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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 2021. 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.

Being Here and Out There

In order to be fully prepared for a career in space exploration, and all of the cross disciplinary skills that this entails, students must emphatically have hands-on experience in the lab, on the shop floor, and in the field - ideally (and eventually) in space as well. Space College will seek to insert its participants in real space exploration opportunities whenever possible. When such opportunities do not exist, Space College will help to create them.

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The Space College Ethos

As is often the case with educational institutions where students are somewhat elite and are engaged in exciting activities that are viewed as special, there is the risk that a culture of elitism and exclusion could develop at Space College. We'd like to prevent this at the onset.

Building A Much Broader Community for Space

Done properly, Space College can become a vibrant, self-sustaining community that constantly seeks to identify and sere new participants while using its graduates as nuclei for stimulating further interest. With a growing, self-motivated cadre of graduate, students, faculty and supporters, the ability for those who see the value and potential of space exploration will be much greater than it is today.

Bridging Distance and Gaps

Due to uneven access to institutions and facilities across the U.S. and the world, much of what Space College does will involve virtual participation i.e. distance learning, massive open online courses (MOOC) etc. for individuals with geographic access 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.

Endorsements and Sponsorships

Endorsements from prominent scientists, educators, agencies, companies and celebrities are a part of many education and outreach projects. Space College will engage in such activities as well. Unlike far too many space-related projects which often have no criteria whatsoever, Space College will focus on endorsements that directly relate to what Space College is all about.

Giving Back and Leading

Space College students will be exposed to - and conduct public service-oriented education and public outreach. We feel that Space College participants will not only need to learn their subject matter, but they also need to learn to be leaders - each in their own way. Space College students will be required to serve as examples to others outside their ranks who would follow in their path as well as ambassadors to the public at large on matters related to space exploration. You can't get people inspired if there is no final frontier to explore - and starships at the ready (or at least the firm prospect thereof).

More Than Just A Space Cadet

A space-oriented career can and should provide students with skills that make them highly employable in a variety of jobs that are not directly related to space. Not everyone who explores space will need to be a rocket scientist. In addition, while becoming an astronaut is still something that is exceptionally hard to do, the day is almost at hand where almost anyone can and will be able to fly into space. Becoming an astronaut or "rocket scientist" will soon become something that any child can consider - and achieve.

Space College Recommendations

Space College will seek to engage with corporate sponsors for the purpose of financial support of participants and activities, use of company facilities and personnel, donation of hardware, and employment opportunities. As part of these activities endorsements and recommendations are likely to be part of the overall process - and clear mention will be made on Space College materials including its website.

Use of Virtual, Distributed Resources

While use of physical resources and activities in specific locations is required for what is envisioned as being the full Space College educational experience, a substantial portion will be done remotely using online courses, web conferencing, and other Internet modes of interaction. Space College will strive to be at the forefront of all modes of social networking and remote collaboration and will seek to help push the boundaries whereby such tools are used on Earth and, in space, and on other worlds. Given that telepresence has a strong potential application, Space College will make use of it whenever possible.

Open Source Approach to Collaboration and Education

Whenever possible Space College materials will be presented online for anyone to use free of charge. Creative commons and open source intellectual property classification will be used as much as possible. Donations will be suggested - but not required. Feedback mechanisms, wikis, and other means whereby the materials can be improved or utilized will be provided.

Cost of Participation

In the United States, students often attend community colleges (2 year colleges) while still living at home. This cuts down on expenses and often provides an educational opportunity where none would otherwise exist. For many people this is the only way that they'd ever have access to any form of college education. In less developed nations, access to college - at any level - is often limited due to cost, lack of educational institutions, and geographic access to these institutions.

Private Sector Involvement

There will be an overt mechanism within the core nature of Space College whereby the private sector is involved - not only as a potential sponsor but also as a potential benefactor.  The Merchant Marine is an example. Companies could be encouraged to make charitable (tax deductible) donations to Space College to underwrite the participation of students in the form of stipends, scholarships, grants, etc. In addition, corporate sponsors could also offer employment to students that they have sponsored after they complete their course of study at Space College.

Space Commerce and Space College

While careers in space exploration will certainly include employment in the private sector as managers, marketers, sales representatives, etc. Space College does not seek to become a business school per se. Nor does it plan to ignore the business aspects of space exploration. Right now there are a large number of entrepreneurs with start-ups all competing for a slice of the new business frontier they see in space. Some of the ventures are credible. Many are probably not.

Accreditation

Accreditation of educational institutions offers two benefits. First, it assures students and employers that the degree that an individual has meets a certain level of quality. Secondly, accreditation offers a certain level of interchangeability and transferability of educational credits when an individual moves from one institution to another. Of course, the lack of accreditation has the obvious value of alerting students and employers to possible issues with an individual's academic record.

Diversity and Opportunity

In order to reach the greatest possible student body and develop the widest collection of skills, students and faculty must be from a diversity of backgrounds and locations. While starting out initially as an American institution, we feel that Space College must seek to enroll students from many backgrounds and cultures around the world. The only quota that Space College will have is that in terms of enrollment is that everyone, everywhere, should apply. Space College's assets will adapt and be governed (organically) by the evolving nature of its participants.

