Life on Mars, outerspace settlements, solar sailing, space junk search and retrieval missions will all be on the agenda at the 68th International Astronautical Congress, which opens today.

Adelaide will welcome some the world’s best known astronauts - including SA’s own Andy Thomas – as well as the CE of The Planetary Society, and tech billionaire Elon Musk as it hosts the world’s biggest space conference.

The theme of IAC 2017 is Space: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security, with a strong focus on promoting science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) career awareness to over 1400 South Australian school children and 600 teachers.

Future jobs and investment in South Australia hinge on science based-industries including the space sector which is worth around $3 - $4 billion and employs an estimated 11,500 people in Australia.

Guest speakers at the congress include:

  • Andy Thomas - South Australian-born aerospace engineer and former NASA astronaut. He will make the key note address at a networking event to attract 150 guests including heads of space agencies, astronauts, international parliamentarians and senior industry representatives, as well as making a guest appearance at the South Australia state dinner.
  • Bill Nye – The Planetary Society chief executive and one of the world’s leading science educators. He will share the inspiring story of LightSail, a solar sailing spacecraft that became a global phenomenon.
  • Elon Musk – Founder and chief executive of Space X and Tesla. He plans to provide delegates with an update on his plans for settling Mars.
  • Sandy Magnus – Former NASA and ISS astronaut, who currently serves as executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
  • Charles Bolden – Former administrator of NASA, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General and a former NASA astronaut.

The 68th International Astronautical Congress runs until 29 September. Find out more at