ERAU Students, Professors Attend 44th Space Congress

Jaclyn Wiley/Editor-In-Chief

Space Congress is a three-day conference that invites all of the major players in the current space initiatives to gather and discuss their plans for the future. Attendees included representatives from NASA, Space Florida, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US Air Force, as well as private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Orbital ATK.

Embry-Riddle was also represented at Space Congress with multiple students and professors attending the conference, as well as an event sponsorship from Embry-Riddle Worldwide. One of the professors that attended was Dr. Diane Howard, Associate Professor in the Commercial Space Operations Program.

The theme of the 44th Space Congress was “The Journey: Further Exploration for Universal Opportunities.” For a full schedule of the events that happened, visit

Notable speakers included the first Director of the NASA Mars Program and “Mars Czar,” Professor Scott Hubbard, current Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, the Commander of the 45th Space Wing Launch Group, Colonel Eric Kryskowiak and multiple astronauts.

Perhaps the most famous speaker at the conference was Apollo XI astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. Dr. Aldrin advocated space exploration and a sophisticated plan to travel to Mars and establish a permanent human presence.

Mars was a frequent topic at Space Congress, since NASA released its “Journey to Mars,” plan outline in 2014 and has officially adopted the Red Planet as its goal.

One of the panels covered the progress of the Journey to Mars and included panelists from NASA’s Mars Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), the Orion Program, and Ground Systems Development & Operations (GDSO).

The NASA Journey to Mars plan has multiple phases, divided by proximity to the Earth. These stages are low-Earth Orbit, Deep Space and Mars, and each will have specific missions take place that will further knowledge and prove important concepts for the eventual colonization of Mars.

Another panel at the conference was “Transformational Space Legislation,” which was a familiar topic to Dr. Howard.  She teaches classes on the history of Space Law and Policy in the United States and Abroad, as well as Commercial Space Flight Regulation and Licensing. She thought that “[the panel] represented the issues at hand as well as possible, considering that the room was not filled with space lawyers… It was a good overview.”

Many of the Embry-Riddle students that attended Space Congress were members of the Commercial Space Operations degree program.  This program has a history of attending career-relevant events.

“I saw [multiple students] at the event, and not only did they get to see us, but they also got to meet people that are actually in the industry, at all different levels. Some of them are retired, some of them are in it now; just talking to these people, if you glean on piece of insight from a day’s worth of conversation, that’s one piece of insight you didn’t have before.”

Groups of Commercial Space Operations students travel to Washington DC over Spring Break every year for March Storm, an annual citizen’s lobbying effort that advocates a Citizen’s Space Agenda.

Another group of students from the CSO degree program traveled to the Mojave Air and Space Port for an externship program during Spring Break of 2016. This program was organized by the new Director of the Commercial Space Operations program, Dr. Justin Karl.

The 2016 Space Congress was a great learning and networking opportunity for Embry-Riddle students, as well as the hundreds of professionals that attended. Dr. Howard suggests that any student or person with an interest in space should attend an event like this.

“I think anyone here on the Space Coast that has any interest whatsoever in space should take advantage of all the amazing things that we have under our fingertips, just because we are here on the space coast.”

One event on the Space Coast that is especially close to home for Embry-Riddle is the Space Traffic Management Conference (STM). This conference will be held at Embry-Riddle and offers students an excellent opportunity to learn and meet people in the space industry. The call for papers has been posted.

She continued, “You show up, and you get your face known, so next time you [go to a conference] … and some of the same people are there, and they recognize you, you become more and more of a known quantity, and they also realize that yours is not a passing interest. And that’s what you want. You want to learn, but you also want to establish your credibility.”

The Space Traffic Management Conference will take place from Nov. 16 to 18, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  The date of the next Space Congress has not been decided at the time of the publishing of this article.  Make sure to check their websites for more information.