Making Space College A Truly Open Entity

All too often, efforts to promulgate the idea of a degree in fields related to space exploration remain within the NASA/aerospace company/collegiate circle. Efforts to truly reach out to unconventional communities including those with challenging socioeconomic needs, while they do happen, happen far too infrequently. As such, a potentially vast community is not reached either because they are outside of traditional comfort zones or because programs have associated costs that place them out of reach. In many ways online resources are a great equalizer - so long as one has access to the Internet. Online resources allow end users to find - and access - space education outside of traditional modes, regardless of their location.

Open Data

Under the Obama Administration there has been a big push for making government-developed and sponsored data and datasets more widely available than was previously the case. The online focus of this effort can be found at data.gov. Whenever possible Space College will encourage the open dissemination of data along the lines that the U.S. federal government is pursuing.

Open Source Philosophy

"Open source" is a term most often associated with software. According to a Wikipedia description: "Open source refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community. Open source sprouted in the technological community as a response to proprietary software owned by corporations." The concept of open source has expanded to include engineering design, education materials, and other collections of data and design.

Open Source Publishing and Journals

There has been an increasing amount of interest among scientists and engineers - as well as Congress and policy makers - that research conducted using public funding should be made openly available to the public and no cost. Given the costs of many journals (and the business that has been built up around them) there are a number of prominent publications that have pushed back against the open publishing movement. Legislation of late is clearly pushing the U.S. government in the direction of open publishing. Space College supports these efforts insofar as they enhance citizen access to government funded research and the accomplishments of students associated with Space College.

Open Source Textbooks

The cost of textbooks has become an issue in the past few years. Providing textbooks on tablet computers has cut costs somewhat, but in the traditional publishing business model, a significant mark-up is needed in order for the business to be profitable. In poorer communities textbooks are often out of date. One trend that has emerged in the past few years is the development of open source textbooks. California has recently enacted legislation to promote this concept. One effort, the California Open SOurce Textbook Project, has been in operation since 2001 - see http://www.opensourcetext.org

Crowd Sourced Projects

In addition to using crowd sourcing to develop and expand course development, textbooks, software, and other materials, Space College will seek to work with citizen science organizations such as Moon Zoo and Galaxy Zoo to encourage participation in crowd sourced data collection and analysis. An online forum will be maintained specifically for the purpose of identifying opportunities and to encourage participants to propose activities of their own.

Citizen Science

The term "citizen science" means different things to different people. To some it is simply a new word to describe amateur scientists engaging in data collection - possibly for use in traditional research project. This is certainly not a new concept. To others it is a recently recognized process whereby an interest in participating in organized group activities via crowd sourcing - activities that are often distributed over wide locations - can be coordinated to result in useful data and observations that might not be possible if traditional approach is used.

Crowd Funding

Crowd funding is an approach to raising funds for a project that solicits contributions from a wide range of donors - in varying levels - using online donation tools. Various platforms have become popular lately such as Kickstarter, Indieogogo, RocketHub. Differing models are available for how the funds are raised, what is offered in exchange for donations, etc. Commercial efforts usually offer the product being developed at a significant discount. Non-profit efforts offer gifts, some of them tax deductible, and the satisfaction that comes from supporting a worthy cause.

Intellectual Property

Adopting an open source approach necessitates the use of certain standards. Whenever possible, materials produced via Space College participants will be open source and licensed for use via Creative Commons license format with a focus on the most permissive use possible. Space College is mostly interested that people know that things created via Space College are attributed as such as they use them. See http://creativecommons.org for a description of how this process works. In addition, materials that Space College works with may reside in the public domain (such as NASA information) and will so identified.

Away Teams - The Importance of Being There

Part of learning how to explore space is to learn how to work well as a team and to do so in a mission format. It is also important to have hands on experience with the hardware, science, software, and operations of the systems that are used to conduct this exploration. Yet while it is important to have the classroom and laboratory experience, it is of equal importance to have experience in the field. Armed with classroom and laboratory training, Space College students need to be challenged so as to use this background in real remote, strange, difficult, potentially hazardous, frustrating, cramped, isolated, and hectic locations and situations. Students need to identify problems and develop solutions with inadequate resources, take orders, follow orders, all while maintaining team cohesion, accomplishing mission tasks, and learning. "Being there" is the only way to truly do this. In Star Trek jargon this is called an "Away Team".

Growing The Space College Community

As students pass through the Space College and move into the workforce, a concerted effort should be made to retain contact with them via an alumni association of sorts - one that is actively engaged on a daily basis. Space College alumni will be used as a resource for faculty, advice, donations evangelism, and other modes of support. Alumni benefits along the lines of what is commonly seen with universities should be encouraged.

Becoming a Full Featured Organization

Space College will begin by looking at the existing state of space education and create an online resource that documents online courses, textbooks, and other resources. As gaps in available content become obvious, Space College will seek to fill those gaps. Eventually, Space College will offer courses for credit.

About Space College

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