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This week, OeWF Board Member Sophie Gruber and OeWF Member Michael Müller were at the SpaceOps conference in Marseille, France, to talk about their recent research at AMADEE-18. In this blog, Sophie recaps her experience at the conference.
It is hard to believe that it has already been two years, but here we are again at the Space Operations (SpaceOps) conference, this time in Marseille, France. After attending the AMADEE-18 science workshop in Graz, Michael Müller and I, Sophie Gruber, travelled to France so we could present our paper on “Operational Benefit of a 3D Printer in Future Human Mars Missions – Results from Analog Simulation Testing” to an international audience consisting of professionals and scientists from every major space agency. So yes; we were pretty excited about that.
— Space Ops 2018 (@Spaceops2018) May 24, 2018
The SpaceOps2018 conference takes place in the beautiful Palais du Pharo near the old port in Marseille. Startled by that impressive venue, Michael and I were already slowly getting in the mindset for a week full of space operations. Our presentation was scheduled for the first session after the lunch break, which by the way was always a highlight thanks to the French cuisine. Right before our presentation, there were two inspiring talks about how to get the next generation interested in space operations, during which the room was filled with people we recognised from the SpaceOps2016 in South Korea. Amongst them were also two persons who later turned out to inspire Michael and myself a lot: Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager and Philip Liebrecht, Assistant Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA.
Finally, it was time for our presentation and we really enjoyed talking about our A3DPT-2-Mars experiment, which we conducted during the AMADEE-18 Mars Simulation. The 20 minutes of our talk were over in an instant and were followed by a lively Q&A session. An Airbus representative for instance approached us after the session and asked about the material we used and how we are planning to further investigate mass optimization of our 3D printed tools. We got a lot of ideas out of this kind of discussions and are already looking forward to further work with the A3DPT research team on the use of 3D printers for the human exploration of Mars.
The next point on the schedule was the coffee break. Michael and I were longing for some coffee and then Alice Bowman and Philip Liebrecht came right into our direction. Nothing unusual at first, as we were standing right in front of the coffee stand, so we were surprised when they stopped next to us, just to congratulate us on our great presentation and interesting paper. We also got to talk to them during the speed mentoring event of the Space Generation Advisory Council and I was especially inspired by Alice Bowman`s insights into managing such a big mission like New Horizons. She told me that it was all about the small details which can make the difference, in particular when you are on a tight schedule. Did you for instance know why the New Horizons spacecraft did not go back towards Earth for a slingshot maneuver? If it would have done that, then the team would have faced a lot of additional restrictions due to planetary protection issues as the spacecraft was also running on nuclear energy. Getting an approval for aiming a spacecraft running on nuclear power towards Earth is not that easy, for good reasons. That kind of conversations are definitely something which does not happen every day, but the best part had yet to come.
It was a long day and we were meeting up with some fellow students to go for dinner together. I was discussing my Bachelor thesis on the sublimation on water ice in caves on Mars with an engineer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was working for the upcoming Mars2020 mission, when I realized Michael was being handed an envelope. As we were leaving for dinner Michael also handed the envelope to me; our paper has been selected as the best student paper in conference! We still feel honoured about that and for sure will not forget the SpaceOps2018 conference any time soon!
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