Enrico Saggese is the President of the Italian Space Agency and IAC 2012 Local Organising Committee Chair. ASI President chats about preparations for IAC 2012, Italian space programme.

IAF executives say they came away from the site visit in Naples last month with an up-beat view of preparations for IAC 2012. How do you see the way forward between now and the opening ceremony?

Yes, indeed, our recent meeting in Naples was very fruitful. As you can imagine, organising a conference like the IAC is a complex undertaking, and needs to be properly engineered and closely managed. ASI has already identified a PCO [Professional Congress Organiser] who will be in charge of event logistics. The LOC, including representatives from all the institutions involved, is assisting ASI in organisational details. Local institutions (the Region of Campania, the Mayor’s Office, the Naples Chamber of Commerce, Naples Province) are cooperating and supporting us to the maximum extent possible to guarantee that the congress is a success. We are very confident that IAC 2012 will be an Event with a capital “E”.

What themes does ASI intend to highlight at IAC 2012?

The theme of the conference is “Space science and technology for the needs of all,” and aims to demonstrate how space activities are in the interest and for the welfare of all of us. ASI intends to focus particular attention on developingspace-based services such as the detection of natural disasters, environmental monitoring, global navigation and telecommunications; improving access to space; and opening up new frontiers of knowledge by fostering a better understanding of the universe.

Do you foresee the event having a positive impact on space development in the Campania region?

The Campania Region is in the process of creating a new aeronautical cluster, dubbed the “Aerospace District.” We expect this event to help strengthen the political willingness to follow through with this project by underlining the benefits that space activities can contribute to the local and regional economy.

With its maiden launch now history, Vega finally appears clear for commercial takeoff. What is your view of the future of this vital Italian-led programme?

Italy has endeavoured for half a century to develop a small launch vehicle, initially through national programs. By ‘Europeanizing’ the Italian effort, we have managed to reach this goal. We thank ESA [European Space Agency] and all the Vega participatingstates for helping realize this achievement.

The first high-level space exploration forum in Lucca on 16 Nov. agreed on a number of targets to represented at the next meeting in the U.S. in 2013 for ratification, and the subject will again be on the agenda of the Global Exploration Conference in Washington in May. Are you optimistic that these events will lead to concrete steps towards greater cooperation?

The great accomplishment of the first International Exploration Forum in Lucca was the decision to have a followup meeting in Washington, after the next U.S. presidential elections, and to invite Chinese representatives to take part in this event.

How are the Italian space programme and budget plan holding up under the ongoing economic crisis and the resulting government spending cutbacks?

The aerospace sector is one that countries around the world consider a major future growth driver, and Italy is convinced that it can help lift our nation out of this financial crisis. The Italian Government has therefore maintained all of its commitments for space programme funding.

The ESA ministers will meet at the end of the year to approve a slate of new programmes for the next three years. What will be the Italian position with respect to key undertakings like manned space, launch systems, robotic exploration and Earth science?

At the last ESA Council at Ministerial level [in The Hague], Italy agreed to finance optional programmes at a level higher than the country’s pro rata share of [ESA member] GNP. I am confident that this commitment will be maintained at the next council. I am confident that this commitment will be maintained at the next council.
“We are very confident that the 2012 IAC will be an Event, with a ‘capital E’”, says the ASI President