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Space Travelers Gather in Croatia for Historic Summit
By Marko Pulji | Published  08/31/2007 | Science | Unrated
Croatia in Space
Space Travelers Gather in Croatia for Historic Summit

By George Whitesides

SPLIT, Croatia - On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of space travel, space travelers with a combined 415 days of space experience gathered in Croatia to discuss the future of human spaceflight.

The summit brought together private space traveler Greg Olsen, veteran astronaut Ed Lu, active cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, and prospective space traveler Per Wimmer. Olsen, Lu and Tokarev all have substantial time on the International Space Station, while Wimmer has tickets on future suborbital flights. It was the first time that all types of space travelers had come together in Europe.

Summit organizer Dr. Bojan Pecnik remarked, "This is the first time that space travelers have visited this region since Yuri Gagarin in the early sixties."

The conference, "Human Presence in Space," was organized by the Croatian organization, a non-profit dedicated to science education and outreach. The aim of the event was to inspire the next generation of scientists in Europe and Croatia, and to chart the future role of smaller countries in human spaceflight.

Vladimir Ivkovic, a co-organizer of the summit, stated, "We hope these space pioneers will inspire children to pursue studies in science, math and technology."

Croatia in Space

Croatia, like many smaller countries, has never had one of its own citizens go into space. The country gained its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. While the Soviet Union had a program to launch representatives of Eastern Bloc countries, Yugoslavia was a non-aligned country and so did not participate in the program.

Despite this, or perhaps because of this, there is substantial interest in spaceflight in Croatia. Croatia is a prospective member of the European Union, and one of the topics of discussion was whether Croatia might join the European Space Agency in the future.

Another hot topic was the lack of spaceflight regulation in Croatia, which could open up commercial opportunities for future space tourism companies operating in Europe, including zero gravity flights.

Tonka Buric, a Croatian student, presented a case study that showed that it was possible under existing Croatian laws and airspace regulations to fly parabolic flights. "Starting parabolic flight in Croatia would expand Croatia's international reputation for tourism. The market is there. All that is required now is the will."


Formatted for CROWN by Marko Pulji
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