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President's Message December 2014
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A Message from President Thomas Kraupe

Thomas KraupeDecember 2014

Dear Fellow Planetarians: 

Greetings to all of you around this marvelous planet! 

Challenging days lie behind us—and ahead of us. We just witnessed a deadly day for space tourism when Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo disintegrated on October 31 above California, killing one of its co-pilots. And this happened just a few days after the October 28 explosion of the unmanned supply Antares rocket bound for the International Space Station. 

How will the future of space flight be affected by these incidents? Is space travel worth the risks involved? Is the dream of “going boldly, where no one has gone before” still alive? 

I believe it is - not only because the future rests on such days of setbacks, but also because it is driven forward by visionaries and by opening up new perspectives which allow us to put our daily life in a bigger context. 

As I am now one of the “old guys,” I remember how much I was inspired not only by being an eye-witness of the Apollo era, but also by watching Stanley Kubrick´s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey

Since then film and planetarium production techniques have move forward at an extremely fast pace. From analog to digital, from HD to 4K and 8K, from high frame rates to streaming over IP networks, each with enormous new possibilities to create unforgettable experiences for audiences.

Now we have Gravity, a film that managed to reach out to a whole new generation of people. And, as I write this, I am looking forward to Christopher Nolan's Interstellar

Quite understandably, there has been a lot of discussions about the merits of these films and what they will do with our audiences and the planetarium—will they make us look bad? Well, just watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is once more hitting theaters for a limited time. Did this film hurt us? Not at all. In fact, the result was just the opposite, as it inspired people to look to space. Let us take advantage of these new releases for our mission! 

On November 12, ESA the European Space Agency, achieved something that really sounded like science fiction: landing a probe on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, an astonishing, audacious technical achievement. It was not science fiction but science reality for the teams that have dedicated their entire lives to this mission, driven to push the boundaries of our technology for the benefit of science and to seek answers to the biggest questions regarding our solar system’s origins. 

Watch the amazing short film Ambition (, which was produced by ESA, in collaboration with Platige Image, directed by Tomek Baginski and starring Aiden Gillen and Aisling Franciosi. Ambition clearly tries to embrace science and fiction, using the language of blockbuster movie making to advocate the excitement of current research.

You can witness passion and human interaction not just in this very interesting production. You can see it for yourself, as I did with the people in the control room at ESOC, the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany. I was there when Philae “kissed” the comet. I was truly moved by finally meeting Prof. Klim Churyumov, who not only is the co-discoverer of the comet but who is “one of us”—he is director of Kiev Planetarium, Ukraine. 

Photo: Thomas with Prof. Klim Churyumov

The other name belongs to Dr. Svetlana Gerasimenko, also astronomer/lecturer at Kiev Planetarium. She was participating in the landing event via video-link from the European Astronauts Center in Cologne.

Due to the political situation, plans for my visit to Kiev Planetarium in September had not worked out, but now we finally met. We are now trying to find a date for my visit to Kiev in early 2015. And I am eager to arrange with him a live event for IPS so that Prof. Churyumov can interact with audiences at planetariums around the world. 

Indeed, the Rosetta mission proves what we, as a global community, can do together. It offers all the elements for us reaching out beyond political and economic borders in order to create wonderful opportunities for the public in our planetariums in 2015 and beyond. (See also and follow hashtag #cometlanding on twitter.) 

Remembering Carl Sagan
This epic journey reminds me of the NASA Voyager missions and the legacy of the unforgettable Carl Sagan, who would just have celebrated his 80th birthday on November 9. We salute you and miss you, and I know you would have loved the comet landing. 

Carl once pointed out that probably 99% of all people on earth are born, live, and die without knowing their place in the universe. But now I think we have the tools to change that.

While Virgin Galactic has sold more than 700 tickets to paying customers for a ride on SpaceShipTwo, each costing more than $250,000 and barely offering more than a few minutes of a “near space” experience at only 100 kilometers from Earth, our planetarium domes offer trips much further out into space. We can go almost anywhere, combining our new digital immersive theater technologies with robotic eyes and ears in space like Rosetta. 

For just a few bucks (and in some cases, for free) and without risking lives, we allow millions of people to virtually be on a comet nucleus, walk on Mars, or even witness the grand architecture of space, time and matter by using our domes as virtual spaceships and time machines, providing context for the world we live in. So don't be worried about Hollywood—we can offer something much bigger. 

Indeed, I am convinced that what we planetarians can pull off is very powerful and of increasing importance in order to inspire and enable a better future for humankind on planet earth. And that is why the opportunity you gave me to serve this world community of planetarians for a second time as officer and president of IPS is a such special honor and privilege. I thank you for that, and for your friendship and support in this endeavor.

