That special time extends to a “speed-mentoring” event, where students meet space luminaries one-on-one. The whole idea, says Wigbels, is to “give them opportunities to become involved in the organization, to meet senior people, to have that mentoring, and also to hear from them.”
For that, the IAF has organized “next-generation plenaries” with youthful panelists. Topics have included space operations and Earth-observation, and this year will focus on the use of social media to advance space exploration and utilization.
The international push to interest young people in space work is matched at the national level, where space agencies are giving talented youth a chance to do real science and engineering in space. Among many programs, NASA is helping support the use of cubesats as teaching tools in engineering schools by providing piggyback launches to the tiny spacecraft and awarding serious money for advanced cubesat development with real missions (AW&ST Aug. 20, p. 31).
The European Space Agency, too, has worked to support “the next generation of engineers,” in the words of Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. The first flight of the new Vega rocket carried seven piggyback cubesats built by students, and senior managers like Dordain take an active role in the youth programs at the IAC, offering their insights and listening to criticism.
“We need you, so that we can retire,” the ESA chief joked to one of the student gatherings he attended in Naples.