July 2022 Archives

Space College: Who We Are

Space College Foundation, Inc. (Space College) is a Virginia-based nonprofit organization. Our mission is to provide access to educational resources, career opportunities, and hands-on involvement in space exploration. While our main focus is on learning after high school, we strive to support learning about space exploration for students of all ages. Our development activities have been on hiatus since 2017 - but are looking to reboot our effort in 2022. More information on Space College can be found here.

Space College is wherever you are.

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About Space College

Space College is intended to be an educational institution wherein students can be trained for careers in space exploration. The intent is to turbocharge the creation of the next generation of space explorers by expanding access to an overt course of studies focused on space exploration. Unlike other academic and training centers which focus only on classroom studies in one specific location, Space College will reach students regardless of their location. Space College will focus on educating students (and eventually generating graduates) by providing them with a broad, well-rounded background - one suited not just for a career in space exploration, but other professions as well.

Moreover, due to uneven access to institutions and facilities across the U.S. and the world, much of what Space College will do will involve virtual participation i.e. distance learning, massive open online courses (MOOC) etc. for individuals with geographic issues. In the case of established educational and training institutions, Space College will seek to utilize resources already available to students and the utilize offsite and virtual resources to help them achieve the skills they desire. Space College will seek to fill gaps by offering its own courses, training, and eventually, certification.

We believe that:

- space exploration is an adventure that everyone should have a chance to participate in regardless of their age, gender, physical abilities, geographical location, socioeconomic status, or racial/cultural background - and do so in a way that meets their personal dreams, interests, and skills.

- a career in space exploration should be as easy to pursue as any other career and that the same means used to attract, train, and employ people for other careers can be used for careers in space exploration.

- students, teachers, space professionals, and the public should all be able to participate in the development and refinement of space exploration learning tools and teaching materials as well as make use of them.

- use of open source software and designs, combined with crowd-sourced development and citizen science, serve to enhance the learning experience and the development of new knowledge and technology and can instill a sense of community and ownership among all involved.

- the use of Internet and computer-based resources can provide a meaningful educational experience regardless of the location of the participants at a cost that is a fraction of traditional classroom formats. Such means of interaction can provide access faster than traditional "bricks and mortar" can.

- locations on Earth ("planetary analogs") can be used as classrooms for learning how to explore other worlds. These planetary analogs can serve a dual purpose for learning about our own planet and dealing with issues that confront its inhabitants.

- people pursuing space-related careers - or already employed in space exploration - have an important role to serve as ambassadors for - and promoters of - the benefits and excitement that can be derived from space exploration. Everyone can be an evangelist. First rule of Space College: talk about Space College.

- there is value to using old hardware for new purposes. New knowledge can be derived from old data. Mentoring across generations is also important. Lessons learned a generation ago still have value today - and will continue to have value tomorrow.

- science fiction and other popular space-related art forms are an opportunity to engage and educate the public about the true nature and value of space exploration as well as a means whereby the importance of such exploration can be presented to decision makers. While scientific accuracy is crucial to any career, the excitement and inspiration often inherent in science fiction should be seen not as an impediment, but rather as an asset and an opportunity to interest a wider audience to pursue a space exploration career.

- the role of the private/commercial sector in space exploration will continue to expand resulting in a synergistic mix of governmental, commercial, and scientific interests - all conducted by a variety of participants in an ever changing global context. Space College does not take a side but rather encourages private and public space efforts equally with the hope that a dynamic and synergistic expansion of space activities will result.

- the best way to ensure that humanity will continue to explore space is to have an engaged, informed, and empowered citizenry that works to make space exploration happen using whatever resources are at their disposal. People need to embrace space exploration in a personal way such that when investments in space are threatened, people respond to reduce that threat.

- space exploration is an activity that should not only transcend borders but also that it is an endeavor that can serve to bring cultures and nations closer together peacefully to learn and explore.

Space College is wherever you are.

More information on the Space College concept can be found here.

