David Webb: In Memoriam

David Webb: In Memoriam

David Webb, who was instrumental in the formation of International Space University and of the Space Studies Program at the University of North Dakota (UND), passed away on October 1 at the age of 87.  Webb also was a member of the 1985-1986 U.S. National Commission on Space (NCOS).

Webb was a mentor to many in the space policy community,
including the Aerospace Corporation’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Vedda and Naval War College
National Security Affairs Professor Joan Johnson-Freese.

Vedda credited Webb with shaping his career.  “As I told him
many times, he was the most influential person in my life aside from my
parents,” Vedda said via email.  “He took me to my first international
space conference (Unispace 82), convinced me to go to grad school (in
John Logsdon’s program at GWU), and offered me a teaching job when he
formed the Department of Space Studies at UND.” 

Freese said via email that “David was a visionary with a
kind soul and the heart of a lion.  He inspired students, who he loved
to work with, and was a voice of reason and responsibility to his

David Webb at the UNISPACE’82 conference in Vienna. Austria, 1982.  Photo credit:  Jim Vedda

His commitment to education is exemplified by his creation of the Space Studies Program at UND and serving as founding chairman of International Space University.  He also taught space policy courses at the University of Central Florida and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Webb was one of 15 members appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the congressionally-chartered National Commission on Space (NCOS).   NCOS was a one-year commission created by Congress in the 1985 NASA Authorization Act to lay out a long term U.S. civil space program building on the space shuttle and space station programs underway at that time.  Chaired by former NASA Administrator Tom Paine, the Commission’s report, Pioneering the Space Frontier, was published by Bantam Books in 1986.

Webb received his Ph.D. in International and Development Education from
the University of Pittsburgh in 1971.   His B.A. in Political Science
and M.A. in International Relations were from McGill University in
Montreal (1959 and 1961 respectively). 

Among the many testaments to his professional contributions to the space program are Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Space Society and the International Space University, both in 2010, and the first Arthur C. Clarke award from Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) in 1983.  He was a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS).

A memorial service is planned in the Florida Space Coast area in the spring. Details are pending.

Editor’s Note:  I was Executive Director of NCOS and very much enjoyed working with David during that year and in other circumstances.  He was, indeed, a kind and generous person whose commitment to and enthusiasm for a robust space program never faltered.

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