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Haifa, we have lift-off! SSP16 update – week 1

Prof. Chris Welch, SSP16; Credits: Remco Timmermans
Prof. Chris Welch gives a core lecture on orbits, SSP16; Credits: Remco Timmermans

Haifa, 17 July 2016 – A crew of 104 participants boarded the Technion Israel Institute of Technology last week, embarking on an eight-week deep dive into everything space. The first ever Space Studies Program (SSP) in the Middle East started with a grand opening ceremony with space professionals from 24 countries around the world. The event was attended by senior officials from the International Space University (ISU), the Technion, the city of Haifa and the Israeli Ministry of Science, as well as the Israeli space industry.

The day after the opening ceremony the real work commenced. The program aims to provide a broad basis of what the global space industry is all about, from spacecraft engineering to space law. Over the course of eight weeks the participants will sit through 59 lectures covering seven disciplines, then have a two-week ‘specialization’ into one of these disciplines, followed by a very intense ‘pressure cooker’ team project, in which they design a solution for a relevant space industry challenge. In between they attend VIP lectures and go on several field trips, visiting the local space industry. On the last day of the program they will receive a small lapel pin, marking their membership of the ISU alumni community, sometimes also known as the ‘Space Mafia’.

Space Study Program 2016 Participants; Credits: Nitzan Zohar
Space Study Program 2016 Participants; Credits: Nitzan Zohar

The participants of the SSP 2016 program come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Over half have advanced degrees in fields like aerospace engineering, astrophysics and space law. But the program also welcomes the likes of management professionals, entrepreneurs, graphics designers and artists. Despite the fact that the hi-tech industry is sometimes seen as a male sector, over 30% of SSP participants are female, and this percentage is still growing every year.

During the first week of the program participants follow several introductory lectures and attend fundamental workshops to get to know each other and the international group of lecturers and teaching associates. Among the ISU faculty and visiting lecturers are several astronauts, who use their experiences in space to teach about physics and human performance in space. In between lectures the participants have great opportunities to hear their personal stories first hand. Having lunch with an astronaut is a given at ISU!

The SSP16 officially started on 12 July and will continue until 1 September 2016. Follow the progress of the program in a weekly column here on Spacewatch Middle East.

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