Old and new IPS officers
This is my last column as IPS president as my two-year term will come to an end on December 31. For two more years I will still be an officer of IPS and continue to work with my fellow officers, then in the role of IPS past president. 

After we successfully performed special elections, I am really pleased that Joanne Young is now fully onboard. She will take over the presidency of IPS on January 1. Joanne will be a wonderful president. She is a great and passionate advocate for planetariums of all sizes in all regions of the world! 

Elections for the next round of officers concluded on December 1 and I look forward working in the renewed team of IPS officers in 2015-2016. And I salute Dave Weinrich, who’s 6-year term as officer of IPS will be finished by the end of this year. Dave, we all love you and your human spirit with which you win people´s minds and hearts. I look forward to work with you on specific projects where your expertise will be so helpful for our international community.

IPS Vision 2020 moving forward
If there is something I am proud of as an achievement of my presidency, then certainly the initiation and development of Vision 2020, our strategic planning initiative, comes to my mind. Vision 2020 is now gaining speed and moving forward.

On our IPS website you will find more information and the full makeup of the planning team and advisory group for Vision 2020. Chaired by Jon Elvert, the planning team consists of five persons, each one assigned the lead in formulation of one of the five goal statement:

Karrie Berglund (Digitalis Education Solutions, Bremerton, Washington)
Goal #1: Improve and increase professional development efforts that are based on research and best practices (e.g. summer schools, Kavli Institute).

Dr. Mark SubbaRao (Adler Planetarium, Chicago, Illinois)
Goal #2: Strengthen ties with the professional scientific community in the field of astronomy and other space sciences (e.g. ESO, NASA, ESA, NAOJ) to bring current research and discoveries to our audiences through immersive data visualization on our domes.

Robin Sip (Mirage3D, The Hague, The Netherlands) 
Goal #3: Expand international collaborations in recognition of the more global nature of our society and increased media attention to foster enhanced financial support.

Marc Moutin (Cite de L’Espace, Toulouse, France) 
Goal #4: Gain greater recognition for IPS members’ efforts and results, especially as related to STEM or STEAM education. 

Dr. James S. Sweitzer (Columbia College Chicago, Illinois)
Goal #5: Provide support and leadership in transitioning to next-generation planetarium design, technologies and content development.

The planning team currently assists in the ongoing SWOT analysis, offering all stakeholders—current IPS members, non-member planetarians, and vendors—the opportunity to tell us their ideas and suggestions for the future of IPS. 

The team already has collected hundreds of responses and decided to extend the deadline to the end of December. Even now, when you read this, you can still provide us with your perspective on what you would like IPS to be in the next decade. If you have not yet done so, we are asking you to participate in a brief exercise that currently reflects the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats of and to IPS. Please go to the IPS website ( and click on the Vision 2020 link to complete the survey. 

It is most important that planetarians in all regions of our worldwide society be encouraged by their IPS representatives and active members to give us their input. Please use either the pdf or the version in Microsoft Word (docx) if you have to reach out to those who will not access our website.

IPS officers met with the Vision 2020 planning team during the 50th Annual GLPA Conference (October 29-November 1, 2014) to discuss status and next steps. 
Based on the upcoming results from the SWOT analysis, the planning team will collect white paper statements outlining strategies for achieving their goals and draft mission, vision, and value statements that will be discussed with IPS council in 2015, leading up to a two-day workshop with council in August. 

I would like to thank Jon Elvert and the Vision 2020 team for their dedicated voluntary work in this important area. I and all the other IPS officers were really pleased to see the momentum building in this challenging endeavor and we have already received some really smart suggestions and ideas. 

In addition, GLPA proved to be what we expected: a great platform for many personal conversations with members about IPS. GLPA was hosted by the new Charles W. Brown Planetarium at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and drew approximately 170 participants, so we could gather input from this largest group affiliated with IPS during the conference. In addition, Jon Elvert presented Vison 2020 during a session to GLPA. 

With its long tradition and far reach, GLPA has made many outstanding contributions to our field - reaching beyond the region and deserving attention by IPS as best practice for the future. If you look at the website you will already see one example: conference presentations that can be accessed online, all uploaded as videos to youtube. 

Although we have been doing that too at IPS conferences, we have to make sure this concept will be followed up by future IPS conferences and these recordings be preserved in our documentation in a searchable archive. 

