Aerospace Blasts Off at SXSW 2020

Over the past few years, aerospace has taken off at South by Southwest (SXSW), the nation’s largest technology and innovation festival, held annually every March in Austin, Texas. Recently, the two-week event announced over 600 official sessions, including—for the first time ever—a space-focused programming track featuring dozens of panels exploring topics ranging from space junk to colonizing Mars.

By highlighting space, the conference looks to “celebrate the possibilities of the next wave of inter-galactic travel, as well as cover how new space-related technologies will propel tomorrow’s most innovative ecosystems here on earth.”

We’d like to think this demand was sparked by the launch of AIA’s Vision 2050: The Way to What’s Next and our augmented reality mural at SXSW 2019, but we know the appetite for more aerospace has been there some time and we’re thrilled to see it featured in 2020.

While there are dozens of fascinating panels, we’re excited to share that all three of the panels AIA organized, proposed, and promoted made the cut out of over 4,400 proposed sessions from SXSW’s crowd-sourced panel picker. Through each of these panels, we seek to highlight our industry’s cutting-edge technologies and the people and companies making them a reality:

  • The Reality of Sci-Fi: From Fantasy to Future Tech – Science and science fiction are separated by one significant word: fiction. But the ability to dream and imagine powers both fields. Historically, the two have served as catalysts of each other’s growth, and that’s still true today: STEM professionals in the aerospace industry are making sci-fi concepts like flying taxis and space tourism a reality. Join astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz, Afrofuturist author Ytasha Womack, planetary physicist and Hollywood science advisor Kevin Grazier, and Lockheed Martin space evangelist Dave Brandt for a deep-dive into the creative process behind science fiction storytelling and its impacts on the real-world science of today and tomorrow.
  • Space Gold Rush– A host of voices in fields as diverse as finance to astrophysics have predicted that Earth’s first trillionaires will be minted in space through asteroid mining, 3D printing, and satellite servicing. NASA’s Alex MacDonald, Lockheed Martin’s Joe Landon, and best-selling author Daniel Suarez join The Verge’s Loren Grush for a look into the growing commercial opportunities in space and how they’ll change our world.
  • The Gravity of Space Junk — Commercial rockets and CubeSats allow us to launch satellites into space at a record-breaking pace, bringing everything from faster internet to more accurate GPS to Earth. However, flying alongside them at speeds up to 22,300mph are more than half a million shards of space junk (aka space debris) that vandalize anything they contact. Dive deep into how it will affect our everyday lives and what we can do about it from Northrop Grumman’s Howard Eller, AGI’s Travis Langster, UT-Austin professor Moriba Jah, and CNN’s Jackie Wattles

We’re planning a lot more alongside this programming at SXSW 2020 that we hope will demonstrate the innovation inherent in aerospace and defense, creating an exciting and engaging mix of programming and networking opportunities that inspire and excite the 400,000 festival attendees as well as the future global workforce.