At the start of March, I ventured out of Durham over to London to attend the National Student Space Conference (NSSC), and I’d say it’s been the most exciting thing I’ve done at uni so far! The DU Spaceflight society organised the travel and accommodation, so I didn’t have to think too hard about it outside of the damage to my bank account, which was nice.
There were many talks (so many that you had to choose which ones to go to if you lack the ability to clone yourself) on a range of space-related topics- how operations run on the ISS, the potential for a 3D-printed habitat on Mars, to name a few, as well as some more general ones on leadership and productivity.
They even had Mark McCaughrean, the senior advisor for the European Space Agency, give a talk about the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which I particularly enjoyed since I’d been researching it for a presentation I had to give in my lab group.
One of the highlights for me was a workshop which discussed possible futures of lunar mining- the attendees were split into four teams which were each given a potential scenario. My team discussed a future in which lunar mining was a heavily regulated worldwide effort, others had a future where it was heavily monopolised by one company, and so on. The whole thing felt a bit sci-fi, but it made for a pretty interesting discussion on a topic I hadn’t given any thought to before. I can see how some people get so hyped about space after talking about excavating resources from the moon for an hour or so.
Physics research is still my main career interest at the moment, but it was worth taking a deep-dive into the space sector for a weekend. I definitely didn’t know how much variety there was before going to the conference- from building telescopes to creating mock-ups of potential habitats on Mars, there seemed to be something for everybody!
The whole experience was very memorable- I’d definitely recommend going if a career in space interests you. I’ll definitely be considering going again next year.