Funnily enough what really touched me at the official Opening Ceremony of the ISU SSP Space Studies Program 2017 was the parade of participants carrying their national flags. I had my reservations about the parade to be honest. Isn’t ISU SSP all about bringing people and cultures together? Why ask the participants to present themselves by means of their national symbols? Also: playing national anthems and carrying flags, isn’t that a bit top heavy?
On 26 June the ISU SSP 2017 was officially launched at the official Opening Ceremony in Cork City Hall. An impressive event with quite a line-up of speakers and acts. Lord Tony Fitzgerald was there, the Lord Mayor of the city of Cork as was the Irish Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan and also Andrew Aldrin, speaking on behalf of his father, Dr. Buzz Aldrin. Also of course representatives from ISU: SSP President Walter Peeters, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Christian Sallaberger and SSP Director Omar Hatamleh. And representatives of CIT: President Brendan Murphy, and Niall Smith and Elizabeth Twomey from the Local Organising Committee. Irish musician Jack Lukeman had the entire audience sing an angelic song about the blue sunset on Mars and Prodijig blew everyone away with modern, traditional Irish dancing.
The Ceremony always opens with a parade where the participants enter in country groups carrying their national flags while their national anthems are played. It takes up quite a chunk of the programme: the class of 2017 has 112 participants from 26 countries (if you must know: Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, China, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Oman, UK and US). Some of the participants wore traditional clothes: I spotted a kimono, traditional African dress and a dirndl.
I had my reservations about the parade, to be honest. Why ask participants to present themselves as nationals of a particular country when your goal is to bring them together in a melting pot where nationality is not an issue at all? Well: apparently you can do that quite well with a parade of flags and national anthems. It gave me a goose bump here and there actually. The participants I spoke with at the reception afterwards had had the exact same feeling. The flag parade wasn’t a line-up of separate countries, it was a line-up of countries and people collaborating on shared goals and passions. ISU’s Christian Sallaberger wrapped it up well when he addressed the participants: ‘you’re from 26 countries, but you share the same academic and leadership potential and the same passion for space. The people around you today are your future network of senior people in the worldwide space industry.’
By Ineke Boneschansker, SSP18 Local Organizing Committee Representative