SSB to Look at Grand Philosophical Questions Addressed by NASA; Public Invited

SSB to Look at Grand Philosophical Questions Addressed by NASA; Public Invited

The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Space Studies Board (SSB) is planning a two-and-a-half day workshop in November to look at how NASA addresses the “grand philosophical questions people care about.” Writing in the most recent edition of the SSB newsletter, SSB chair Charlie Kennel invites all who are interested to come to the workshop at the NRC’s Beckman Center in Irvine, CA on November 8-10, 2010.

“Originally, we thought we would look at how effectively NASA is using both old and new media in getting its story across to the general public. As time passed, we came to realize that NASA’s most convincing story is how its accomplishments speak to the grand philosophical questions people care about: …. We will look back 50 years and look ahead 50 years. We will invite prominent space scientists to take a broad look at these questions. We will invite panels of media professionals to tell us how they would express the same questions and answers. We will allow plenty of time for dialogue with the audience.”

Among the grand philosophical questions —

  • Are we alone?
  • How did the universe begin and how are we evolving?
  • Will the earth remain a hospitable home for humanity?
  • What does the future hold for human exploration of space?
  • Do nations aspiring to become great need space programs?

Dr. Kennel was a member of the Augustine Committee on the future of the human space flight program and also spoke to the current controversy in Congress over the President’s proposed new path for NASA that stemmed, in part, from that committee’s report.

Noting the increase in earth science funding and other parts of NASA included in the FY2011 budget request, Dr. Kennel said he hoped the “dispute can be settled soon lest the other good things in the NASA budget languish.” He conceded that he had not anticipated the “firestorm” in Congress, which he attributed to members whose districts are affected by the loss of the space shuttle and Constellation programs. Actually a number of members whose districts could benefit from the new NASA plan, such as Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), and those whose constituents would not be directly affected, such as Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, also have raised objections to the new plan. The issues are quite complex and not easily divided into political constituencies.

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