When the COSPAR Council voted in Pasadena in 2018 for the venue of the 44th General Assembly to be in Athens in 2022, we all thought we knew exactly what to expect and planned accordingly. None at the time could have anticipated the arrival of Covid-19 in 2020, the impact that it would have on the health and wellbeing of all of humanity, and in particular how it would upend the venue of the 43rd General Assembly in Sydney, originally scheduled for August 2020. The meeting was postponed to late January 2021 and required a new "hybrid" model to be conceived and implemented. It is a reality that in a world as uncertain as ours, all future COSPAR Assemblies will need to be hybrid, with hopefully dominant in-person participation, but with the capability for virtual participation. We thus need to learn from COSPAR-2021, build on what went well and change what didn’t.
The objectives of COSPAR Assemblies remain the same, namely "to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research". The Science Program Committee (SPC) and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for Athens 2022 remain dedicated to fulfilling these objectives and invite the world’s scientific community to participate and submit abstracts to over 140 sessions proposed so far. There will certainly be no shortage of new scientific findings in the subject areas of COSPAR’s eight Commissions and eleven Panels, so the 44th Scientific Assembly will be exciting and rewarding.
The general assumption is that the Covid-19 pandemic will be a thing of the past before July 2022. Recent results in vaccination and treatment are most encouraging, so the world is likely to have returned to some form of normalcy by the end of 2021. The COSPAR Athens 2022 organization, coordinated by the National Committee for Space Research of the Academy of Athens with the participation of the Hellenic Space Center in consultation with the COSPAR Secretariat, is planning for an Assembly with in-person attendance dominating, but still able to provide the COSPAR experience to virtual participants. We will thus take the lessons from COSPAR-2021 and apply them to COSPAR-2022. We recognize that one of the clear lessons is that we need to prepare well in advance for an Assembly with a virtual component. Thus, we will engage with the organizers and participants of COSPAR-2021, to learn what could have been done better. And most of all we will test and verify the platform for COSPAR-2022-Hybrid, so there are no surprises and no confusion when we go live in July 2022.We are determined and committed to the Assembly’s smooth and efficient implementation for the benefit of all colleagues who will be communicating their exciting discoveries to fellow scientists and the wider public, be it in person or virtually.
Finally, we of the COSPAR Athens 2022 team wish to assure you that our city has been and continues to be an exciting destination, a city that combines the classical past with the current state-of-the-art in meeting and accommodation facilities, all set up against a stunning Mediterranean backdrop. What was presented to the COSPAR Council in Pasadena is still the same venue, the same landscape and the same facilities and scenery.
Please come and see for yourselves!
Stamatios (Tom) Krimigis Manolis K. Georgoulis Lennard Fisk
Chair, SPC Chair, LOC President, COSPAR