Civil Space and the National Agenda The Carl Sagan Memorial Lecture The American Astronautical Society Pasadena, California L. A. Fisk University of Michigan
The Early History -- World War II German rocket scientists surrender to Allies in May 1945. The V2 Rocket
Rocket development in the U.S. languished after World War II until the hydrogen bomb made ICBMs possible. In 1954, the U. S. Air Force declared the Atlas program their highest priority.
In 1950, in the living room of James Van Allen, the International Geophysical Year was conceived and then executed in 1957-58. The U.S. Government was supportive of the launch of a satellite during the IGY, not for the science it would do, but because it would legitimize over-flights of satellites in general.
The Soviets launch first with Sputnik. There is probably no single event in American history that has had more positive impact on American society than Sputnik. Sputnik is launched in October 1957. Pickering, Van Allen & von Braun celebrate the launch of Explorer 1 in January 1958. Vanguard explodes in December 1957.
Shortly after the launch of Explorer 1, the American Congress passed the Space Act, the Bill authorizing NASA.
In 1958, the National Defense Education Act was passed, forever altering science education in the U.S.
American research universities came into prominence.
Students across the U.S. were encouraged to pursue careers in math, engineering and science.
The transformation of American society continued with President Kennedy’s pledge in 1961 committing the U.S. to place a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the decade is out. Kennedy said: “ A moon landing will demand sacrifice, discipline, and organization: the Nation can no longer afford work stoppages, inflated costs, wasteful interagency rivalries, or high turnover of key personnel.” “ Every scientist, every engineer, contractor and civil servant must give his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.”
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our history in space is how a program that had its origins strictly in the military evolved into a highly visible, aggressive, and comprehensive civil space program of human exploration, of science, and of the utilization of space for society. In the Cold War between two superpowers that were capable of destroying each other, real war was not possible, and so space became a proxy for war.
Space as a proxy for war -- wonderful cover for developing all possible space capabilities. Americans: Mercury astronauts; Tiros 1; Early Bird 1; Mariner 2. Soviets: First cosmonauts; first pictures of the far side of the moon.
Other nations soon joined the space age. The first European satellite, ESRO-1, in 1968 (left). The first Japanese satellite, Shinsei, in 1970 (above). The first Chinese satellite, DFH-1, in 1970 (below). The first Indian satellite, Abyabhatta,in 1975 (left).
The space capabilities of many nations have increased dramatically, particularly since the turn of the century. Chinese astronauts (left); ESA’s autonomous docking with the ISS (above); India launches an Israeli reconnaissance satellite (right).
Space has become part of underlying infrastructure of our civilization. Weather satellites Direct broadcast GPS When considering the impact of space on society, we need to look no further that the global interconnections that have developed in the last few decades, and the stabilizing influence they have had.
The subtler but far more profound impact of space on society has been: how we view ourselves as humans; how we relate to each other; what is our place in the cosmos. Apollo 8 Moon-rise Voyager picture of the solar family
There has been a steady drumbeat of astronomical discoveries.
We are in the midst of another Copernican revolution. As the vastness of the universe becomes known and appreciated by all, and we realize how common our planetary circumstances are, we become ever more insignificant.
Perhaps we will view our insignificancy positively: Our tensions and our conflicts are truly insignificant in the grand scheme of the cosmos.
We have explored our own solar system revealing the wonders and the opportunities it contains. Younger generations appear to find the Mars rovers as or more interesting than astronauts.
Consider how much we have learned about the Sun and the space environment it creates and in which we live. In 1958, Gene Parker predicted the supersonic expansion of the solar atmosphere, the solar wind. The Sun is a cyclic object. It has an ~11 year cycle of activity. Its magnetic polarity flips every ~11 years for a 22-year magnetic cycle.
We have taken the first feeble steps in learning to live and work in space. The Space Shuttle, a wonderfully versatile vehicle, made the assembly of the ISS possible.
And finally there is Earth science. No other science discipline has had more impact on society than Earth science and space has made that possible. The Earth is a highly coupled system. In the late 1980’s NASA made a serious attempt to embark on a program of comprehensive observations of Earth -- now largely abandoned. One of the most important impacts of space on society has been that it has provided the basis for our growing human awareness that we are highly interdependent, and in need of protecting our fragile globe.
The civil space program was formed to serve clear national needs:
To fight the Cold War by proxy.
To help transform the nation into a more
technologically advanced society.
We did our job well, and moreover, society realized
many additional benefits:
We vastly increased our knowledge of the Earth, the Sun, our solar system and the universe beyond. And thus,we altered forever our understanding of our place in the cosmos.
And perhaps most important, we made possible a world that is highly interconnected and interdependent, and thus more secure.
The question is: what role should civil space and NASA have in the national agenda of today and tomorrow? Global climate change . Economic Growth: We need to expand our economic sphere to include near space, the Moon, the asteroids. National security: Will we not be more secure in space if space becomes a routine place to conduct science and for commerce? Improve the image of the United States: We should use civil space to portray ourselves as a forward-thinking, cooperative society.
Science: There are compelling tasks that need to be undertaken in specific science disciplines. If we extend the human presence into space we no longer have the luxury of treating the conditions and hazards of space as an interesting scientific problem to be solved at our leisure. Perhaps we will decide that the future of fundamental physics is in understanding dark energy and dark matter.
Culture : It cannot be that we occupy this vast universe alone. Where is everybody else? What are they like? Planetary protection: Asteroids can hit the Earth and destroy life as we know it. An unlikely event, but not an impossible one. Education: There is a need for a technically-competent workforce. Technology development: There is a need to ever improve the technology required for the exploration and utilization of space.
Hope: There is a worldwide need to believe that the future can be better than the present, and to collectively work to secure that brighter future. Space is all about the future.
We envision a time when our planet is safe from ourselves.
When our economies grow without bound.
When our knowledge of the wonders of the universe has become true understanding.
When we are a true space faring civilization.
We need to pursue that brighter future for all of us.