To Our AAS Members,

As a country, and globally, we are in the midst of a very intense effort to stem the spread of the corona virus (COVID-19). We are navigating uncharted waters, which is making our lives challenging in many ways we have never considered. Our health and safety should be our highest priority as we all strive to protect our families, friends, neighbors, and other members of our communities. With respect to our Society, AAS staff has been in a work from home mode since March 13th. We are continuing with planning of our future conferences, implementing new ways of communicating with our Members, and looking at new programming that can be done virtually. We are also discussing contingency plans to understand and minimize the impact on our Society. More information to come on that.

In the meantime, we did want to provide you with a recap of the great year we had in 2019. First, let me provide an update on our staff. Jim Way has been our Executive Director for over two years now and his efforts have helped AAS to continue to grow and build an even more solid foundation for a strong future. Patrick Rouin, our Events Coordinator, has been with us for a full year and has fully grasped and taken the reins of our events planning and logistics. And, we’re very pleased to have recently added Sarah Robertson in January as our Communications Coordinator. She’s already made an impact and we look forward to her continued efforts in improving outreach and engagement. This is very exciting to be fully staffed!

At our AAS annual strategic offsite early in 2020, AAS board members discussed things we’d done well in 2019, things we could have done better, and identified goals to focus on for the upcoming year. A few of the objectives we discussed include:

  • Increase the prestige for our multiple awards
  • Investigate additional standalone events
  • Improve the integration of our various committees into the AAS umbrella
  • Add more virtual events to the calendar
  • Look for innovative activities and formats for our in-person events
  • Engage and cultivate the student and young professional communities
  • Identify opportunities for long-term growth
  • Continue to build a strong and stable financial platform
  • Increase the overall visibility and marketplace presence of AAS

Our peer-reviewed technical publication, The Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, published continuously since 1954, is thriving and subscriptions remain a key member benefit. We had a number of changes last year, but all for the better! We would like to welcome new editors to the publication. Our new Editor-in-Chief Maruthi Akella, and our new Associate Editors Kyle DeMars, Jennifer Hudson, Martin Ozimek, and Powtawche Valerino. We are excited to have them on the team.

Space Times is back! Patrick Rouin and Molly Kearns, our VP of Publications, re-launched Space Times in 2019 as an online publication, bringing on new writers including students. Several engaging articles have been published and we are looking to offer ongoing write-ups of our events, our members, and other Society developments. Please check it out on our website and let us know what you think.

The 29th AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, was held from January 13-17, 2019, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. There was a total of 254 papers presented in 28 sessions. Of the late withdrawals, the U.S. government shutdown appeared to have little effect on the overall attendance level. A larger number of people withdrew their papers due to difficulty in obtaining a visa in a timely manner.

The 42nd annual AAS Guidance and Control Conference was held January 31- February 6 in Breckenridge, Colorado. This was another great success with high attendance and an amazing variety of technical topics presented. The GNC conference features a classified section to discuss top secret advances and developments, as well as substantial student engagement through STEMscape, an outreach to over 100 local high school students and educators. We truly appreciate the efforts of the Rocky Mountain contingent that put this conference together!

In March, we held the 57th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium. This event was moved to the Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, offering more room, a state-of-the-art facility, plenty of free parking, and an on-site hotel. NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard met with corporate members, provided opening remarks to the general audience, and then met with students continuing this excellent tradition. The symposium featured Scott Pace of the National Space Council; Tim Gallaudet from NOAA; John Mather, Senior Astrophysicist at NASA Goddard; Christyl Johnson, NASA Goddard Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investment; Dennis Andrucyk, Deputy Associate Administrator at NASA; and many others.

In June, the annual Student CanSat Competition saw more than 100 team applications from all around the world. The top 40 teams travelled to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas and launched their payloads. The 2019 mission was to protect the science payload from damage during the launch and deployment. During the descent, teams had to use a parachute to release the science payload allowing it to glide in a circular pattern collecting sensor data for one minute, monitoring altitude and air speed. First place went to the Istanbul Technical University, with teams from Turkey in second and fifth, Poland in third, and Greece in fourth. The United States came in sixth place. The 2020 competition will be held at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Virginia.

In July, AAS held the very first John Glenn Memorial Symposium from July 10-12 in Cleveland, Ohio. It was held at the Global Center for Health Innovation in downtown Cleveland which allowed ample space for attendees. The theme of the symposium was Powering Innovation from the Sky to the Stars and included speakers such as James Morhard, Deputy Administrator or NASA HQ; Fred Kennedy, Former Director of the Space Development Agency; David Glenn, the son of John Glenn; Janet Kavandi, Director of NASA Glenn and former astronaut; Charlie Bolden, former NASA Administrator and astronaut; and many more. This conference was a huge success and perhaps AAS’ biggest accomplishment of 2019. The Second Annual Glenn Symposium will take place July 14-16, 2020, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.

Over 1,000 attendees attended the International Space Station Research & Development Conference which took place in Atlanta July 29 through August 1. AAS and CASIS have collaborated for several years on this event that brings together technical, commercial, research, policy, and other space industry segments. The conference featured talks by astronauts, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and other industry leaders. A key component of the event was once again the afternoon technical sessions that allowed deep-dive discussions and presentations on a variety of topics including Earth science, human factors, technology innovation, and others. The 2020 ISS Conference will take place August 3-6 in Seattle.

The AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialists Conference was held from August 11-15, 2019, in Portland, Maine. There were 320 attendees, a new attendance record and included a very large number of students. This event is a key component of AAS as a technical society and we look forward to continuing to build on this year’s success.

The 12th annual AAS Wernher von Braun Symposium took place September 10-12 in Huntsville, Alabama. Due to the International Astronautical Congress being held in October, we had to move the von Braun Symposium a month earlier to deconflict. Despite the change, we still had a successful event that featured speakers such as Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA HQ, General Lester Lyles, Chair of the Exploration and Discovery Subcommittee of the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group, and Melanie Saunders, Deputy Associate Administrator from NASA. The 2020 von Braun Symposium will move back to its traditional time, taking place October 26-28th in Huntsville, Alabama.

AAS has continued to host our Future in Space online discussions throughout the year with a moderator and a small group of experts discussing space-related topics. These virtual sessions feature the latest in space exploration, technology, innovations, policy, ethics, and more. They are a great way to bring people into the world of space science and technology, allowing them to engage in conversation with some of the industry leaders, and introduce many to AAS. Some of the topics this year included space weather, nuclear thermal propulsion, and NASA’s Lunar Gateway Habitat. We also hosted on-site live coverage of our Glenn and von Braun Symposiums featuring commentary, online chat, and one-on-one interviews with panelists and speakers.

In 2020 we have some very exciting plans but are facing a unique challenge in the COVID-19 outbreak, just as the rest of the industry, government, and the overall space community. We have postponed the Goddard Symposium, looking to hopefully host it later in the year. We are still anticipating hosting our Glenn and von Braun Symposiums, and partnering on the ISS R&D Conference, but developments related to the virus may continue to have significant impacts throughout the year. Fortunately, AAS has a strong foundation, so we are confident we can weather the storm, but will be looking for ways to offset the revenue lost by event cancellations or postponements.

AAS is fortunate to have the strong support of many in the space industry. We will continue to strive to offer an excellent opportunity for the industry to establish and nurture valuable connections, provide timely insight into critical insights and developments, and bring our members the credibility and leadership the seek from the Society. We sincerely appreciate and thank you for being a part of AAS.


Carol S. Lane