In 2018, SGAC decided to create a new award to recognize those who truly go above and beyond in their work for our organization. The Pioneer Award was created, and consists of a special pin with a certificate that states the accomplishments of the recipient, along with recognition on the SGAC website.
The award was named “Pioneer” since it reflects the innovative and adventurous spirit of SGAC, and the recipients are those select few who personify the values of our organization and have consistently gone above and beyond in fulfilling our mission. These space pioneers represent our “best of the best”, and are selected through a nomination process and independent review board, with a handful of SGAC members ultimately being eligible for the award.
Pioneer Awards are assessed twice a year.
Do you know an SGAC member you would like to nominate for the award? Please do so here
For the longest time, doing anything space related seemed impossible.
My periapsis came and went in 2008 when I graduated from Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical and Space from the University of Queensland in Australia. Back then, I had successfully organised the Queensland Youth Aerospace Forum (the predecessor of the Australian Youth Aerospace Forum) and just came back with my team after launching our ramjet engine in the Woomera Prohibited Area in the Australian desert. Yet, despite a perfect GPA and a great deal of volunteering experience, I could not find a space-related opportunity when I graduated. The problem was that I did not know about SGAC.
So begun my long journey out into the black emptiness. I was accepted into medical school and spent four long years being molded into a physician. Machines and humans are complex systems – but that is where the similarities end. I meddled in artificial hearts and global health for relief. I searched hard for a physician speciality where I fit in.
My passion for space remained. Along the way, I came across multiple seemingly random references made in regards to the field of space medicine. A close friend alerted me that the Annual Congress of the International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine was in Melbourne in 2012, so I went. There I discovered a whole group of people who are passionately combining the fields of space and medicine. I had finally discovered what I am aiming for, but the how remains elusive. Australia would not have a space agency until 2018, it was clear that I have to figure this out some other way.
Eventually in 2015, Andrea Boyd, a friend that went back to the ramjet launching days who at that time just became an EUROCOM, recommended me to join SGAC. I had little idea what this organisation do but I subscribed to SGAC-Talk. While clearing through old SGAC-Talk emails, I saw that SGAC was looking for a web editor. Even though the deadline closed 14 days ago, and armed with only vague experience in HTML and WordPress, I applied. Somehow, I was accepted. Under Chantelle Dubois’s expert guidance, I started to learn Joomla and helped to upload content to the SGAC website. Along the way, I learned a great deal about SGAC and the opportunities that it offered. What I did not realise, was that this is not where the true heart of SGAC is.
I was very lucky to be accepted to the first Space Generation Fusion Forum that I applied to in 2016. There, people who I had only known by name and an email address became friends and then family. Being at that event, I realised that the strength and heart of SGAC is the network of people from across the world who are passionate about space. By finding other students and young professionals who are even more inspiring, passionate and ambitious about space, I realised that my impossible dream may actually be possible.
So alongside my residency (medical specialty) training in the United States and the accompanying 80 hours work weeks, I decided to devote myself fully in being part of SGAC. My orbit passed by the apoapsis and turned quickly back.
I became one of the Web Coordinators with Chantelle. I still remember how some people commented that I took up one of the toughest job in SGAC. The reality is that the Web Team is one of the most important and integral team in the organisation. SGAC is literally a virtual organisation, so almost everything that the organisation does involve some sort of web-related support. Through this role, I connected with almost every single team member, regional coordinator, NPoC, project group co-lead, event team and manager in the organisation. Each interaction was an opportunity to support our collective passion and further the mission of SGAC.
Eventually, I took the lead to completely rebuild our website. The process involved going back to the core of what SGAC is about and what its 14,000 members and the space community really want from the website and SGAC. Beneath the modern interface is a complex system of membership modules and databases that help SGAC functions efficiently. I am incredibly thankful for the talented team that included Dan Malgran, Eric Mwobobia and Oladeji Damilola who helped made this a success.
I am honoured to receive the Pioneer Award in recognition of my work in rebuilding the website as well as my other executive committee work over the past four years. However, each time I look at the shiny gold pioneer pin that came with this award, I am in fact humbled by the opportunities and support that SGAC has given me.
Being a part of SGAC is more than just about getting another last-minute email request for a huge event website that should have been up yesterday, or another reminder about overdue annual workplans, or hours-long teleconferences with incoherent discussions and migraine-inducing background noises.
SGAC is about this wonderful group of like-minded friends who are passionate about space. It is about helping everyone across the world with that passion to make it a reality.
I am truly lucky, thankful, and honoured to be part of this great organisation and the SGAC family.
In April 2018 I was presented with one of the first SGAC Pioneer Awards to recognize my efforts and contributions to the organization. As I was handed the pioneer pin—a golden wreath encircling the SGAC logo—I reflected on the fact that it had only taken me four years to get here. I say that not as a dismissal on the effort that it took to arrive at this point, but really on the sort of impact being a part of the SGAC community has had on my professional and personal growth.
