International Astronautical Conference Trip Report

Aimee I. Clare is a Litigation Associate at Mudd Law, located in Chicago, IL.

Last month, I had the honor of attending the annual International Astronautical Conference in Dubai on behalf of Mudd Law (an NewSpace Chicago Member Company), as our law firm became an official member of the International Astronautical Federation ( Having never attended any IAF event before, I did not know what to expect. Being the first professional conference I’ve attended since the covid-19 pandemic began, the idea of casually mingling with leading scientists, academics, and policy-makers from around the world seemed a bit overwhelming. After all, I am an attorney – not an astronomer, engineer, or scientist. But as soon as the opening ceremony began on Monday morning, it became clear that the IAC is truly a place for anyone with an interest in the future of space exploration.

I will never forget the UAE astronaut sitting in the front row during the opening ceremony. I sat a few rows behind him. As he rose to walk around the stage, three separate peopIe swarmed him for the opportunity to secure a selfie with the country’s newest national hero. You certainly do not see astronauts treated like rock stars everyday in Chicago. In fact, at IAC, most, if not all, of the national space programs from around the world sent their best to represent their respective agencies. It was a really special experience to be in the presence of some of the brightest technological minds of our time was a. I’ll admit I may have become so enraptured with watching the speaker presentations that I lost track of time before I was to formally accept Mudd Law’s membership before the IAF General Assembly.

As IAC proceeded, I quickly realized the real importance and necessity space lawyers play in almost every aspect of NewSpace. This occurred in conversations with diverse people from across the world, such as an engineer I met from the German Space Agency while waiting in line for lunch. When I described my profession as well as the space law and policy work we do at Mudd Law in the ever-growing space sector, everyone I met exhibited fascination and interest in my own experience and work just as I did with all the incredible technological achievements showcased around me. To be sure, I was not the only attorney present.  Space lawyers and policymakers from across the world attended IAC, as well as those who looked to the future of law such as the young law student I noticed attending the same presentations as me.

As the week went on, hundreds of speakers took the stage to highlight their cutting-edge research in the field. I witnessed some of the most engaging demonstrations in the exhibit hall where elaborate and interactive displays spoke to the future of space. I knew the IAC would be full of the most brilliant tech minds in the world. Still, I was constantly impressed by everything IAF members created in making sure to it that space remains a sustainable place for all explorers. From legendary accomplishments of the government agencies, to world renowned technology companies, we all seem to have the same underlying goal – to ensure the future of space remains safe, open and accessible to everyone.

Generally speaking, the presentations constituted condensed versions of previously submitted technical papers. The IAC organized these technical papers by symposia ranging from Science and Exploration, to Infrastructure, and to Space and Society.  Within the broader symposia, the IAC organized sub-categories.  Within the Space and Society symposium, I spent much of my time in the Space Policy, Regulations and Economics track as well as the International Institute of Space Law (IISL)’s Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space. The IISL (of which our principal attorney, Charles Mudd, is a member) works closely each year with the IAF to provide a space law program at IAC.

On my last day, I attended a panel discussion featuring a leader from the European Space Agency, an American lawyer, and a CEO from a space company. These thought leaders focused on the future of policy in the age of space commercialization. The speakers provided healthy, productive, and innovative debate on the best way to shape the future of space accountability. Despite the range of perspective from three seemingly incompatible viewpoints, they all agreed that every stakeholder in the space sector must work together toward the same goal. Through their discussion, they exemplified that which they insisted upon.  In this manner, the three speakers provided inspiration for all who attended. The most important takeaway from their conversation can be summarized in the principle that not any single viewpoint is Correct; we all need to work together to create fair and sustainable space policies that leave no person, stakeholder, or affected group at a disadvantage.

The IAF has opened submissions for next year’s IAC conference, which will take place in Paris. Whether you wish to present your research or merely interact with leading space stakeholders from across the world, IAC happens to be a must attend.[1] If you are anything like me, then you already have your calendar marked for Paris 2022.  Both our principal attorney, Charles Mudd, and I intend to represent Mudd Law at IAC 2022.  To be sure, as a new member of the IAF, Mudd Law intends to be an active contributor to the thought leadership exhibited through this organization.

Aimee I. Clare is a Litigation Associate at Mudd Law, located in Chicago, IL.

[1] See For more information on submitting your technical paper for 2022

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