There is an undercurrent at this years International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Baku, Azerbaijan that isn’t being reported in the media. Approximately 400 km west of the capital Baku over 120,000 people are fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the long disputed and overwhelmingly Christian enclave within Azerbaijan’s boundaries.
In looking through the online program for this years event I could only find one mention of a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) official participating. This seemed odd. SpaceQ contacted the CSA as it usually does regarding what level of participation and activities would be taking place.
What I received from the CSA was a short statement which reads, “The Canadian Space Agency will not participate in this year’s IAC in Azerbaijan. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the humanitarian crisis. The Canadian Space Agency will continue to promote the peaceful and sustainable exploration of space for the benefit of humanity.”
I followed that up with several other related questions but have yet to hear back as this article was published. And that lone CSA representative on the schedule is not in attendance.
Another clue that something was amiss was the usual opening day Head of Agencies plenary. It had been renamed as One-to-One with Global Space Leaders. A name change is no big deal, however it was the roster of participants that was unusual. Instead of NASA Administrator Bill Nelson appearing, Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy was there. It seems Administrator Nelson declined to attend. As well, the European Space Agency’s Director General, Josef Aschbacher cancelled at the last minute. This would explain why the panel was largely leaders from Asian nations: China, India, Japan, and the UAE. The only European representation was Italy and transcontinental Russia.
This years IAC follows the very successful congress in Paris which had over 9000 people attending. The International Astronautical Federation which runs the IAC with the local partner reports that the IAC attracts more than 6,000 participants a year. The IAC had hoped the attendance this year would reach around 5000 but that’s unlikely to be the case based on online feedback from participants and last minute cancellations. The IAC will be in Milan, Italy next year and Sydney, Australia in 2025.