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The Dubai International Astronautical Congress will be attended in person

It will be held from 25 to 29 October with a foreseeable drop in attendance by professionals due to COVID-19
Dubai was the city selected in 2017 to host the 2020 International Astronautical Congress. The bid was submitted by the Mohamed bin Rashid Space Centre, but COVID-19 forced a delay until this year.

PHOTO/IAC 2017  -   Dubai was the city selected in 2017 to host the 2020 International Astronautical Congress. The bid was submitted by the Mohamed bin Rashid Space Centre, but COVID-19 forced a delay until this year.

The president of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the Austrian Pascale Ehrenfreund, has just confirmed that the 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2021) will be held as planned from 25 to 29 October in Dubai, Union of Arab Emirates.

Considered the largest and most important space event on a global scale, the Congress has chosen the theme "Inspire, Innovate and Discover for the Benefit of Humanity" to highlight the importance of space cooperation between countries to contribute to the strengthening and improvement of societies.

At a recent meeting to review the status of the event's organisation and, if necessary, confirm or modify the dates of the event, the IAF's top management and the senior Emirati officials in charge of getting the facilities in Dubai ready have decided to confirm their plans for the Congress to open its doors in just over five months' time.

Organizadora del Congreso, la Federación Internacional de Astronáutica se plantea invitar a famosos emprendedores ligados al sector, como Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos o Richard Branson (en la imagen), este último fundador del imperio Virgin
PHOTO/Space Foundation - Organiser of the Congress, the International Astronautics Federation is considering inviting famous entrepreneurs linked to the sector, such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson (in the picture), the latter founder of the Virgin empire.

And in light of the trend of declining infection rates in many countries around the world thanks to vaccinations, they have also decided to keep the Congress in person. Yusuf Hamad al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is confident that the Dubai Congress will provide a "futuristic" vision for the sector in the UAE and globally, while acting as a "catalyst" for other nations in the region to "engage with international partners and create a new generation of space technicians".

Salem al-Marri, deputy director general of the MBRSC and chairman of the local IAC 2021 organisation, told IAF officials that he and the UAE government are committed to ensuring that the Congress runs "smoothly and, most importantly, safely". In Dubai, "all the necessary protocols" will be applied, with the advantage that "70% of the inhabitants of the host country have already been vaccinated against COVID-19".

Los máximos directivos de la Federación Internacional de  Astronáutica y del Centro Espacial Mohamed bin Rashid confirmaron el 18 de mayo que el Congreso de Dubái será en octubre y en modalidad presencial
PHOTO/IAF - The heads of the International Astronautical Federation and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre confirmed on 18 May that the Dubai Congress will take place in October and will be held in person.
Reduced presence of professionals

However, despite the strict health precautions that are scheduled to be put in place, the limitations on movement that persist in many countries and the fear of contagion mean that the IAF has estimated that the attendance of space professionals will be smaller than in previous editions.

According to Pascale Ehrenfreund, Dubai is expected to attract between 3,000 and 4,000 participants from around 70 countries, a much smaller number than the 2019 event in Washington - the last one to be held in person - which was attended by more than 6,300 people.

In order to mitigate as far as possible the anticipated drop in the number of participants, the IAF's executive director, Christian Feichtinger, has announced that the structure of the event will be modified and new incentives and initiatives will be sought to try to attract as many interested parties as possible. 

Asisten miles de ingenieros y científicos que buscan intercambiar y dar a conocer sus logros en los distintos campos de la astronáutica, desde lanzadores hasta las tecnologías cuánticas
PHOTO/IAC 2017 - Thousands of engineers and scientists are attending, looking to exchange and showcase their achievements in the various fields of astronautics, from launchers to quantum technologies.

For example, the possible presence of celebrities is being studied, including entrepreneurs and billionaires such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, the former the CEO of the space transport company SpaceX, the latter the founder of the Virgin empire and the latter the founder of the giant Amazon. Even famous actors and actresses with space-related films to their credit, such as George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, who starred in 'Gravity' at the beginning of the decade, or Bruce Willis, lead actor in 'Argameddon', but only if their film commitments allow them to do so.

The Dubai International Astronautical Congress is intended to be the starting signal for a trend that seeks to revive face-to-face meetings in the space ecosystem. Like many other sectors, the global space industry as a whole was hit by COVID-19, which led to a total shutdown of trade shows as of March 2020. But the end of the tunnel is in sight, at least in some countries in terms of trade fairs and symposia.

Son muy pocos los foros internacionales en los que el secretario general de la Agencia Espacial de China, Yulong Tian, presenta el programa de exploración de su nación. Eso sí, a grandes rasgos
PHOTO/Space Foundation - There are very few international forums where the secretary general of the Chinese Space Agency, Yulong Tian, presents his nation's exploration programme. However, in broad outline
In the United States, the doors are opening

Encouraged by the evolution of the vaccination process in the United States, forums such as the 36th Space Symposium, scheduled to take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 23-26 August, are aiming to be held in hybrid mode, both in person and online. Under both options, the important Satellite 2021 show will be held in Maryland from 7 to 10 September, bringing together commercial communications operators and related companies from around the world. 

As for the Dubai Congress, the programme, which will take place over five intense days at the end of October, will include the usual round table bringing together the heads of the world's leading space agencies. This is a unique opportunity to hear from the protagonists themselves how they describe the major projects they have underway. Another major forum will bring together the space policy-makers of space-faring nations.

El director del Centro Espacial Vikram Sarabhai, S. Somanath es el segundo de a bordo de la ISRO, la Agencia Espacial de India. En la imagen, explica en 2019 en Washington los principales programas de su país
PHOTO/IAC 2019 - Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre director S. Somanath is the second-in-command at ISRO, the Indian Space Agency. In the picture, he explains his country's major programmes in Washington in 2019.

A unique opportunity to meet the engineers piloting solar system exploration projects, discuss the role of emerging space agencies, the unprecedented growth of nano and micro satellites, future Mars soil sample return missions, next-generation launchers and new technological developments. These will be joined by a large number of presentations selected by the International Programme Committee of the Congress. 

The 72nd IAC was to be held in Dubai in October 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic forced a change of plans and in the end a much smaller, virtual event was held. The chosen alternative was implemented to avoid cancellation, as was the case with many similar events around the world.

Inspirar, innovar y descubrir en beneficio de la humanidad es el lema del Congreso que acogerá Dubái dentro de poco más de cinco meses
PHOTO/Smart Cities World - Inspiring, innovating and discovering for the benefit of humanity is the motto of the Congress to be held in Dubai in just over five months' time.

The 2022 edition of the Congress will be hosted by Paris, the 2023 edition will be in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, while the 2024 edition is still in dispute between the five candidate cities that have applied, one of which is Seville, whose sponsor is the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA).