I’m the “Youngest Professional” at the IAC (International Astronautical Congress) for the second year in a row, which means I know a thing or two now about space, parties, and exploring. Let me be your guide to experience Guadalajara, Mexico and the 67th IAC!
Before the IAC, the SGC (Space Generation Congress) meet for several days to discuss prominent issues in the space industry. The Space Generation Advisory Council is free to join and provides networking and a voice to students and young professionals in the space industry. One evening, SGC holds a culture night where delegates from different countries share something about their culture and bring food from home to share. I watched people from over a dozen countries perform and tried lots of interesting food (I liked the vegemite!) but my favorite part was the mariachi music. I discovered that its perfect for clapping and dancing along to!
This year, the IAC is taking place in Guadalajara, Mexico, the birthplace of mariachi & tequila. Downtown Guadalajara is filled with beautiful architecture and broad open plazas with fountains and sculptures. Many of the churches, government buildings, and museums are open to the public or have a very small fee so that everyone can appreciate the incredible Orozco murals and other art. The plazas are full of performers, people selling handcrafts, and citizens making their voices heard in front of the legislature.
Sunday evening brought the start of the Young Professional Program (YPP) at the IAC with, of course, a party! The YPP events offer an opportunity for those who are early in their space careers to network and build connections within the space industry. IAF president Kiyoshi Higuchi remembered me from last year, so I gave him a Yuri’s Night sticker and took a photo with him. I love handing out stickers to everyone who’s excited about human spaceflight!
Monday was the official start to the IAC with the opening of the exhibit hall and the opening ceremony. There was a lot to see! Different countries and companies always bring cool mockups and equipment to show off in their exhibits. There’s always a lot to learn about and explore. I got to fly a Mexican Marines helicopter, which was great practice for flying a spaceship.
The University of Southern California brought in some special guests to man their booth- I hear they’ve recently enrolled as students there! At Lockheed’s booth, I told everyone how I’ve seen the real Atlas V rockets launch back home- everyone should really see a rocket launch! Companies like Lockheed are launching payloads about once a month from Florida, and more around the US and the world.
Of course, besides a rocket, every explorer needs a spacesuit! This one was a training suit from Commander Hadfield. It was my favorite thing to see- its not every day you get to see and touch a spacesuit! I brought my mom and dad back to see the suit again and again. It wasn’t the only spacesuit there- the University of Guadalajara had a beautiful spacesuit mural on their booth. I had the chance to meet another member of the Mars Generation- his mom is working on a project to preserve the memories and information from the Viking Mars Landers.
The opening ceremony included beautiful Mexican dancing, an acrobat in a spacesuit, an address from a representative of the Mexican president, and inspirational speeches from some of the organizers.
In the evening it was time for another fiesta- the big opening reception! Mexico is the perfect place to host the IAC because the only people who like to party as much as space people are Mexicans! The opening reception was set up like a carnival with games, food, drinks, dancing and even Mexican wrestling! Here I am enjoying a local delicacy- jicama (a crisp and mild flavored root vegetable) smothered in chili sauce, along with a classic Mexican toy, my prize from one of the games. I even participated in the wrestling match with my dad!
I did some exploring in the small towns around Guadalajara and helped my mom make a piece of traditional pottery. The countryside is hilly and carpeted in green. These small towns are full of colonial haciendas turned into shops and restaurants, and artisan workshops where local people make crafts the same way their ancestors have for generations. This area is especially known for its pottery- which is intricately painted and colorful.
I was fascinated listening to the Next Generation Plenary- these young leaders are already doing incredible things. Several of them talked about part of their passion being to inspire kids like me to learn about space. Seeing the cool projects they are working on certainly inspired me! Several others are using space technology to help recover from and prevent natural disasters. There are so many ways space technology can help solve problems right here on earth, especially for developing countries who lack the infrastructure of wealthier nations.
After the Next Generation Plenary, I was inspired to give the very first Generation After That talk. I hope I can inspire more of my generation to get involved, playing with space toys and playing 3-2-1 blast off with their parents!
At another reception I met Bill Nye the Science Guy and gave him a Yuri’s Night sticker!
I love animals as well as space, so I took my mom to see the Guadalajara zoo. It’s a huge zoo nestled on a hillside with lots and lots of animals, a train, an aquarium, a safari and even penguins! The view from the top is gorgeous, down a long tropical valley with a waterfall. I especially loved the birds, the fish, the penguins, and the po
lar bear. I thought it looked just like my dog, Teddy.
One more reception, this time hosted by SGAC, the YPP, and the International Space University. Once again I loved handing out Yuri’s Night stickers to all these young space enthusiasts! The thing about networking is that you can’t be shy- you just have to head out into the room, a business card in each hand, and you never know what interesting connections you’ll make!
Stay tuned for more from the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico!
Guest post for Yuri’s Night by Rafael “Rafi” Kobrick, 14 month old son of Yuri’s Night President and Chairman Ryan Kobrick. Rafi loves playing with toy astronauts, watching rockets launch, and eating Mexican food. His passion is for exploring the world with all his senses, and if his in his adventures he encounters alien life, he will probably be the first to call it a good dog and give it a kiss.