Report to the 1999 IUPAP General Assembly
Report to IUPAP on COSPAR meeting in Nagoya Japan:
The 32nd COSPAR General Assembly took place in the week of 12-20 July 1998.Council meetings took place at beginning and end. Minutes of the Council and Bureau and the full report of the COSPAR executive on th emeeting will be prepared in the coming month or so but the iterative approval process through Council members etc. will mean the final documents are not available much before November-December.
With the latter noted, herewith is a report written to a IUPAP perspective.The meeting was the 40th anniversary meeting. COSPAR, a child born in the height of the cold war and with ICSU as midwife, is now entering middle age. Is it still a healthy and vigorous organisation? The short answer is yes. COSPAR has adapted to the new environment and has found very positive rôles in furthering scientific activities in space. The health can be assessed by the size of the attendance (~1300 scientists), the number of abstracts submitted (> 2500), or by the number of sessions, although rules that keep commissions to not running more than three parallel sessions restrict the latter. However, probably the best indication of the overall virtue of an organization that pulls scientists from many disciplines is the attendance at the interdisciplinary lectures held each week day at 0830. The lectures themselves were excellent but that is not always enough to drag often narrowly focused scientists out of their cocoons. At COSPAR the subjects covered were as disparate as science applications of the (US military) GPS system to the newest results of the groundbreaking Japanese VSOP very long baseline interferometry radio telescope in space. At the lectures that I attended I estimated that over 10% of delegates made the effort to attend. The argument that there are no common interests in a technique based organisation like COSPAR fall in the face of such facts.
From the point of view of IUPAP, COSPAR is a highly physics based organisation. Most of the scientists present have a background in the discipline either as Physicists or Applied Physicists. Sensor technology and indeed spacecraft performance (pointing, positioning, thermal response, stability etc.) all rely heavily on physics as an underlying discipline.
Much of the physics addressed by COSPAR is astrophysics, planetary physics (including effectively all the disicplines of geophysics undertaken by remote means) and of course, meteorology and geophysics itself. In addition, physical processes arre studied in the microgravity environment of space. Furthermore, the latest commisssion to be added by COSPAR,commission H, covers a brand new discipline of space science "Fundamental Physics in Space". This latter is based on the use of space missions to test fundamental issues of physics such as the equations of General Relativity, the existence of gravitational radiation or exotic particles that might contribute to the "missing mass". Commission H held a new symposium at nagoya. Of course, it must be recognised that not all of COSPAR's interest falls in physics based disciplines. Commisssions A, B and C all have substantial elements of chemistry as a discipline as the terrestrial atmosphere and the atmospheres and interiors of other planets of celestial bodies raise many chemical questions. Biological science also enter in the work of several of the Commissions.
An Important issue of the Council concerned the elections of new officers.
The successful candidates were:
G. Haerendel (D) President
I know all of these individuals. I would guess that all except Horneck come from a Physics/Astrophysics or Applied Physics background.
Certain standard reports were received. The organisation seems in a healthy state. The finances show the biennial periodicity inherent in the biennial meeting cycle and some effect of the recent decline in value of the French Franc, but to present no major concerns. Support to participants in Assemblies peaked in 1994. This is not surprising in light of the organisation?s strong links across the old iron curtain and the financial situation in Eastern Europe at that time. The popularity of the meetings and publications was illustrated by various means. It surprised me that the number of submitted papers continues to rise, even when the meeting is a country as distant as Japan for most people.
Probably the item of administrative interest closest to IUPAP?s interest is the creation of a new category of membership. Industrial concerns will be allowed to become COSPAR Associated Supporters. Subscription levels come in three categories according to space sector turnover. Category I would include a company like TRW; an example of category II Fokker or Alenia Spazio whilst SME?s such as SIL or Austrospace would appear in category III. There is a fourth category for individual supporting membership.
Plans were presented for the next Assembly, to be held in Warsaw, Poland.Professor J. Zielinski has been appointed Local Organising Committee Chairman. All seemed acceptable except there were objections to the level of registration fee forseen by the Poles (320 Euro: early, 365 Euro post deadline). [Currently 1 Euro = $1.1 US]
In 2002 it is planned to have a second World Space Congress in Houston Texas, a joint meeting of COSPAR and the International Astronautics Federation. Here again one sees the science community moving to link to the industrial. IAF is the primary industrial/engineering international organisation.