Czech Culture and Ambition on Display as the 61st International Astronautical Congress Opens in Prague

By Marc Boucher
September 27, 2010
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Czech Cosmonaut Vladimir Remek welcomes the delegates to the Czech Republic

Czech culture mixed with opening ceremony speeches from dignitaries marked the opening of the 61st International Astronautical Congress in Prague where 2800 delegates have gathered.

While the Czech Republic does not have a national space agency as yet, it certainly isn’t for the lack of enthusiasm as demonstrated by Czech officials including local organization committee Chairman Jan Kolar. In between cultural entertainment were direct messages to the delegates convened that the Czech Republic is open for business and it means to grow its fledgling industry into a space nation willing to partner with world organizations.

In 2004 that the Czech Republic became a member of the European Union (EU) and is taking full advantage of it. Since then it became a full member of the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2008. In anticipation of becoming a member of the ESA, the Czech government created a non-profit in November 2003 to oversee space activities. That entity is the Czech Space Office which is responsible for implementing and managing space activities including relations with the European Space Agency, space industry and working with foreign organizations.

Czech culture was on display during the opening from contemporary artists to folk dance and music.

The Czech Republic is not new to space. In fact during medieval times it was know as a leading astronomical center. More recently in 1969 instruments developed by Czechoslovakia, as it was known back then, where flown on the Soviet Interkosmos 1. In March 1978 Czechoslovakia became only the third country to send a human to space as Cosmonaut Vladimir Remek joined the crew of the Soviet Union Soyuz 28.

Remek now a Member of the European Parliament said of the congress “I have seen our planet Earth only with the natural borders such as rivers, mountains, seas and oceans in the course of my space flight. I believe that the 61st International Astronautical Congress contributes towards creation of no other borders among us, inhabitants of our lovely planet. But on the contrary to pull down the artificial ones which divides us so often.”

While the Czech Space Office manages space activities three central government ministries are playing a key role in the future development of the Czech space ambitions. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Industry and Trade have jointly agreed on a national space plan this past May. And while the Czech Republic has seen only small economic benefit to date from its space activities it realizes that there are benefits to be had that will help its citizens. Areas the Czech’s are working in include Telecommunications, Navigation, Earth Observation, Space Exploration, Space Technology and Security.

This isn’t the first time the Czech Republic has hosted the International Astronautical Congress. Czechoslovakia hosted the event 33 years ago. At that time Czechoslovakia was firmly communist. But a lot has changed in 33 years including on January 1, 1993 when Czechoslovakia peacefully split into into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. And as is evident today communism has slowly faded away and has been replaced by democracy. The Czech space program still holds ties with its former communist partners, but today it is a very different partnership. Today’s opening ceremonies was all about forging even more partnerships. With Czech space technology on display and support from the highest governmental levels there is no doubt that this event is an ongoing coming out for the Czech space sector.

This story is part of a special presentation by SpaceRef on The 61st International Astronautical Congress. For more news during the congress please visit our special page at:

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