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“Forging the Future of Space Science”


WASHINGTON – Next month, the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council will kick off a yearlong series of public lectures and colloquia in cities across the country and abroad. “Forging the Future of Space Science – The Next 50 Years” will celebrate the spectacular achievements of space and earth science, examine new discoveries in both fields, and look ahead at what the next 50 years may bring.

The series includes several “regional events” in locations across the country. Each regional event involves an afternoon panel discussion with local scientists and the public, followed by an evening lecture by a distinguished space scientist. Topics include understanding the universe, global climate change, the cosmic origins of life, scientific exploration of the Moon and Mars, and the research and technology needed to support human spaceflight. The series takes advantage of the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58 to engage with the public and the scientific community to assess achievements from the past 50 years and look forward to the next 50 years of space and earth science discoveries. These events are free and open to the public.

The IGY was the largest international scientific activity ever undertaken, involving 60,000 scientists from 66 nations in coordinated research activities around the globe. It is well-known for ushering in the space age with the launch of the first artificial Earth-orbiting satellites -- the Soviet Sputnik I and the U.S. Explorer I.

“The first artificial satellites were only one of numerous enduring contributions of the IGY,” said Lennard A. Fisk, chair of the SSB and of the seminar series. “Other achievements included measurements of ocean currents, winds, the upper atmosphere, and Earth’s magnetic field. The IGY later led to designating an entire continent -- Antarctica -- for scientific research, a cooperative arrangement that continues to this day.”

To highlight the international character of space science, one of the events will be held in Paris, France, in conjunction with the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the pre-eminent international organization of space scientists.

The series also includes two all-day colloquia at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif., and the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C.

Funding sponsors for the series to date are the National Academies, NASA, Northrop Grumman Corp., and Orbital Sciences Corp. Co-sponsors are the American Astronautical Society, the American Astronomical Society, COSPAR, International Space University, the National Space Society, and the Planetary Society. For more information on the series, visit

The current list of events, locations, and lecture topics follows (additional events are under consideration for the spring of 2008):

Sept. 10 – Baltimore, MD

Location: Maryland Science Center (at the Inner Harbor)

Lecture topic: Understanding the Universe, by

Nobel Laureate John Mather, Senior Astrophysicist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Oct. 19 – Durham, NH

Location: University of New Hampshire

Lecture topic: Global Climate Change, by

Ralph Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences

Dec. 1 – Irvine, CA

Location: Beckman Center of the National Academies, University of California, Irvine

All-day colloquium with panels and lectures featuring pre-eminent national and international space scientists

Dec. 7 – Huntsville, AL

Location: National Space Science and Technology Center, and U.S. Space and Rocket CenterLecture topic: Science on and from the Moon, by

Wesley Huntress Jr., Director Emeritus, Carnegie Institution Geophysical Laboratory


Jan. 16 – Tallahassee, FL

Location: Challenger Learning Center

Lecture topic: The International Space Station as a Laboratory and Testbed, by Carl Walz, NASA Astronaut

Feb. 20 – Austin, TX

Location: University of Texas

Lecture topic: The Possibility of Life Elsewhere in the Universe, by Christopher Chyba, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

Mar. 27 – Paris, France

Location: Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Headquarters

Lecture topic: Understanding the Poles of the Earth, Moon, and Mars, by

Chris Rapley, former Director, British Antarctic Survey, and President,

4th International Polar Year, Scientific Program Committee

Jun. 26 – Washington, DC

Location: National Academy of Sciences

All-day colloquium with panels and lectures featuring pre-eminent national and international space scientists


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