For me, the journey began in 2013. I was freshly minted into my university’s engineering program and joined the campus nanosatellite team which competed in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge. While I always had vague ideas about maybe someday working in the space sector, the pathway from my prairie city to an actual career as a space engineer wasn’t obvious to me. This didn’t discourage my ambitions, and in fact made me even more restless about finding new opportunities.
Sometime in 2014 I would find out that the International Astronautical Congress was being held in Toronto, a city that was only a 2 hour flight away from me. One of the oldest and largest space conferences in the world? I’m there! The Space Generation Congress held right before didn’t grab my attention right away, but one of my friends from the university whom I looked up to and saw as a role model for my own space ambitions, encouraged me to attend. Even with his recommendation, I still hesitated to apply. I still wasn’t quite sure what it was. I think on the last day before applications were being closed, I decided to apply and just see what happens.
This was probably one of the best last minute decisions I’ve made in my life (and I make a lot of last minute decisions).
My application was accepted, and I was able to secure funding to attend, as well as funding for 4 other of my colleagues from the nanosatellite team to attend the IAC afterward. And then finally in late September, I was off for my first SGC.
I think the best way to describe the experience is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I felt like I had discovered a brand new planet for the first time, one that was inhabited by other young professionals and students, all of whom were equally excited, passionate, and ambitious as I was. It was incredible and amazing to see 120 people from all corners of the world come together to exchange ideas on the topics of space ethics, space policy, technology, and entrepreneurship. I met astronauts, representatives from space agencies, CEOs of space startups, space lawyers—I didn’t even know space law was a thing! Laws. For space? Absolutely wild.
I attended the IAC afterward and had a great time, but really, SGC shook my worldview up. I wanted my everyday life to be like what I experienced in Toronto. And so, I began applying to nearly every and any vacancy posted to get further involved. For anyone who has ever felt bad about their application being rejected by SGAC for a vacancy, mine was rejected so many times I really didn’t think I’d get my foot in the door. But then I did. I was accepted as a web editor for the SGAC, updating content on it’s website. This turned out to be a really great starting point because I was able to connect with nearly every project lead, team coordinator, event manager, RC, and NPoC to update content on the website. I got to know a lot of names through email, and the next time I attended an SGAC event it was all that more exciting to finally meet them in person.
In 2015 I was elevated to the role of Web Team Coordinator. Later that year I was accepted as an intern at the SGAC headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Here, I had even closer interactions with senior members of the space community, I attended a UNCOPUOS meeting, and helped with the SGC held in Israel that year.
I made more fun space friends.
I met more cool space people.
Doors started opening for me that I didn’t even know existed.
I was embolden to do things like reach out to the president of the Canadian Space Agency at the IAC in Israel to set up a meeting with Canadian students. This would lead to positive opportunities being created for Canadian students.
I was awarded the Space Generation Leadership Award to attend SGC and IAC in Mexico (2016).
I successfully applied to be the Space Generation Fusion Forum 2017 Deputy Manager.
I landed an internship at the CSA with the robotics team.
I was invited to be on the CSA’s astronaut final selection committee.
I continued on as Manager of the Space Generation Fusion Forum in 2018.
Five years ago I didn’t think or really know that a career in the space sector was possible or realistic for me. Sometimes you can see the Aurora Borealis from Winnipeg, and that’s about as close as space felt to me. Four years ago I opened emails about the results on my SGAC applications expecting more rejections. Three years ago I saw the inside of UNCOPUOS for the first time. Two years ago I saw Elon Musk’s presentation live at the IAC in Mexico. One year ago I gave input on who Canada’s next two astronauts should be. And today I just got home after debugging rover software on the Mars analogue terrain.
I’ve travelled across the world, made countless friends, developed an amazing network, and learned so much about the industry. It’s also been incredible to lead the charge on things like SGFF—nothing has been more satisfying than hearing about the positive experiences delegates had at the event my team and I organized, and working closely with SGAC partners to make it happen.
My pursuit of further involvement of SGAC was simple — I wanted my everyday life to feel like my first SGC. As someone who gets to play with rovers everyday as my summer job, I can definitely say I’ve succeeded in that goal.
My name is Lauren Napier and I have been a member of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) since 2013. Before I became active with SGAC I didn’t really know much about how to get involved in the space sector aside from working for a space agency or a space company. Having a background in communications and international relations I always thought that the only way to play an active part in the space industry was only if you have a STEM background. When I found the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the Space Generation Advisory Council thanks to my Space Law, Policy and Politics professor at Webster University, Dr. Irmgard Marboe, I knew I had finally found my place in the space sector where my voice could be heard and I could really make a difference with my social science background. So it was not until I was in masters program that I fully got involved in the space sector and in SGAC. Growing up in Texas and Florida, I have always been inspired and interested in weather and space. The fact that I could now be connected to such a great community of people through SGAC is incredibly inspiring and helpful in and of itself.
Within SGAC I have held various roles and been active in a number of ways. As I live in Vienna, Austria, I have always been part of the SGAC delegation for the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the COPUOS Science and Technical Subcommittee, and the COPUOS Legal Subcommittee. Within the Legal Subcommittee I have given statements and technical presentations on behalf of SGAC and about our efforts in the law and policy sub-sector of space. I have helped write conference room papers for SGAC on legal matters that were presented at COPUOS on topics such as suborbital flights, capacity building and space law. Additionally I have represented SGAC at High Level Fora and one of the ICAO-UNOOSA Symposium on aerospace matters.
