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Once upon a time…
A brief history of the Austrian Space Forum
Origin and Leading Ideas
The idea to use a Forum as a communication tool for space enthusiasts, experts, and the next generation of specialists was born in 1997 during the International Astronautical Federation Conference in Turin. Werner Balogh, Norbert Frischauf, and Gernot Grömer joined forces to make a contribution towards the Austrian Space Sector.
The big success of the Space Generation Forum activities within the framework of the UNISPACE III conference, which took place in July 1999 in Vienna, provided the team with more motivation to found the Austrian Space Forum together with several other space enthusiasts (M. Biack, J. Grabenhofer, A. Lentsch, G. Lientschnig, G. Weinwurm). This allowed legal and organisational support for initiatives.
The central driving idea was to fulfill the need for improved communication and networking among politics, science, and industry as well as fill the gap between established organisations and budding space experts – pupils and alumni of the International Space University. Ever since its beginnings, the Forum has seen itself as an independent addition to existing space institutions as well as a service provider for the general public.
The very first steps
The first events organised by the Forum, as an independent organisation, were two public talks given in 1998 and 1999 to members of national and international organisations. Discussed topics were “Goals, Programs, National Focus Points – The Future of Austrian Space Activities” and “Technology Transfer”. Both talks managed to captivate the audience and further topics were investigated in the following years (Satellite Navigation, Lunar Exploration, Space Transport Systems).
In the year 2001, the Forum began to extend its activities towards small projects, technical seminars, and hosting talks at schools. One of these topics was “Space and Security.” Events in the realm of education were also very popular: During a week-long event, the Science Fiction Week in Vienna, scientific talks and discussions were presented alongside an exhibition on science fiction. Nearly 10,000 visitors were counted. Following in the footsteps of this success was the exhibition “New Horizons” which went on tour to all the provincial capitals of Austria.
Where is the Forum today?
With the simulated mission to Mars – “AustroMars” – came the Forum’s first real input into active research. Alongside an international collaboration, a crew of six people simulated a manned mission to Mars in the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The first Science Workshop with numerous publications was a result of this mission. It also provided the Forum with the experience to start the multi-year project “PolAres”. The space suit simulator “Aouda.X” was developed within this framework and a stratospheric balloon was launched into the high atmosphere.
The Forum now has a highly active membership who contribute towards space sciences, not only in Austria but all over Europe, usually in close cooperation with other space organisations. Team members are recruited from various sectors within the space science branch, from research institutes, space agencies, industries, and highly motivated students.
Anything from a talk in a school to an event reaching 10,000 visitors is now covered within the range of possible activities; the Forum offers studies consulting as well as building water rockets on the biggest European open air festival; it provides expert advice for the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology as well as imparts knowledge about space technologies for terrestrial application.
Manned missions to Mars, the development of simulated space suits, and analog rovers, mission operations, and research in the high atmosphere are the scientific focal points of the Austrian Space Forum.
This article is available in: German