Invited Speakers

Stephen Baxter, Science Fiction Writer, Northumberland, UK

Dr Stephen Baxter was born in Liverpool, England. He has degrees in mathematics from Cambridge University and engineering from Southampton University. He has worked as a teacher of maths and physics at sixth form level, and for several years in information technology. His first professionally published short story appeared in 1987. He has published more than 50 novels, many internationally, and has won several awards. He is a former President of the British Science Fiction Association (2008-2020), a Vice-President of the HG Wells Society, a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, and a founder member of the UK SETI Research Network (UKSRN). In 2023, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Open University for promoting STEM subjects through my fiction.

John Rummel, Principal Partner with Friday Harbor Partners LLC, Washington, USA

Dr John D. Rummel is a Principal Partner with Friday Harbor Partners, LLC, in Washington State. Previously, he was a Senior Scientist with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and was a Visiting Scholar at McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law in Montréal from 2014-2018. He was the founding director of East Carolina University’s Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, and retired from ECU as a Professor of Biology in 2015. He is the former (and founding) Chair of COSPAR’s Panel on Planetary Protection, and until 2022 was the representative of the International Union of Biological Sciences on the COSPAR Council. As such, he represented COSPAR on The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group. A former member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee, Rummel worked at NASA Headquarters (1986 to 1993 and 1998 to 2008), as NASA’s Senior Scientist for Astrobiology and as NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer (PPO). He served NASA as Exobiology Program Manager and Research Programs Branch Chief in the Life Sciences Division beginning in 1986, and was responsible for both the Life Support and Exobiology Implementation Teams under the US-USSR Joint Working Group in Space Biology and Medicine. Between NASA assignments (1994-1998) he was the Director of Research Administration and Education at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. A holder of eight NASA Group Achievement Awards, Rummel is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1990) “for leadership in fostering NASA-sponsored life science research,” the recipient of the Life Sciences Award from the International Academy of Astronautics (2005) “for significant and lasting contributions to the advancement of the astronautical sciences,” and was awarded the NASA Exceptional Performance Award (2008) “for outstanding management of space science programs…” He is the 2023 recipient of the SETI Institute’s Frank Drake Award “for his lifelong contributions to the field of Astrobiology, his leadership in the domain of planetary protection, and his years of service to both NASA and the SETI Institute.” He received his PhD in community ecology and evolution from Stanford University, and his undergraduate degree in environmental biology from the University of Colorado.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Professor of Planetary Habitability and Astrobiology, Technical University Berlin, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch received his Ph.D. in geosciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA. Afterwards he took up a fellowship in the USA at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, worked as Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and later as Associate and Full Professor at Washington State University. In 2010, he received the Friedrich-Wilhelm Bessel Award from the Humboldt Foundation for extraordinary achievements in theoretical biology. Since 2013, he is a faculty member at the Technical University Berlin in Germany and holds a professorship for planetary habitability and astrobiology. He remained Adjunct Professor at Washington State University and is also an Associate Member of SETI. Dirk published more than 200 papers and 8 books in the field of planetary habitability and astrobiology, including the 3rd edition of Life in the Universe: Expectations and Constraints and The Cosmic Zoo: Complex Life on Many Worlds. Since 2016, Dirk is president of the German Astrobiological Society and council member of the European Astrobiology Network. He gave interviews in scientific television documentaries such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel (USA), NHK-TV (Japan), ARD and RTL (Germany), and reports about his research appeared in media and news outlets such as Science, Popular Science, Discovery Magazine, New Scientist, World Science, Natural History Magazine, BBC, CNN, and MSNBC. More information can be found on his website at

Les Tennen, Partner in the Law Offices of Sterns and Tennen, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Leslie I. Tennen is a partner in the Law Offices of Sterns and Tennen in Phoenix, Arizona, and has focused on space law matters for more than 40 years. He is Legal Counsel for and member of the Board of Trustees of the International Academy of Astronautics. He received his B.A. and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Arizona, and studied international and comparative law at the Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel. He is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, and was awarded the highest score on the February, 1977, Arizona Bar Exam. He is admitted to practice before the United States District Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. Les was appointed by the Governor of the State of Arizona to serve as a Commissioner on the Arizona Space Commission from 1994 to 2000, and is a frequent lecturer at aerospace conferences and colloquia. He has been a consultant and advisor on space matters to public and private organizations on the state, national and international levels, and has been a participant at workshops and congresses around the world. He has authored and co-authored more than 50 articles. He is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law, and currently serves as Co-Chair of the IISL Manfred Lachs Moot Court Committee and Chair of the Election Committee. In 1998, he was the co-recipient, with Patricia Margaret Sterns, of the IISL Award of Appreciation, and in 2006 he received the IISL Distinguished Service Award.

Stephen Webb, Science Writer, North Yorkshire, UK

Following a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester, Dr Stephen Webb spent most of his career in the UK higher education sector. During that time he wrote ten books, including “Measuring the Universe” (an undergraduate textbook on the cosmological distance ladder), “Where is Everybody?” (an award-winning  review of the Fermi paradox), and “Around the World in 80 Ways” (a collection of thematic maps, each accompanied by a short essay). He was also active in science outreach, giving talks to local astronomy societies and speaking on numerous podcasts. Stephen retired from the University of Portsmouth in autumn 2023, but continues to serve on the international editorial board of Springer’s “Science & Fiction” book series and he hopes to spend more time on his writing: his newest book “The Quizzer’s Guide to the Cosmos” will be published in April 2024 – hopefully in time for the Kavli-IAU Symposium! 

Frances Westall, Emeritus Research Director, CNRS-Center for Molecular Biophysics, Orleans, France

Dr. Frances Westall, geologist and astrobiologist, is emeritus research director at the CNRS-Center for Molecular Biophysics. She worked in many prestigious institutions around the world, including the University of Cape Town, Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, the University of Nantes, the University of Bologna, NASA Johnson Space Center and the Lunar Planetary. Institute, Houston. She is internationally recognized for her research on the geological context of the origin of life and the first traces of life on Earth. She plays a leading role in the ExoMars 2028 (previously 2022) mission to search for life on Mars and is Co-PI of the CLUPI microscope. She was president of the European Astrobiology Network Association (2013-2019) and chair of the COSPAR Panel on Space Exploration (2018-2022). She has received the Medal of the Italian Chemical Society, the Alfred Dumont Medal (Belgium), as well as numerous NASA awards, and is a Fellow of the Institute for International Studies in Bologna.