By Alexei Belotserkovsky (*BASNET, BYspace)
We talk a lot about community and how important it is to work with it, to be part of it. GÉANT pays special attention to this, with its community groups and their regular meetings where experience is exchanged and strategies are generated. Such groups form the basis for interaction between GÉANT and users – but not only that. At the forefront of network communications, our communities play a critical role in science, business, and the economy as a whole. As a member of society and of the GÉANT community, and leader of BYspace, the Belarusian Space community, I would like to give one small but very motivating example of communication in the context of this specific community and describe its mechanisms.
Like an ordinary community, an internet community is created for a certain purpose (even if it is just a pleasant pastime). In general, in the modern world, it is difficult to clearly distinguish between a community and an internet community, since the network in this case is not a restriction or a feature, but only a powerful communication tool. The personal relationships between community members play a huge role. People join to answer questions, with a specific purpose, but take part and stay because of their relationships. Sometimes it becomes important to come together around one event or idea, to simulate or imitate real communication. I’m not talking about webinars or meet-ups, just ordinary events. Until recently it would have caused laughter – to raise a glass and drink wine while looking at the monitor! With no-one attempting to talk about business and interests, if the process is harmonious it can nourish the community organically from the inside. In the GÉANT community we are experiencing this now in the ‘Community Café’, but for BYspace this was a completely new idea, which was valued as “excellent”!
Space Virtual Drink and Crew Dragon
The BYspace community hosted a Space Virtual Drink on 12 April – Cosmonautics Day, the anniversary of the first manned orbital flight. Although this community consists of people from Belarus, friends from Germany, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia and the USA also took part in the event. Of course, it was strange to talk and toast ‘about nothing’. Nevertheless, enthusiastic reviews showed an appetite to continue the ‘banquet’.
The next opportunity was provided to us by Elon Musk. Tens of millions around the world become a united online audience for the stream from the launch complex in the Kennedy Space Center. Together with GÉANT users from Belarus (BSU, BNTU, and NAS of Belarus), the Netherlands (Delft Technical University), and other active community members from Russia, USA, Germany and Ukraine, the BYspace community, watched and discussed the revolutionary launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Demo mission-2 was important not only for the American space programme; it was a technological breakthrough for all humanity. Everything from the idea of a space taxi, to the costumes of the space explorers, has a spirit of science fiction achieved as the result of many years of scientists’ and engineers’ work.
Our event lasted about 4 hours, when Crew Dragon, having dropped the steps, went on its 19-hour free flight to the ISS, our discussion turned to domestic issues of space investigation. Nobody actually asked why. I guess it was because people were buzzing with so many questions even at midnight.
From the technical side, for the Space Virtual Drink, only a stable platform would suffice, allowing an unlimited number of users to be connected, in theory at least. For simplicity reasons, we did not re-stream the Crew Dragon launch from the cosmodrome, hence enabling everybody to select a YouTube channel of their choice.
Community and communication
The development of cosmonautics, private and public, is a sign of the sustainability of society. This area of human activity is particularly dependent on the conditions of the global ecosystem of the ‘science, education, and business’ triangle. Community plays a crucial role here, as the layer underlying the system. Presently, the most pressing issue is community support at the level of services and infrastructure, where live communication in the current new conditions is also a service.
But the most important thing is the desire to communicate and, of course, your favourite drink.
*BASNET is the network of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus