP 21, held in France, Space Agencies will present concrete actions in support to the agreement of Paris concerning observation, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Plenary 4: Innovative Solutions for Making Space Accessible and Affordable – Next Generation PE

Tuesday 27 September 2016, 17:45 – 18:45
Location: Guadalajara Hall 4,5,6,9&10

The participants will take centre-stage during the Next Generation Plenary and discuss innovative solutions for making space accessible and affordable to all countries – presenting their own research and suggesting bigger ideas for the space industry and space agencies. The panelists were selected through a global competitive process to identify the best world wide candidates and showcase the diversity of successful efforts in towards space accessibility and affordability through solutions with a new perspective. A team of IAF experts evaluated their proposals to score and select participants for the Plenary Event. The plenary will open with remarks by the moderator followed by presentations by the panelists covering their motivations for performing research in space vs. on Earth and discuss results and benefits of their research – not only for deep-space exploration but also for improving life on Earth. This plenary looks forward to a future when the panelists will be in the prime of their careers, executing the decisions of the day and ultimately driving the space community.

Plenary 5: Living For a Year on ISS: Early Results and Lessons Learned. #YearInSpace

Wednesday 28 September 2016, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 9&10

Two ISS crewmembers just completed a successful, continuous one-year stay in orbit.  It has been nearly two decades since anyone has been in space for that long, and this latest one-year stay has built upon the foundation of those earlier missions to leverage advances in space technology and health care.  International cooperation has been the key to the success of this adventure, involving the ISS international partners, collaborative research investigations between Russia and the USA, and crewmembers from Russia and the USA.

A crewmember, researcher, and manager will participate to discuss the history, planning, experience and early results of this unique adventure, as well as how it relates to upcoming deep space exploration missions.  The moderator will orchestrate an informative dialogue among the panelists and with the audience.

Organized by the Association of Space Explorers and the IAF Human Spaceflight Committee.

Plenary 6: Realizing Mars Sample Return through Human and Robotic Collaboration

Thursday 29 September 2016, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 9&10

Mars sample return has been a priority of the international science community for years. A scenario requiring international partnerships and multiple robotic missions has been advanced by leading space agencies, however the cost is high.  With NASA’s Journey to Mars and plans for human missions to the lunar vicinity, it is time to consider whether Mars Sample Return can be realized by collaboration between human and robotic missions. As an example, Planetary Protection is one of the tremendous technical challenges of the mission, and securing a safe landing on Earth of the canister containing the Mars sample is highly critical. Could astronauts retrieve a Mars sample canister which is brought to the lunar vicinity robotically and return it to Earth? Human missions to the lunar vicinity will enable mastery of the challenges of future Mars missions and create exciting scientific opportunities for the decades to come. This panel will discuss the challenges and scientific importance of Mars Sample Return, and whether introducing humans in the loop will bring benefits which trigger the political will to finally realize a Mars Sample Return mission.

Plenary 7: Projection and Stability of the Orbital Debris Environment in the Light of Planned Mega-Constellation Deployments

Thursday 29 September 2016, 13:30 – 14:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 9&10

In early 2015 media reported plans by two companies, OneWeb Ltd. (UK) and SpaceX (USA), for the deployment of large low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations. The OneWeb constellation is planned to consist of 720 Satellites, to be operating at 1,200 km altitude in 18 different orbit planes, to provide global high-speed communication. The SpaceX constellation is planned to consist of 4,000 satellites, to be operating at 1,100 km altitude, to provide global, high-speed internet communication. Both constellations will be deployed in high-inclination orbits.

The proposed Plenary Event will present a panel of experts that will highlight possible effects of large constellation deployments on the current and future orbital debris environment, on possible risks imposed on other space missions during the operation and disposal of such constellations, and on legal aspects of large constellation deployments in the light of existing space debris mitigation guidelines and applicable legal frameworks.

Late Breaking News


Late Breaking News: Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species

Tuesday 27 September 2016, 13:30 – 14:30
Location: Guadalajara Hall 4,5,6,9&10

SpaceX Founder, CEO, and Lead Designer Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

Feel free to contact us at abed.aldaas@iafastro.org, should you need any assistance or clarification.



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