Why The Space Industry Needs A Space College

Note: This OpEd originally appeared at The Space Review

According to the Space Foundation's annual report, the global space economy netted $447 billion in 2020. Commercial space activity alone rose to nearly $357 billion, representing 80% of the total space economy. Launch attempts, which totaled 145, were the highest in history.

The formation of a campus--a "space college," if you will--committed to expanding humanity's progress beyond Earth could reimagine who gets a chance at an aerospace career and accelerate timelines for future missions.
These figures highlight a five-year trend of uninterrupted growth, encompassing space tourism, research on Mars, and major steps towards sending a crew to the Moon again. Interest in the cosmos appears unwavering, and experts estimate the industry will generate $1 trillion or more in 2040.

These efforts require highly skilled and enthusiastic workers. From programming the self-driving Perseverance rover to designing more durable spacesuits, immense skill goes into every aspect of off-world exploration whether it is done by humans or robots--or both.

That's why the space industry needs a dedicated university for aerospace studies and related career paths. The formation of a campus--a "space college," if you will--committed to expanding humanity's progress beyond Earth could reimagine who gets a chance at an aerospace career and accelerate timelines for future missions. By nurturing a new generation of astronomers, scientists, engineers, and business leaders in one place, a centralized college, with a global reach to anyone who is interested, would serve an important role in launching a truly spacefaring economy.

Oh yes, when the word "campus" is used it is done so in a 21st century context. In a post-pandemic world, where you are physically located no longer need limit who you can work with. When you take into consideration that the exploration and utilization of space will span distances where interaction is limited by the speed of light, various modes of interaction--many asymmetric--need to be factored into how the space economy operates. As such, this "space college" needs to be wherever you are.

As with any training that involves technology and travel, the hardware you train on and the places where you use it can require you to be physically present. As such, a virtual space college must be paired with a physical one. If you do it right, you can connect nearby and remote locations to function as one. In many cases existing capabilities can be brought together to act as one, with an emergent property being a space college that is both personal and distant. And instead of being wholly limited by "bricks and mortar," such a space college would be open to anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection--even a slow one.

Workers needed in space

"Astronaut" might be the most popular title sought in the space sector, but it also boasts the fewest job opportunities: NASA currently employs fewer than 50 active astronauts. The private sector adds to that, but this is still a small number. However, behind the scenes, thousands of people work as engineers, astronomers, physicists, lawyers, PR specialists, photographers, and more.

Private space organizations employ nearly 150,000 workers across fields as diverse as robotics, agriculture, and media and communications. These jobs come with impressive financial compensation besides appealing to an innate sense of wonder. The average private-sector space salary in 2019 was $123,234, more than twice that of all US private-sector jobs.

As the industry continues to grow, so will the need for a wide variety of expertise. For instance, supporting a permanent base on Mars requires large-scale farming systems, sustainable habitats, and futuristic satellite technology. More immediately, the issue of space debris in low Earth orbit demands novel proposals for avoiding dangerous collisions and preventing further accumulation. We cannot continue to leave our junk behind us in space. Indeed, it is a resource that we should be re-suing in space: yet another set of job skills that will need to be met.

A space college where every student is linked by a shared sense of responsibility for the future would be a site of unprecedented innovation. Similar to a trade school, a space college has the potential to encourage collaboration and standardize education requirements in the industry. And if you are so inclined to think this way, by all means think of Starfleet Academy, minus the aliens.

Existing pathways to aerospace careers

Even if most people don't realize it yet, everyone is in the space industry. Doctors, chefs, writers, miners--they all have a place in the future of space travel. Everyone's taxes support government research, and their consumer dollars buy services that are either enhanced or only made possible via space technology.

But for those who enter college knowing they want an aerospace career, the pathway has always been a bit rocky. Plenty of universities dedicate resources to the core sciences necessary for such a career. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the California Institute of Technology all have a long roster of aerospace alumni. However, their physical locations and high tuition rates mean not every course can introduce students to real-world experiences during their studies.

