Spain has just made official Seville's candidacy for the capital of Andalusia to host the 75th edition of the International Astronautical Congress or 75th IAC in September or October 2024. This is a multidisciplinary event that each year brings together around 6,000 scientists, researchers and senior officials from the sector, including the heads of space agencies from all over the world.
The proposal was made by the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA), a public research body of the Ministry of Defence, the only institution of the Spanish Administration that is a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the entity that organises the event annually to deal with the multiple aspects of space technology and science.
In a letter dated 29 April and addressed to the president of the IAF, Austrian scientist Pascale Ehrenfreund, the director general of INTA, Air Force Lieutenant General José María Salom, sets out the reasons and capabilities that encourage him to propose Seville as the venue for what will be the largest space forum in 2024. The IAF will study the applications submitted and will announce its decision on 29 October, on the closing day of this year's Congress (72nd IAC), which will be held in Dubai from 25 October under the theme 'Inspire, innovate and discover for the benefit of humanity' and under the auspices of the Emirates Space Agency.
The Institute's initiative is led by some twenty companies and official and private entities from the Spanish aerospace sector, which would form part of the consortium in charge of making the Congress a reality. These include the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), the Spanish Association of Defence, Security, Aeronautics and Space Technology Companies (TEDAE), the Spanish Aerospace Technology Platform, the Spanish Aeronautical Society, the Spanish Engineering Institute and the Aerospace Clusters of Andalusia and Madrid and the Spanish Association of Aeronautics and Space Law.
Lieutenant General Salom's letter is accompanied by a complete and detailed documentation setting out the slogan on which the 75th Congress will focus, 'Life in space, space for life'. It seeks to convey how the achievements of space research contribute "to the advancement of society as a whole, enabling us to preserve our planet and make it more habitable and sustainable".
The INTA director general's proposal stresses that the evolution of humanity "is closely linked to space research in terms of social and economic well-being", with the aim of highlighting the contribution of space to 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations for its 2030 Agenda.
The approach devised by the Institute includes sessions open to the public to showcase progress in the exploration of Mars and the Moon, the contribution of space technology to economic growth and climate change monitoring. It is complemented by forums on space programmes to study the stars of the Solar System, the discovery of habitable exoplanets, the origins of life and astrobiology, in addition to the technical programme to be defined by the IAF's International Programming Committee.
With the approval of the Mayor of Seville and its municipal corporation, the extensive dossier includes the tourist and socio-cultural offer offered by Seville and its surroundings, the most relevant achievements of the Spanish space industry, as well as the importance of the existing aerospace industrial fabric in the city and the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, which totals 152 companies, institutions, universities and technology centres.
It also contains letters of support from the Minister of Science and Innovation, the astronaut Pedro Duque; the Director General of the CDTI, Javier Ponce; the Minister of Economic Transformation, Industry, Knowledge and Universities of the Andalusian Regional Government, Rogelio Velasco; the President of the Provincial Council of Seville, Fernando Rodríguez; and the President of Airbus Spain, Alberto Gutiérrez.
Lieutenant General Salom highlights in his proposal that Seville has been chosen in the last three years to host important aerospace events. Among them, he cites the summit of ministers of the European Space Agency (ESA) that took place in November 2019 at the Seville Conference and Exhibition Centre (FIBES), where it is proposed to hold the 2024 Congress. Even this year, despite the pandemic, a virtual summit on industrial space economy 5.0 was held. In addition, the city held the presidency of the Ariane Cities Network in 2019 and was the European Space Capital.
Seville's bid to host the 2024 International Astronautical Congress is not the only one. It is competing with Milan (Italy), Budapest (Hungary) and Adelaide (Australia) and perhaps also with Brazil, should the South American country's Space Agency formalise its initial proposal to present Rio de Janeiro.
It so happens that Milan and Rio de Janeiro had already competed to host the 2023 edition, which places both cities as the main competitors for the capital of Andalusia. The Australian city of Adelaide already hosted it in 2017, so its chances of being chosen again seem slim. The Portuguese Aeronautics, Space and Defence cluster submitted Lisbon's candidacy, but withdrew it.
The pandemic made it advisable to hold the 71st Congress in a virtual format from 12 to 14 October and to reconfigure the programme. The 72nd Congress will be held in October this year in Dubai and the 2022 Congress (73rd IAC) will take place in Paris from 18-22 September with the full support of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales or CNES - France's space agency - under the heading of 'Space for all'. The 2023 edition (74th IAC) will be held from 25 to 29 September in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, at the behest of Azercosmos, the space agency of the Asian republic.
Of the 70 editions of the International Astronautical Congress already held, four have been held in Spain: in Barcelona (1957), Madrid (1966), Malaga (1989) and Valencia (2006). Founded in 1951, the IAF is made up of 407 organisations from 71 countries, of which 49 are space agencies, 87 are associations, 72 are universities, 45 R&D centres, 148 companies and 6 museums. Most of its members are from Europe (198), Asia (85), North (72) and South America (23), Oceania (16) and Africa (13).