BIO Space Sciences
Multiple Russian and Chinese space engineers failed to obtain visas to attend the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here this year, an absence that undermined space agency arguments that space cooperation should not be subject to short-term political issues.
At a panel featuring the heads of the world’s major space agencies, the Mexican Space Agency stood in for the missing Chinese and Russian participants. Almost all of those making speeches — the heads of the U.S., European, Indian, Canadian and Japanese space agencies, in addition to Mexico — stressed the need for international collaboration at a time when no nation can go it alone.
China has always been a special case in the United States, where NASA by law is prohibited from doing much with China’s quickly expanding space program.
Berndt Feuerbacher, a past president of the International Astronautical Federation and the moderator of the panel with the heads of space agencies, publicly apologized for the visa issues that have put so many holes in this year’s IAC program, and stretched the credibility of the idea that space is a protected domain.
Walter Natynczyk, president of the Canadian Space Agency, said it is Canada’s foreign ministry that handles visa issues and that the Canadian Space Agency — host of this year’s IAC — was not made aware of the visa issue until only a couple of days before the congress started Sept. 29.
The United States, Europe and Asian nations have continued to send commercial and scientific satellites to Russia for launch.
The annual IAC has always prided itself on being an island of nearly pure engineering and future-think in a world of political upheaval. Iranian delegates have been regular attendees, as have representatives from other nations whose space programs have zero contact with the West.