Len Fisk Elected First American President of COSPAR

Len Fisk Elected First American President of COSPAR

Dr. Lennard A. Fisk has been elected President of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Science (ICSU), the first American to hold that position.  Created at the beginning of the Space Age, COSPAR promotes scientific research in space on an international level and provides a forum for discussion for space scientists around the world. 

A solar physicist by training, Fisk is currently the Thomas M. Donohue Distinguished University Professor of Space Science at the University of Michigan.  He joined the university faculty in 1993 after 6 years serving as NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications.   A member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), he served as chairman of the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board (SSB) from 2003-2008.  (The National Research Council is the operating arm of the NAS, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine — collectively called The National Academies.)

Dr. Lennard A. Fisk.  Photo credit:  University of Michigan website

COSPAR members are national scientific institutions, primarily Academies of Science.  The NAS is the U.S. member of COSPAR and the SSB is the U.S. National Committee to COSPAR.  NAS President Ralph Cicerone appointed Fisk to be the U.S. representative to COSPAR in 2012.

Historically, the President of COSPAR was a European and the United States and the Soviet Union were each allocated a Vice President slot.   That tradition was discontinued after the end of the Cold War, but Fisk is the first American to be elected President.  It is a 4-year term.

Fisk said via email that “I have always believed and believe even more today that space research and human space exploration should be pursued, where possible, through international cooperation.”  COSPAR can be an “important contributor” in promoting cooperation, he added, and as President he plans to “actively use all the tools that COSPAR has available” to ensure that the scientific exploration of space is a “truly international endeavor.”

COSPAR was established by ICSU in 1958 as an outgrowth of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an 18-month effort from July 1957-December 1958 during which scientists from 66 nations cooperated together in studying the geophysics of planet Earth.   The Soviet Union and the United States both announced that they would launch satellites in support of the IGY and, indeed, both did launch their first satellites during that time period.  While he was chairman of the SSB, Fisk led an international commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the IGY with public lectures across the United States and in Paris, where COSPAR is headquartered.  Many of the lectures from that series are published in Forging the Future of Space Science: The Next 50 Years, published by the National Academies Press.

COSPAR is perhaps best known for its biennial scientific assemblies that attract the world’s top space scientists to share discoveries and plans for the future.  The 40th COSPAR meeting recently concluded in Moscow.  The venue became problematic in April when the White House directed agencies to limit their interactions with Russia because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  A NASA memo explaining the White House guidance said that NASA personnel could participate in multilateral meetings that involved Russians, but only if they were held outside Russia.  Fisk is widely credited with convincing administration officials to exempt the COSPAR meeting in Moscow from that restriction.  NASA said that 35 NASA employees were given permission to participate in the meeting.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.