IPS Science and Data Visualization Task Force
Well, speaking about things I am really happy with, I have to mention again the name Mark SubbaRao. I feel really proud about launching the Science and Data Visualization Task Force and selecting him as chair. Those of you who attended his session at IPS 2014 in Beijing and now read his regular columns in this journal. They exemplify what IPS can do in this vital area: not just at conferences, but continuously between conferences, helping us to increase the potential for scientific communication and storytelling in the planetarium. 

And this is especially true for his current column, which comes at an appropriate time to reflect on the capabilities and opportunities that the World Wide Telescope has opened up inside the dome, allowing the presentation with objects and images from ongoing research in the context of the night sky. 

Mark and I are in agreement that IPS could be an important element for making sure that these capabilities are maintained. The opportunities will be explored in the coming months. Thank you Mark and all your great team-members. You are spearheading an important area into the future, an ideal test bed related to goals of Vision 2020!

IPS Awards and Awards Committee
Please note, that this issue of Planetarian includes a call for nominations for our prestigious IPS awards by Manos Kitsonas, Director of Eugenides Planetarium in Athens and now chair of the IPS Awards Committee. I am happy to tell you that, following our bylaws, the IPS officers have chosen from the list of IPS fellows Tatsuyuki Arai and Kris McCall as the two members in the election committee chaired by Manos.

Please contact them if you have any questions or suggestions. In addition to already existing awards, Manos will start working on new awards reflecting our desire to support and encourage good content and presentations in planetariums. We also will evaluate and learn from what we did in the format of a festival during our recent IPS conference in Beijing and in Macao.

IPS Election Committee
The difficulties we had to go through this year with our special elections need attention in 2015, when council also will have to decide about the future makeup of the IPS Election committee.

It appears to me that in the interest of the future of our organization, a review of the procedures for elections is necessary because we need to win the hearts and minds of young but creative and talented IPS members so that they indeed are willing to be candidates and are eager to compete in the next rounds of even more transparent election.

IPS Conferences 2014-2018
Once more I would like to thank our wonderful host Dr. Jin Zhu and his team at Beijing Planetarium for a most memorable conference in China. Jin, you and your team were such great hosts and worked so hard to make us feel welcome and to experience what your institution is doing for education for future generations! We all are most grateful for that! 

I also want to thank the team at the Macao Science Center for making the first IPS Fulldome Festival become reality (as a pre-conference event in collaboration with the Beijing team), and a special salute to the Japanese Planetarium Society with its president H. Gan, plus JAXA and Nagoya Science Center, for putting together a great post conference tour in early July 2014, almost 20 years after IPS gathered in Asia for the first time. 

Asia truly is a powerhouse for the future of planetariums and science education and I am sure that we have to come back for another IPS conference in this region—and that we should not wait another 20 years to do that!

If you want to visit a planetarium in China, you can now do so from your desktop. Daniel Audeon (Planetarium of Nantes, France) just finished working on a map showing all planetariums in China. Visit [old link] and you will find over 317 planetariums with exact locations and pictures.

There is a special map (you can click on the map) for China (similar maps already exist for the USA or Japan) to facilitate searching by regions on an interactive map, and also a list of Chinese regions. For each choice (continents or countries or regions), you open a table containing a list with just a few details and sorted by size. Then, you must click on the small picture (to the left) to open a personal page for each planetarium. See also [old link]

I salute Daniel for this work and we will do all we can to work together for making the directory of the world´s planetariums more accessible and useful for you all by including more possibilities for multiple search criteria and making information openly available.

We all are now gearing up towards our next IPS conference in 2016 in Warsaw, Poland. The team working with Monika Malinowska and Maciej Liogowski, our hosts at the Copernicus Science Center, are very experienced conference organizers and have already provided us with the first drafts of the packages that will go out to vendors and potential sponsors. All is moving forward according to schedule and you will receive updates in the next issue of Planetarian.

And let us look further ahead, to 2018. The final decision on accepting the (one and only) bid from Clark Planetarium for hosting the IPS 2018 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, will be made at the next IPS council meeting. Please expect a detailed article from our potential host, also in the March issue of Planetarian.

IPS Council Meeting in August 2015
The next council meeting is scheduled to happen August 7-8 at the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan/Espace pour la vie in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Our host will be Pierre Lacombe, whose planetarium features a set of new twin domes will provide us with a fantastic site to meet! 

The Montreal planetarium has pioneered efforts for bringing live interactive music and visuals to domes, so I felt we could do something for professional development in IPS and for spreading the gospel and knowledge we all are embracing in IPS. 

Working with our new IPS Immersive Audio Committee so that we possibly can offer an IPS workshop on the “Future of Immersive Audio” (working title only) during thetwo2 days preceding our council meeting. Such a workshop could possibly be open to all interested members and results could be made available to all members as a special publication (online and/or print). More details on this will be published as soon as we have the details worked out.

