Mark your calendars for November 18-19, 2011, when the National Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the Division of Space History of the National Air and Space Museum will co-sponsor a completely free symposium entitled Moving Beyond Earth: Innovations in Space.
In this year, the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight (1961-2011), it is fitting that we consider the role of invention and technology in the context of space exploration and space history. With the closure of the space shuttle era, the recent successes of several interplanetary robotic missions, and the steady emergence of a commercial space industry, we are currently in the midst of a critical transitional period in our society’s approach to space exploration. Thus, we are delighted to bring documentary filmmakers, historians, inventors, planetary scientists, space entrepreneurs, government policymakers, and former astronauts together to discuss these important and timely issues.
The symposium opens at 8 p.m. EST on the evening of Friday, November 18, when we will show the documentary film Orphans of Apollo, the fascinating story of a small group of entrepreneurs who contracted for the use of the Russian space station Mir before it was deorbited in 2001. At the conclusion of the film, we will have a group discussion with director Michael Potter; Jeffrey Manber, Managing Director of Nanoracks and former CEO of MirCorp; and Alan M. Ladwig, Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Outreach at NASA. To sign up for this free evening event please visit the NASM website: http://www.nasm.si.edu/events/eventDetail.cfm?eventID=3326.
The next morning, November 19, the symposium will open at 9:30 a.m. in the “Moving Beyond Earth” exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum with a keynote presentation by Howard E. McCurdy, professor of public affairs at American University and author of Space and the American Imagination (1997), entitled “Liftoff! A Keynote on the Past, Present, and Future of Innovations in Space.”
“First Stage: Getting Off the Planet” then follows at 10:30 a.m. with discussions by Michael J. Neufeld, a curator at National Air and Space Museum; Ken Bowersox, former astronauts amnd current Vice President of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance at SpaceX, Inc.; and John M. Logsdon, professor emeritus at The George Washington University. Each will offer comments on the issue of space launch and the past, present, and future of reaching into Earth orbit.
In the afternoon, “Second Stage: Living and Working in Space,” will take place to discuss the technologies, innovations, and prospects for human activity in space. Matthew H. Hersch of the University of Pennsylvania will discuss the place of astronauts in undertaking space exploration; Amy Foster of the University of Central Florida will discuss the expansion of the astronaut corps in the Space Shuttle era; and Pablo de León, Director of the Space Suit Laboratory at the University of North Dakota will discuss the complex task of maintaining life support for astronauts in the harsh conditions of space.
The last session of the day, “Third Stage: Our Human Future in Space,” will reflect on the trajectory of human activity in space and suggest possible scenarios for activities throughout the 21st century. The three speakers for this session include Bretton Alexander, space industry consultant and member of the NASA Advisory Committee; Thomas D. Jones, planetary scientist and former astronaut; and Haym Benaroya of Rutgers University.
For a full list of symposium sessions and times, please refer to the NASM event calendar: http://www.nasm.si.edu/events/eventDetail.cfm?eventID=3327
Finally, throughout Saturday, November 19, a family day will take place with activities for all age groups throughout the National Mall building. From Legos constructions to building a Mars base, from learning about how spacesuits are made to building a hydroponic garden this family day will incorporate a wide variety of activities both fun and educational. For a full list of activities see the NASM event site: http://www.nasm.si.edu/events/eventDetail.cfm?eventID=3328.
The events of November 18-19, are focused on the movement forward in space and the innovations necessary to make our dreams our reality. New commercial enterprises will continue to enter the space arena, new ideas will be pursued. From all appearances, our future looks quite a bit like our present: an endless quest to learn more about the cosmos and ourselves while struggling to further the technologies necessary to move beyond Earth on a permanent basis. There will be both accomplishments and failures that have been anticipated, accomplishments and failures that were not envisioned, and most importantly surprises neither anticipated nor envisioned.
So come one, come all to the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on November 18-19, 2011, for a stimulating and exciting time as we ponder Moving Beyond Earth: Innovations in Space.