From the beginning of my time at SGAC I have also always been actively involved in the Space Law and Policy Project Group (SLP). At first I helped this group with papers and projects as well as helping with social media. Eventually, in September 2015, I moved up to become a Co-Lead of the project group and had the great honor to work with SGAC members from space law, policy, international relations, political science and even engineering. In the meantime I was also part of the Communications Team for the 1st European Space Generation Workshop which took place in Budapest, Hungary.
In November 2017 I stepped down as Co-Lead to SLP as I moved over to become the Space Generation Forum 2.0 (SGF 2.0) Event Manager as this event would take place in Vienna, Austria with connection to UNISPACE+50.
I am currently the SGAC Intern and will support Clementine and the SGAC team on SGF 2.0, UNISPACE+50, COPUOS as well as SGC and IAC in Bremen, Germany.
I won the Pioneer Award at SGF 2.0 for my 5 years of service and for my various roles within the Space Generation Advisory Council. Though I have always felt proud to wear the SGAC pin at various events and at the United Nations, when I wear this special SGAC pin with gold laurel leaves I realize that I can be proud of myself AND SGAC knowing I have the honor to wear a pin that only three people currently have; 2 of which being women. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that I am not only promoting SGAC and all of its members but that I am also showing women and girls in space that SGAC believes in us and allows us to hold such leadership positions and gives us so many wonderful connections and projects within the space sector. This award is not just for me but it also symbolizes that women DO have a role in the space sector and that our actions and ideas do not go unnoticed. This pin will be a treasure for me even once I become a SGAC alumna next year.
I would like to take a moment to tell other SGAC members (and perhaps even potential SGAC members) what this organization can do for them- as it (and it’s members) have done this much for me:
SGAC is a way to network
SGAC is a way to learn how to be a team player AND a leader
SGAC is a way to learn about other parts of the space sector
SGAC is a way to collaborate and learn from one another
SGAC is a way to get inspired
SGAC is a way to meet some amazing alumni, founders, and experts in the industry
SGAC is a way to have a home away from home
SGAC is family.
My journey in the SGAC began in 2011 through a colleague that met with the SGAC director at the International Astronautical Congress. He did not know much about the organization at the time, but after a few minutes talking with the members, he came to realize that Brazil had no representation. Himself, he was over the age limit, but once back home, he try to recruit members. An email advertising the position of National Point of Contact (NPoC) eventually reach me. I applied to the position and became Brazil’s NPoC in 2012. At the time, I was starting my PhD and was struggling to make ends meet, but I believed that this work was important. I came to understand this importance much later and I am still realizing everyday how important it is. On that same year, in a last minute decision with only a week after moving from Brazil to Japan, I decided to attend the Space Generation Congress in Italy. After this congress in 2012, I was hooked and for the next 6 years SGAC became a part of my life. During this time I became Regional Coordinator (RC) for South America, Local Events Coordinator (LEC) and had the opportunity to attend and contribute to various SGAC events and even organizing a few of them.
During my second year as a RC my team and I organized the first SGAC regional event in South America. It was a lot of work. Many of us were in different time zones and had to coordinate activities and logistics in the middle of the night. Despite the challenges, the event was great and it was a life changing experience to see how the participants grasp at every single word of the keynote speakers and how they dedicate themselves to the working groups. South America does not have a well develop space industry, having other South American specialists come and share their work with the participants was a unique experience for many of them and a lesson in humility to us all. Our team’s resolution just grew stronger after that workshop and with the same long hours and dedication; we were able to organize a second regional event in the following year. The SGAC in the region developed, members grew and now teams come together every year to organize regional and local events.
After having this fantastic experience organizing events, I wanted to help others to do the same. In 2016, I became LEC helping various teams organize events in South, Central and North America, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. The SGAC is now hosting workshops, panels, and visits all over the planet and it is incredible to see so many students and young professionals working hard to bring this experience to others.
I am an engineer and through my profession, I have never considered doing the work I do with SGAC. I am especially grateful for the opportunities to attend the SGAC events where I form lifelong friendships and connect with amazing people that helped me find my place in the space community. Participation on the events was fundamental to me. They are a great chance to learn, give your opinion, and, perhaps most importantly, make friends. Friends that, many times, I get to meet just once a year. There is also where I meet in person many people that I have worked together for months and sometimes years, but I only knew them as an email or a voice on the phone.
The SGAC gave me the opportunity to have a positive impact in the space community and also to help and inspire others. It gave me the tools to learn new skills and interact with people that otherwise I would never be able to meet. It is not an exaggeration to say that working in the SGAC changed my life. The friendships and experiences I had thanks to being part of the team changed my perspective and gave me the opportunity to develop new expertise. Hard work is a fundamental part of it and it is how volunteers are able to achieve such great projects like the numerous events and project groups. All the late night work and long evening meetings are worth it. People is what SGAC is all about and I am very grateful to be part of this family.