Date:  Aug. 16, 2007

Contacts:  Paul Jackson, Media Associate

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <>


Ian Pryke, Seminar Series Organizer 



“Forging the Future of Space Science”

A Nationwide Public Seminar Series on the Next 50 Years 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




The Space Studies Board is comprised of leading space scientists and engineers throughout the nation, who are selected on a rotating basis to provide strategic guidance for the board’s activities, serve as a communications bridge between the government and the space science community, and oversee studies conducted under the Board’s aegis to provide advice to the government on specific topics.  SSB’s current areas of responsibility include space-based astrophysics, heliophysics, solar system exploration, earth science, microgravity physical and life sciences, space systems and technology, and space policy.


The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.