Leaders of federal space agencies from 15 nations spoke of international partnerships and engaged people as the key to the future of the space industry on Tuesday morning.
The representatives to the Space Symposium highlighted partnerships with emerging countries, the role of women in aerospace, and the development of current students in science, technology, engineering and mechanics.
Among the veteran players in the space industry - NASA, Russia, Canada and various European countries - sat Ukraine, Vietnam, Mexico, South Korea, and Romania. All touched upon international cooperation and coordination in order to optimize efficiency, minimize costs, and maximize the opportunities for space exploration.
"We consider the more players in the space arena the better for space in general," the president of the French federal space program, Jean Yves LeGall, said. "We cannot be afraid to be involved with new projects and methods from emerging nations."
Mexico acknowledged the need for support from countries with developed space programs in order to fuel their own, but also the need on their part to seize opportunities for growth and development.
"We can utilize the best practices from countries that have managed to transition fully into the space industry, but we have to keep pace with those opportunities," the general director for the Mexican Space Agency, Francisco Javier Mendieta Jiménez, said.
Russia - whose current relationships with the United States and Ukraine, in particular, have been tense - spoke extensively about the need for international partnerships in solving pressing demands.
"One of our biggest concerns is that we have so many tasks and projects that need to get done," said Igor Komarov, the director general for the Russian space agency. "What we need to consider is how to share in solving those problems, how to cooperate in order to reach multiple targets and goals, how can we cooperate for the benefit of all of us."
Two prominent goals of the space agencies are more successful launches to Mars and the continual exploration of the moon. So far, NASA, the Russia space agency, and the European Space Agency have successfully landed spacecrafts on Mars to collect data on Mar's climate, geology and potential for current or previous life. The three agencies along with China, Canada and Japan have their eyes set on more missions to Mars starting in 2020.
"Mars is a rallying cry," the president of the Canadian Space Agency, Sylvain Laporte, said. "When you have the opportunity, like I have had, to speak about humankind's desire to go to Mars to children, you can see the excitement that sparks us. It's motivating and inspiring to the youth."
Developed space agencies, in particular, spoke of the next generation in the space industry, and how it is crucial that space agency leaders engage with that generation now to generate the innovation necessary to achieve goals like transporting the first humans to Mars.
In Canada, for example, the agency has launched a program that delivers students tomato seeds sent to the International Space Station to grow in comparison with seeds not sent to space. Although a very elementary introduction, it nevertheless exposes young students to "a very real part of space," according to Laporte.
Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund, the chair of the German space agency, echoed the enthusiasm for educating youth, emphasizing young women.
"It is clear that we need very highly qualified people in science and technology," Ehrenfreund said. "I am the only woman on the panel, just showing how we need more women in the sciences."