Building Our Off-World Future Faster
By Rob Meyerson|June 2021
The ASCEND community is accelerating the conversation around building our off-world future. Building on the momentum of our successful launch, 2021 ASCEND has taken off with a heightened awareness of our opportunity, indeed, our mission, to build on-ramps to space for everyone. ASCEND is focused on big challenges, pathways to success, the application of innovation, and the exponential value of interdisciplinary collaboration in space.
The whole space ecosystem is gravitating to us to strengthen the relationships that will make the future of space happen. In 2020, we introduced ASCEND as the first international community specifically envisioned to work on expanding the space economy. The pandemic postponed our live event, but accelerated our transformation to virtual events, allowing us to engage more people online. The inaugural ASCEND main event last November hosted over 3,000 participants online from 33 countries, 1,300+ organizations including 125 universities. Thousands more attended smaller-scaled, single-topic ASCENDx Summits, Webinars, and Workshops on the web throughout the year.
An Advocate for Interdisciplinary Collaboration
It’s critical that ASCEND be a convening area for the entire off-world community. ASCEND is for core technical professionals from academia, commercial, and government space sectors who are already deeply involved in space projects.
ASCEND is also for the larger universe of students and professionals from adjacent industry sectors who are excited by the real opportunity to grow their business from and in space. We want to include construction, agriculture, hospitality, medical, and manufacturing. All of these industry sectors – and more – are needed to build a thriving space ecosystem. Our goal is to connect technical experts with business and government leaders from aerospace and adjacent industries to discuss, test, build, and solve problems together.
Welcome Support from NASA; Looking for “Space MacGyvers”
NASA has emerged as a strong supporter of ASCEND, both at the November 2020 event and since then. In February, NASA headlined a livestream event previewing the Perseverance arrival on Mars. NASA also helped lead the ASCEND webinar, “Maximizing Payload Success,” in April, giving innovators insight into successful payload project planning so they can get their plans off the ground and into orbit. At our 15 June ASCENDxSummit, “Accelerating Pathways to Space,” NASA will preview its upcoming Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, a revolutionary way of communicating data from space.
We’ve moved the discussion forward on who will be living and working in space. During the March ASCENDxSummit, “Accelerating the Next-Generation Workforce,” we heard from Kara Cunzeman, Devin Liddell, and Margaret O’Mara – two futurists and a historian – who sparked all kinds of creative ideas about the intellectual, physical, and emotional skills future generations of space users will need to succeed.
Cunzeman shared research on the many possible futures, and how we can think about strategic foresight. “There are alternative futures that we can make happen, but we have to dream those,” she said. Liddell had the room buzzing with his observation that “Interdisciplinary knowledge is the new superpower.” To punctuate the point, he invoked the ultimate human Swiss army knife. “The off-world economy will offer bright futures for interdisciplinary thinkers like a space MacGyver who’s capable of tackling many different jobs.” And O’Mara encouraged, “Bring people into the room. Don’t be constrained by who’s done it before. Seize that opportunity to be inclusive.”
We know living and working in off-world communities will require myriad talents beyond STEM literacy and a global ecosystem of support from government, industry, and academia. ASCEND’s role in this dynamic is to put exceptional technical content in a larger context designed to attract a wider audience to our year-round conversation about living and working in space. ASCEND is on the flight path to help everyone see humanity’s future in space, and to inspire more of them to pursue the challenge, excitement, and satisfaction of helping us realize our off-world future faster.
2021 Guiding Coalition Exemplifies the Community Spirit of Space
To maximize our reach and impact, we’ve enlisted a diverse advisory board of technology, science, business, and engineering leaders. The members of our 2021 ASCEND Guiding Coalition bring an accumulated wealth of experience – millions of miles and billions of dollars invested in space – to inform and inspire the ASCEND community. Meet them all online at ascend.events.
Attend the Annual Event in November
Live in Las Vegas and online everywhere, your experience at the 2021 ASCEND main event will be unique. The conversation in November will be facilitated by experts, featuring exceptional technical content in a larger context. 2021 ASCEND will offer the technical depth and breadth of an AIAA forum, along with senior leaders from the space community who will help drive the conversation.
As program planning continues, the ASCEND team’s highest priority is ensuring attendees’ safety, comfort, and access to the optimal ASCEND experience – live and virtual. Look for announcements on the program content coming out in June, with registration opening in July. Start plotting your trajectory to ASCEND today at ascend.events.
I invite you to join the ASCEND community now – because no one goes to space alone. ★