International leaders view space as doorway to economic gain

As more people around the globe rely on signals from space in their daily lives, nations are looking for ways the space industry can boost their national economies, panelists at the 39th Space Symposium said.

From Azerbaijan to Ecuador, government leaders are focusing on inspiring students to learn science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In some cases, that even means sending students away to gain skills.

Building skills, creating jobs are priorities

The Symposium panelists agreed that some barriers make getting students turned toward space careers difficult.

“STEM education is a relatively new topic in countries like Ecuador,” said Robert Aillon, founder and CEO of Leviathan Space.

Building STEM skills in Africa also is crucial, but so is making sure those skilled workers have jobs close to home, said Tidiane Ouattara, head of the science and technology division for the African Union Commission.
“Instead of the brain drain which my generation went through, it is the contrary, the reverse, which we wish to create,” he said.

Increasing space awareness is important

Melody Korman with Israel’s Rakia Mission is working to broaden how residents look at space.
“We need to bring doctors, lawyers and artists into the space industry,” she said.

The U.S. government and nonprofits including Space Foundation are working to build space awareness around the globe. Two main efforts are training educators and delivering space-based curriculum.

Muhammad Sharif, director of science and technology for the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said one major barrier he faces is building awareness of what’s going on in space. He estimated that small percentages of the population in rural areas across the Islamic world have a rudimentary understanding of what’s happening in space. Raising that awareness will benefit many types of jobs, he said, not just those in  aerospace.