12 October 2007. The first comprehensive trans-disciplinary dialogue on the present and future of humans in outer space was held on 11 and 12 October 2007 at Vienna during a conference co-organized by ESF, ESA and ESPI leading to a “Vienna Vision on Humans in Outer Space”.
This conference “Humans in Outer Space – Interdisciplinary Odysseys”, co-organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), was the first comprehensive trans-disciplinary dialogue on humans in outer space. It went further than regarding humans as mere tools for exploration or better robots, and investigated the human quest for odysseys beyond the atmosphere and reflected on the possibilities to find extraterrestrial life.
The conference had emerged from an initiative by the European Science Foundation, represented through Monique van Donzel and Jean-Claude Worms, and was carried by its respective committees on Humanities, Space Sciences and Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences. ESPI acted as the local organizer with the sponsorship of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. The conference was co-chaired by Luca Codignola (Professor for History at the University of Genoa) and Kai-Uwe Schrogl (Secretary General of ESPI).
Twenty-five outstanding experts from the various disciplines approached first the questions of comparison between historic explorations and today’s space exploration as well as space as a source for inspiration. Then, three “odysseys” were investigated: humans in Earth orbit, humans in space exploration and humans migrating the Earth. The dialogue between space scientists, historians, psychologists, philosophers, lawyers, political and literary scientists was intellectually stimulating, exciting and – looking at space from the angles of the movies and public relations – also entertaining. The final programme of this path-breaking event can be found here.
The conference ended with drafting a first sketch of a “Vienna Vision for Humans in Outer Space”. This vision statement will be finalized during the next weeks and be presented at various international forums, inter alia the International Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon in October in Sorento, the International Space Exploration Conference in November in Berlin and the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in February next year in Vienna.
Few academic events have such opportunities of bringing their results to the attention of the decision-makers, proving the chance to influence position-building processes. In addition to that, the proceedings of “Humans in Outer Space” will be published next year in the book series, ESPI is going to establish with SpringerWienNewYork. Through this, the interest on the topic might be raised further in the humanities and the other disciplines involved in this first successful approach.