And let me point this out again: The most important item of that council meeting will be a workshop with the Vision 2020 planning team, which will fill the entire second day of the council meeting.

Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov at STARMUSInspiration from STARMUS
One more thing, one more story I would like to share with you.

Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, the first spacewalker, in his talk at STARMUS

In late September I participated at the second STARMUS Festival, “Beginnings: The Making of the Modern Cosmos,” on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, which attracted an astonishing crowd of 700 people. 

STARMUS gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time in personal conversations and discussions with an illustrious group of Nobel laureates, astronauts, cosmonauts, and artists, which ranged from Stephen Hawking to Richard Dawkins, from Brian May (Queen) to Robert Wilson (co-discoverer of the cosmic microwave radiation) and Apollo 16 Astronaut Charlie Duke. 

It was a week full of inspirational lectures and stunning encounters, combined with live concerts and tributes to both Neil Armstrong and Alexey Leonov. A “108 minute” roundtable discussion timed to last as long as the first ever journey into space by Yuri Gagarin in 1961 was held in the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory Dome, just below the 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world.

The "108 minute" roundtable at STARMUS and the talk on stereoscopic images in astronomy by Dr. Brian May

Astrophysicist Dr. Brian MaySTARMUS truly can be called the finest combination of science, art, and music to be found anywhere in the world at this time. “It is an astronomical and artistic experience meant to enhance your perception of your place in the universe and change your life forever! The Starmus Festival is open to everyone young and old, beginners, amateurs and professionals. Anyone who holds a passion for astronomy and space exploration, and who has a desire to know more about where we came from and what’s out there.” Doesn’t that description given by STARMUS sound like what we intend in our planetariums? 

I believe that STARMUS opens up wonderful opportunities for us in IPS on how we could reach out beyond just our own community of planetarians. I do even hope we can work with the STARMUS team in the future, perhaps someday even conducting a joint conference or workshop on these beautiful islands, which offer so much astronomical heritage. 

Media partner of that outstanding STARMUS festival was Astronomy Magazine. You may recall that Dave Eicher, editor-in-chief of this magazine (which is the world´s leading publication in that field), was our keynote speaker in Beijing, and now I am happy to tell you that the January 2015 issue of Astronomy will include quite a big and very nice article about our wonderful IPS 2014 conference. 

This will be important for the visibility of what we do and is part of our endeavor for more publicity for planetariums. My sincere thanks go to Dave, who is such a wonderful friend. He truly shares our passion and this is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between planetariums and his publication endeavors, which also go way beyond just print.

I am looking forward to us working with him in clever ways for spreading the gospel of IPS and our passion for a better future of our small blue planet. Watch out for more activity on our IPS social media pages, coming soon!

The opportunities are there
We have tremendous opportunities, and together we can achieve more. IPS is here for you and I thank you for making the future of planetariums a better one. This endeavor is so much bigger than me—all of us are driving this forward! And I salute all volunteers in IPS, working in committees and task forces: thank you! 

I extend my very special thanks to my fellow officers, Lee Ann Henning, Shawn Laatsch, Dave Weinrich, and Joanne Young. Without them I would be nothing; they make it happen in countless hours of unpaid work. You are jewels, always supportive and you never let me down! 

Now the journey continues, literally, because in just a few days I will travel to Buenos Aires for the meeting of the South American Planetariums (APAS) and later continue to Colombia for the celebrations of the 45th anniversary of the Bogota Planetarium. Unfortunately I have to return to Hamburg in early December and hence cannot go to Brazil or Mexico this time, but 2015 is coming soon and you all know that I love to see what you are doing, learn from you, and explore with you what the future might bring us. 

A letter, which the late Armand Spitz wrote in 1967 to then GLPA President Von Del Chamberlain upon the initiation of GLPA’s annual Spitz Lecture, explains that desire so well:

“…we occupy a unique vantage point between the macrocosmos and the microcosmos and we have the intellectual capability of comprehending both… the full potential of the planetarium in its broadest connotation has yet barely been scratched…I dream about the planetarium being used as a catalyst to begin reactions and to evoke people to understand each others individually and collectively…so…don´t be ashamed if you have a dream!”

Onwards and Upwards!


Thomas W. Kraupe

President, International Planetarium Society Inc.
Director, Planetarium Hamburg
Planetarium Hamburg,Otto-Wels-Str. 1, D-22303 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49 (40) 4288652-21 | iPhone: +49 (172) 4086133 | Fax: +49 (40) 427924850 |
skype: tomkraupe

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