Foust forward | Dmitry in Dubai: Rogozin in the spotlight at the International Astronautical Congress
In some years, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), one person appears as the star of the week-long conference. Five years ago, it was Elon Musk, whose appearance in Guadalajara, Mexico, to talk about SpaceX’s next-gen launch system turned the conference into a rock concert – people line up for hours. in advance and rush as soon as the doors open – and a bit of a circus too, since his most ardent fans gave him comics or kisses.
There was no Elon Musk at this year’s conference in Dubai, but there was Martha Stewart. The Domestic Dean seemed like an unlikely choice to travel across continents for a space conference, but she was there on the last day of the conference, part of a panel discussing sustainable food development and its applications to the exploration of deep space.
Stewart offered a lot of star power, but not a lot of spice. In a nine-person, hour-long panel, she didn’t have a lot of opportunities to speak, and didn’t have much of interest to say when she did. She expressed interest in going to space someday: “If William Shatner can do it, I can do it.”
The person who stole the show at the conference was not Stewart or one of the many current or former astronauts who spoke in Dubai. Instead, the unlikely center of attention, at least on the opening day of the conference, was Dmitry Rogozin, director of Roscosmos.
Rogozin attracted attention by virtue of his willpower, especially his ability to talk, talk, and talk. “I only have five minutes to tell you about our accomplishments,” he told a plenary of agency heads at the conference, then spoke for nearly 20 minutes. While having to speak through an interpreter contributed to some of these excesses, he spoke much longer than the other five agency heads on the panel, who stayed close to their allotted five minutes. allocated.
His comments were a mix of updates on recent events, like the shooting of a movie on the ISS, to more ambitious visions of satellite constellations, reusable launchers, and a nuclear-powered mission to Jupiter. A reusable rocket he showed looked remarkably like the Falcon 9; Asked later about it, he gave a lengthy answer on the costs and benefits of reusability before acknowledging that what SpaceX did “highly recommend”.
Rogozin garnered attention at a subsequent press conference, answering question after question about space tourism, new rockets, and the future of the International Space Station from Russian and international media, even after the moderator implored reporters to ask other agency executives about planning. The spectacle was made even stranger by the poor sound system in the hall which forced reporters to come up to the stage to ask their questions, like supplicants approaching royalty.
While there was a lot of Rogozin boasting, there was also news. When asked when he felt it would be safe for Russian cosmonauts to fly SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, he said he thought it was safe to do so now, a statement the administrator said. NASA deputy Pam Melroy, also at the conference, deemed it important in an interview later that day.
What really matters, however, are the closed-door meetings, like the one between Rogozin and Melroy that day after Rogozin’s star turn at the conference. “It’s all about relationship building,” Melroy said in an interview after that meeting. “I felt good that we continued to deepen the relationship.” There has been, however, no breakthrough on the commercial crew or the long-term future of the ISS.
The Dmitry Rogozin Show is probably ephemeral for the IAC: with sanctions against him in the United States and Europe since his role as Deputy Prime Minister in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, it is unlikely that he can resume its role after the year the conference is in Paris. Maybe Elon can replace it instead.
Jeff Foust writes on space policy, commercial space and related topics for SpaceNews. His Foust Forward column appears in every issue of the magazine. This column was published in the November 2021 issue.