AIAA marked the official public launch of ASCEND with a press conference at the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2019) on Tuesday, 22 October. The panel included six members of ASCEND’s Guiding Coalition: Rob Meyerson, Executive Producer of ASCEND; Dan Dumbacher, AIAA Executive Director; Tory Bruno, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance; Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Fred Kennedy, former Director of the Space Development Agency; and Dr. Dava Newman, MIT Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics.

Meyerson noted the event is specifically designed for the diverse space ecosystem to come together over the course of three days to explore how we enable our off-world future. ASCEND will draw members of the business, scientific and investment communities as well as adjacent markets with a focus on outcomes, not just education.

Dumbacher believes now is an opportune time for ASCEND, noting that the event will be “very intentional about driving outcomes and addressing issues and the challenges” so that we can move the space economy forward. He also added, “Each year we will see the progress and how participation in ASCEND will help address the problems ahead of us.”

ASCEND is also an opportunity to educate and excite the next generation of space advocates according to Newman. She highlighted ASCEND as the “new convening, bringing all partners together” into one event, rather than numerous niche conferences. Her focus is on “making sure that we have a really exciting conference and interaction for the next generation,” observing that they will soon be joining the ranks of experts leading the future of space decisions.

Bruno set a clear vision for the event as a “different kind of conference” in which information isn’t just passively received, but instead “a place where big ideas are introduced, debated and perhaps a consensus even reached.” With an outcomes-oriented event, policymakers and business people will have new references to help them make more informed decisions. ASCEND will function as a “much more active exchange.”

Focusing on the “deliberate way” ASCEND will aim to enable our “off-world future” with an “inherently multidisciplinary” approach, Dittmar believes the event will accomplish this by engaging non-traditional players, placing emphasis on the next generation and breaking down barriers.

While wrapping up the panel’s insights, Kennedy noted the change in the space ecosystem has brought “marvelous opportunities for folks to get together” from the commercial and private sectors, as well as civil, government and international partners. We live in a unique time to engage globally and “craft the way we want to go out into the solar system.”

Questions from the audience centered around what the adjacent markets will include, sectors ripe for space expansion and how to get involved with ASCEND. Audience members probed high-level issues of whether global space cooperation will increase or diminish, as well as what the timeline could realistically look like for an off-world civilization. “The time is now,” Newman responded to an eager student’s question about opportunities for the younger generation in space. Bruno added, “you have the potential to live and work in space.” Meyerson noted that there was a “time in my career many decades ago when I thought I had missed the Golden Age of Space, and I absolutely had not, we’re right in the middle of it.”

ASCEND will take off 16–18 November 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada – for questions or to get more involved, Contact Us.


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Jaclyn Vann

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