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  • Yashica Khatri

IAC Experience of a Ph.D. Student

I am Yashica Khatri, a Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. I work as a graduate student research assistant under Dr. Daniel Scheeres in the Celestial and Spaceflight Mechanics Laboratory (CSML). My research currently involves modelling dynamical uncertainty of objects in space and propagating this uncertainty over time, with the ultimate goal of building better models of complex orbital dynamics propagation to inform mission design.

International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2021 in Dubai was my first conference for my Ph.D. work. It was also the first conference paper and presentation in my Ph.D. program. To say that it was out of this world, figuratively and literally, is less of a compliment than I would like to give this experience. Along with the technical gravitas earned, this conference had many more reasons to stand out for me.

On the first day, the WTC hall was filled with IAC welcome desks, traditional music, and thousands of aerospace professionals, students, and enthusiasts from all over the world. Using a net screen, the IAC organizers mesmerized the audience with a holographic video. Many distinguished guests spoke of the pride in hosting the first Arab nations’ IAC, the progress in the space sector, and global space unity. This ceremony was followed by several sessions with heads of agencies and an exhibition. The exhibition hall had booths of many governments and private space agencies.

I presented my work the next day. The sizable audience included people from everywhere, including NASA, ESA, my lab, and some members of the WoAA India team that came to cheer me on. The presentation summoned generous applause and lots of good questions from the audience. I stepped off the stage after the session and breathed a sigh of relief. Presenting your research work to individuals that are in the same field is more exciting than I imagined it would be. The research achieves a large platform and you understand the relevance of your work.

At IAC, I met one of India’s scientist-astronaut trainees, several young individuals that are working on space start-ups, space lawyers, industry professionals, and an endless number of people passionate about space. The sheer number of ambitious, and hard-working individuals I met at IAC, alone made the attendance worth it. A Ph.D. is a very solitary and long road, which sometimes gets tiresome. This is why getting the external stimulus from individuals on a similar path makes a big difference. The goals and dreams that had started to turn blurry, came back into focus. My mind reset and I returned to my Ph.D. research with new enthusiasm.

If you ever attend an IAC in the future, I recommend you connect with as many people as possible. Use the international platform to see the progress the world of aerospace is making around you. Don’t limit yourself to the professional sessions, make time and take effort to go to mixers and socials. More than anything, enjoy your time there and get inspired!

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