In celebration of the 15 th UN-declared World Space Week, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), and the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT), hosted an advance screening for the film 'The Martian' on 7 October 2015. The event was held to raise awareness of the benefits of space science and technology, and, in particular, the importance of promoting science education.
The film, which stars Matt Damon, describes the story of Astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist who is left stranded on the planet Mars after his NASA mission is aborted. Watney must use his knowledge of science to survive.
The event, moderated by Martin Nesirky, Director of the UN Information Service in Vienna, took place in the Burg Kino, one of the oldest cinemas in Vienna. BMVIT sponsored a group of students to attend the event in line with the FTI remixed network. This is a network of Research, Technology and Innovation resources for students. Ms. Christa Bernert, who is responsible for this programme in the BMVIT, said a few words on the importance of attracting students to STEM.
The screening was also preceded by a speech by H.E. Hussam Al Husseini, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Martian was shot primarily in Wadi Rum in Southern Jordan. The area has been used before to represent Mars and Ambassador Al Husseini welcomed the audience to visit Jordan and see this striking landscape.
As a special addition to the evening, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent a short feature film explaining what JPL has achieved in their "Journey to Mars" and their plans for the future.
This was followed by a lively discussion between Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of UNOOSA, and Norbert Frischauf, Secretary of the Austrian Space Forum. Both space experts with illustrious careers, the two speakers touched on a multitude of topics relating to space, including; education, international cooperation, capacity building, and (Mars) exploration. The audience were also treated to stories involving the special guest for the night - the Austrian Space Forum's Rover.
Simonetta Di Pippo explained why it was important to have the screening during World Space Week 2015:
"For UNOOSA, education in space technologies is a key objective towards accessing the benefits of space technologies for sustainable development. I support events such as this special screening because I believe that it highlights the vital role of science for humanity's future and I am passionate about promoting careers in STEM fields to the next generation"
During the discussion, Ms. Di Pippo explained the work of UNOOSA in education of space technologies and applications. UNOOSA runs workshops, symposia, fora and conferences on topics of space and its impact on development. We provide support for education and training in developing countries through our regional centres for space science and technology education, affiliated to the United Nations. These Centres offer annual courses to select students from developing nations and with the support of prominent educators, UNOOSA has developed education curricula in space related fields to be taught in these centres. UNOOSA also runs long-term fellowship programmes in various countries including Italy, Japan and Germany. These capacity-building activities and education programmes are aimed to equip all students with the knowledge to use space technologies and data for sustainable economic and social development in developing countries.
After the screening, Norbert Frischauf commented:
"Space will always serve as the ultimate frontier of inspiration. This is one of reasons why events like the advance screening of "The Martian" are so important. Watching the movie and discussing about it is 'edutainment' in the best sense and clearly showcases to all of us that space is bigger than any city, nation or any continent and that nearly everything can be achieved if we work together..."