A crowd of attendees waits to enter a conference hall at the 2019 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Image credit: Hanneke Weitering/Space.com)
The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed yet another space conference — the Space Foundation’s 36th Space Symposium, which normally brings together thousands of industry representatives each year in Colorado.
Space Symposium, which takes place at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, was scheduled to take place March 30 through April 2. Today (March 13), the Space Foundation announced that the conference will be postponed indefinitely as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States and much of the world.
“The Space Foundation is working with its partners, The Broadmoor, the City of Colorado Springs, and its members and other key stakeholders to identify future dates and details that will assemble the world’s space community again in Colorado,” the Space Foundation said in a statement. “In the coming days, we will be issuing additional guidance about those steps and the identified path forward.”
The 36th #SpaceSymposium, scheduled for March 30-April 2, 2020, is being postponed. At this time, we have not identified a date when we will be reassembling the world’s space community in Colorado Springs, CO. More details available #36Space pic.twitter.com/VzBU6LzbYTMarch 13, 2020
The announcement comes three days after Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency, and one day after Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in a press conference that large gatherings in the city should be canceled or postponed.
With organizations from the NBA to the NHL suspending their seasons, many schools and universities closing down for weeks, and other space conferences canceling or going virtual, the news of Space Symposium was so expected by the space community that some ticket-holders posted on Twitter that had already canceled their travel reservations.
The Space Foundation officially confirmed the cancellation in an emailed statement on Friday (March 13) at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), and the news was first reported on SpaceNews.
“We are postponing,” Rich Cooper, a spokesperson for the Space Foundation, told SpaceNews. “We do not have an identified date yet. We are working with the Broadmoor [Hotel] and the Colorado Springs community to identify when the best available opportunity will be to bring everybody back together.”
Event cancellations across the United States accelerated on Thursday (March 12) in the wake of an announcement the night before by U.S. President Donald Trump at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT March 12) that most travel from Europe to the United States would be suspended for a month. A significant number of attendees at the Space Symposium come from this region, Cooper said, so it would have been difficult to have them attend.
Space agency chiefs and industry executives from around the world as well as several U.S. government and military officials were scheduled to attend this year’s Space Symposium. The list of speakers includes NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, U.S. secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross and Space Force commander Gen. John Raymond, for example.
“Obviously, this is a disappointing decision,” Cooper added. “In working with all our partners, we wanted to do everything we could [to avoid postponement] but these are obviously unprecedented situations that have lead us [to] have to make a very difficult and unfortunate decision.”
The coronavirus pandemic originated in China, but has more than 137,000 cases worldwide and more than 1,700 in the United States, according to numbers from John Hopkins University. The World Health Organization says coronavirus is a “controllable pandemic” as long as countries take containment measures, since many nations have the virus in small regions.