Experts took part in a special
panel "Forging the Future of Space Science: The Next 50 Years,"
held here April 14 at the University of Colorado's Laboratory
for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).
The discussion is part of an
international public seminar series, marking the 50th
anniversary of the International Geophysical Year that launched
science into space. The colloquia series is organized by the
Space Studies Board, a research arm of the National Academy of
Walter Scott, Founder and Chief
Technical Officer of Digital Globe based in Longmont, Colorado,
spotlighted the enormous changes in satellite remote
sensing. He detailed the expanding applications for the next
generations of high resolution imaging — a far cry from spysat
technologies first utilized in the 1960s.
Scott pointed to trends in
commercial satellite remote sensing: better resolution,
increased accuracy, more bandwidth, and greater coverage of the
Earth - in far-shorter time from click to customer.
The ubiquity of satellite remote
sensing in our daily lives, Scott said, is moving quickly,
mimicking use of electricity and the Internet.
James Watzin, Director of Space
Programs at ATK Space, took a hard look at NASA, indicating that
the space agency appears to have "lost its customer."
While NASA celebrates 50 years of
progress this year, Watzin said there's need for public dialogue
to cast the civilian space agenda in more necessary and relevant
terms. NASA faces a vulnerable state of paralysis, he suggested,
striving to send humans to Mars while dealing with tight
budgets, issues of mission affordability and risk-taking.
Watzin signaled that NASA needs to
do the most exciting and compelling things that the country's
best and brightest people can possibly conceive of. NASA needs
to be allowed by all stakeholders to take more risk and have
much more payoff.
Watzin is a former project manager
for the Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter at
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Heavy reliance on sparse data
Progress is being made on
assessing the impact of space weather on systems, as well as
humans, said Rodney Viereck, Chief of the Space Weather Services
Branch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder.
Still, "there's heavy reliance on
very sparse data," Viereck noted, with the customer base for
space weather data growing.
Viereck said there are diverse
impacts of space weather on today's technology, from
communications, navigation, and spacecraft operations to
aviation, as well electric power grids.
There is a beginning ability to
computer model in three-dimensions the complex nature of space
weather, Viereck said. The coupling of various space weather
models is in the offing, he added.
In the years to come, Viereck
said, public access to space will bolster the need for better
space weather forecasting. Given the number of spaceports being
planned, he said, both orbital space tourism and point-to-point
suborbital passenger travel will mean increased use of space
Developing a globally-engaged
science and engineering workforce is a priority of the National
Science Foundation's Office of International Science and
Engineering (OISE), said Cynthia Singleton, a policy fellow at
OISE in Washington, D.C.
Singleton reflected upon the role
of science diplomacy, also reviewing the research and
development dollars being spent in China,
Europe, Japan, Canada, as well as Saudi Arabia. Those
expenditures should give pause to those that ponder a key
question: Will the U.S. remain a global leader in technology and
OISE funds international research
and education activities in a variety of science disciplines,
Singleton said. Doing so helps to open up access to research
talent and research facilities beyond U.S. borders, she
Daniel Baker, Director of LASP
said that universities are now — and will continue to be —
regional centers of intellectual leadership and technological
"Universities should, well into
the future, be the neutral sites, or 'safe zones,' where
industry, national laboratories, and academia can feel secure to
meet, exchange ideas, try new approaches, and create," Baker
Baker explained that leading
universities will build mountains of development and economic
growth in the "Flat World" — drawing from the popular 2005 book
of Thomas Friedman, The
World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.
The world of tomorrow will be far
more interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary than today, is
Baker's forecast. Universities must fully embrace that fact, he
said, in teaching, learning and research.
universities must increase "in every possible way" hands-on
education and training opportunities, Baker said.
Space research can be a major
vehicle of learning and power, Baker advised. "Through space
research, universities should be funded to form strategic
partnerships with key Chinese, Indian, European, and Latin
Baker emphasized that through
shared campuses and extensions, space science and engineering
has "more potential to build peace and friendship than any other
Space science should begin now to
encourage, and to drive, the strong interactions of humanities
and social sciences with the premier technical components of
space research, Baker said. Taking that approach, he felt, can
provide continued strength and leadership potential for space
exploration in the world of tomorrow.
There's need to "take universities
to the world ... and bring the world to universities," Baker
For more information on the Space
Studies Board public seminar series, go to: