The first-ever Asgardia National Award Ceremony became the key event of the first Asgardia Space Science and Investment Congress held in Darmstadt, Germany. ASIC’s scientific program also deserved an award — all four sessions turned out to be quite exciting. The event was also marked by, a press conference and a Gala dinner to wrap up the day.

Gold Medals of Asgardia for Outstanding Achievements in Space Exploration were awarded to Canadian astronaut and scientist Robert Thirsk, Belgian scientist Michel Gillon and famous Russian organizer of large-scale scientific projects Mark Belakovskiy.

The decision to award these three persons for their significant input in space research and exploration was announced on September 19 this year when the Head of Nation issued Decree №37. And today, the official ceremony took place. Asgardian Ministers Lena De Winne and Floris Wuyts introduced the awardees, who proceeded to the stage where Dr Igor Ashurbeyli handed them medals and diplomas.

'It’s a great honor to receive this award from Asgardia’s community,' Thirsk said. 'Thank you very much... With you, with Asgardia’s community, with many other people in the world, we do have a common vision and it is that we should extend the human capability of people in space, and we should always be working out of our comfort zone.'

The ceremony wrapped up to Asgardia’s National Anthem, and the scientific program resumed. October 15 was packed with keynote speeches.

One of the first speakers was Nanoracks CEO Jeffrey Manber, one of the most successful US private space equipment producers. Manber shared recent trends in the industry and the company’s most intriguing project, Outpost. Its goal is using upper stages of rockets as building blocks on orbital stations.

‘We’ve been working on the repurposing of the upper stages of launch vehicles to use them for commercial habitats, laboratories and fuel depots instead of throwing them away. The idea is to modify the second stages once they are in space! Our company already got the funding from NASA to do a 5-month-long study to see if they can repurpose the upper stage in space.' According to Manber, the company 'managed to show that it’s possible to repurpose it even without any astronauts! The first in-space demo will be launched in 2021. To test robotics, welding in space will be performed and there even will be an attempt to spin an upper stage in order to create artificial gravity via centrifugal force.’

Mark Boggett, Head of the largest science venture capital fund, Seraphim Capital, also talked about recent industry trends.

‘In the recent years, satellites’ cost and weight have significantly dropped. This happened due to technological developments. Now, satellites can be much smaller but still perform the same capabilities that larger machines did before,’ Boggett explained. ‘However, currently, launch is a bottleneck. Innovations in the launch market have been limited for 20 plus years for the same reasons as in the satellite market. Traditionally, rockets had to lift tons and tons of payload to space. The problem is that it no longer suits the market. So, there is a mismatch in the size and weight of rockets available in the market and the current needs. Hence, a bottleneck! Collective aim is reusable rockets. Currently, you can get 1 kg of payload into space for just $1,200. Soon it will go below $100.'

Belgian astronaut and the Head of the European Astronaut Centre of the European Space Agency in Cologne, Frank De Winne, expressed the same optimism.

‘I’m quite sure that in the next decade, in the 20s, we will return to the Moon. But we will not return to the Moon in a race, like we did 50 years ago, to plant a flag, but we will return to the moon in partnership to be there to stay and to do research and continue sustainable exploration of the moon. This is the goal of all the partners, and this is a goal of ESA. We will have sustainable settlements or long-term bases to operate on the Moon that, I think, will be further down in the future, because initially, we will go there for shorter stays, build up infrastructure, build up the technology that we need to be able to sustain long-term stays on the Moon, because bringing all the resources from Earth to the Moon will not be possible, it will be too expensive. We need to learn to use the resources that are on the Moon. We call this in situ resource utilization, it’s a big area of technology development these days. Once we have mastered it, I’m sure that we will be there for longer stays on the Moon, like we are now in the ISS: for 20 years, human beings are living and working onboard the space station, and I’m sure that in 20 years from now, you’ll have people permanently living and working on the Moon.’

Such a great day couldn’t just wrap up as usual. So this day of the Congress ended with a press conference, held by Ministers Lena De Winne and Floris Wuyts with select keynote speakers, after which guests and speakers of ASIC 2019 headed to a Gala dinner at the Orangerie restraunt to celebrate the event and talk in a more informal setting.

The first Asgardia Space Science and Investment Congress (ASIC), held in Darmstadt, Germany, October 14-16, brings together scientists, aerospace industry specialists, and investors to discuss solutions to make humanity’s future in space possible. To ‘Pave the road to living in space,’ we need solutions to overcoming cosmic radiation, learning to live in artificial and lunar gravity, and, most importantly, human children must be born, and grow up, in space. The Congress also addresses topics like life support systems, space tourism, energy harvesting, recycling, human performance, commercial space transportation, space physiology, new materials, space architecture, counter measures, astrobiology, water and oxygen supply, space debris, and space weather.