Sometimes, people start their careers as early as high school by winning a contest for habitat modeling or spacecraft solutions. Others are lucky to join initiatives such as the European Space Agency's Young Graduate Trainee Programme or land an internship with industry giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon or increasingly with so-called "NewSpace" companies.

When it comes to non-science degrees, forming connections within the sector gets even trickier. It is rare for a business or law school to offer classes focused on space-related knowledge. But as companies launch satellite megaconstellations and the industry becomes increasingly commercialized, economic and legal concerns will be at the forefront of everyone's minds.

The benefits of a centralized space college experience

The extreme and deadly environments beyond Earth's atmosphere have always encouraged agencies to work together to solve complex problems of travel, communication, and research. In the 20th century, the early days of competition quickly gave way to collaborations like the International Space Station.

That willingness to share the labor and rewards of space exploration is key to maintaining a flourishing space economy in the 21st century. And a space college where the greatest minds in aerospace engineering, economic development, and the humanities can come together with a global student body could be a promising epicenter for fostering such teamwork.

It's time for the private sector to seriously consider the establishment of a diverse and powerful institution--a space college--in service of humanity's future.

Students at the space college could gain a well-rounded education by participating in STEM research, ethics courses, and legal seminars, all catered toward supporting life in a spacefaring economy. New jobs for existing aerospace workers would also arise in the form of faculty and administration positions. Additionally, use of a physical campus could double as a proving ground for hands-on use and development of cutting-edge technology, new ideas, and ambitious exploration efforts. Above all, every student would be surrounded by like-minded peers and professors willing to support their biggest dreams, either in person or within reach by keyboard or webcam.

Most Americans would tell you that space activity only happens in Texas, California, and Florida. But other states such as Colorado, Washington, Virginia, and Maryland have significant activities as well. If you look a little deeper, you will see that space commerce and exploration extends to all states and down to a very local level. In other countries there are similar centers of activity. If you want to reach the broadest possible domestic population for a space college, you need to be reaching further than has traditionally been the case. In a global sense this becomes even more compelling.

Again, while virtual participation in a space college is not only feasible but desirable, at the end of the day there are factories and laboratories where things are built and other places where they are launched into space. "Being there" has importance. Training facilities located in close proximity to space agencies and companies would offer the best combination of virtual and in-person training. The most important thing is that there be a commonality of purpose and a deliberate effort to focus on the best modality for the appropriate portion of a learning experience.

Emerging options for space enthusiasts

Right now there is only one university entirely dedicated to space studies. Established in 1987, the International Space University offers students a range of programs, including online courses and international opportunities. But ISU's primary location is in Strasbourg, France, and there is a steep tuition associated with its programs that is out of reach for most prospective students.

In the United States, courses for specialized space disciplines are slowly emerging from existing colleges and universities. Harvard Business School launched one in 2022 called "Space: Public and Commercial Economics." Led by Matthew C. Weinzierl, the 14-session course is the first of its kind at an elite educational institution.

At the Colorado School of Mines, coursework has similarly shifted. Rather than train students to mine materials from the Earth, professors prepare future engineers responsible for establishing settlements on Mars and the Moon. Students experiment with regolith simulants, build robotics, and work directly on NASA projects. However, the university's current program offered online and in-person only has the capacity for 75 students.

The rapidly evolving space economy will need many more teaching and training facilities than currently exist. It's time for the private sector to seriously consider the establishment of a diverse and powerful institution--a space college--in service of humanity's future.

Dylan Taylor is chairman and CEO of Voyager Space. He is a global entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, and the founder of Space for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that seeks to democratize space exploration.

Keith Cowing is a former NASA space biologist and space station payload manager. He is currently editor of Spaceref.com, Astrobiology.com, and NASAWatch.com. He is a veteran of multiple expeditions to the high arctic and the Himalayas and is a Fellow of the Explorers Club. Cowing is regularly featured on domestic and international television and radio talking about all aspects of space commerce and exploration. He has also completed suborbital astronaut scientist centrifuge training and has always dreamt of going on actual Away Team missions.

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