I am Megha Choudhary, a Bachelor’s student senior in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Vellore Institute of Technology, India. As an avid space enthusiast, I am involved in numerous volunteer roles and organisations such as SEDS, SGAC, and WoAA International. I was fortunate to receive a fully-funded scholarship by the NASA SCaN office and SGAC to attend the premier space events in Dubai in October 2021.
The Space Generation Congress 2021 saw keynotes from leading experts, such as Dr. Agnieszka Lukaszczyk, Vice-President of Government Affairs at Planet; Pamela Melroy, the Deputy Administrator at NASA; Dr. Josef Aschbacher, Director General at ESA, and Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, the President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the International Space University (ISU). As a delegate in the Safeguarding Earth Working Group, it was enlightening to discuss the field of planetary defense and how policies can change the course of the activities being undertaken. It was interesting to brainstorm different disaster management strategies while keeping in mind our current technological limitations. We had discussions on national and international emergency protocols for natural disasters and whether or not evacuation could be carried out on an international scale, and if yes, what it would mean for the people being displaced. We finally recommended going ahead with the evacuation of the impact area and strongly disapproved the usage of nuclear devices to tackle the impact, which was then presented to the entire SGC delegation on the final day.
Continuing the success of the SGC, IAC started off with speeches from esteemed experts from all around the globe. The first plenary session of the Congress saw the heads of space agencies (NASA, ESA, ROSCOSMOS, JAXA, ISRO, CSA, CNSA, and the UAE Space Agency) all come together to share with the audience their plans for the upcoming years. There were numerous technical sessions throughout the duration of the congress. They covered a broad range of topics from space policy, human exploration and spaceflight, climate change, diversity and inclusivity in the space sector, and many more. A major highlight for me was being the front face of the SGAC booth in the Exhibition Hall every day. I interacted with wonderful people such as Steve Eisenhart, the Senior VicePresident of Space Foundation, and Chris Boshuizen, the Co-founder of Planet Labs. During the Congress, I also got to meet Jessica Meir and Christina Koch along with Hazza Al Mansouri, the first UAE astronaut, all three of them particularly inspiring for me as a brown woman who is looking to enter into the space sector.
Receiving the NASA SCaN 2021 Scholarship allowed me to attend these wonderful events and make long-lasting connections. From the cultural night at SGC to the networking events at IAC, I enjoyed every moment of my time in Dubai. For anyone who attends these events in the future, my biggest advice would be to just put yourself out there and network as much as you can! It might seem intimidating in the beginning but it is important to remember that there was a time where the other attendees were in the same position as you are. Networking will not only allow you to gain new insights that you may not have otherwise thought of before but it may also open doors to more exciting opportunities in your future. I had an incredible time at SGC and IAC, made a ton of memories I will cherish forever and hope the same can happen for you, that you get to experience and enjoy these events in the future as well! Ad Astra per Aspera!