Panel to discuss forging university-business ties to promote future of space

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April 01, 2014

How do academic and commercial stakeholders join forces to promote space science and exploration in the immediate future and decades to come? An expert panel of astronauts, scientists, commercial spaceflight entrepreneurs and Arizona State University researchers will tackle this topic at a free-to-attend session from 6:30-7:30 p.m., April 1, at Space Tech Expo 2014 in Long Beach, Calif.

To date, collaboration among academics and business owners has been limited, said Jim Bell, professor and director of ASU’s NewSpace Initiative, a new university-wide space technology and science program. But he added that such a partnership could open up new and innovative opportunities to broaden interest in space science and exploration. Bell, who is also the president of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest public space advocacy organization, will serve as panel moderator.

“Traditionally, government and academic stakeholders have overlapped on science-based space projects while government and commercial entities have shared defense-based interests and, increasingly, civilian space activities,” he explained. “Looking ahead, leading research and teaching universities like ASU and commercial space enterprises have the greatest potential to chart new territory in everything from rocket engine propulsion and design to microgravity research, space tourism, even mining.”

In addition to Bell, the ASU-sponsored NewSpace panel will include four distinguished panelists:

• Michael Lopez-Alegria, veteran astronaut, former International Space Station commander and president, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
• Will Pomerantz, vice president, Special Projects, Virgin Galactic
• Thomas D. Jones, veteran astronaut, planetary scientist and senior research scientist,
Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
• Cheryl Nickerson, professor, The Biodesign Institute, Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, Arizona State University

“Leveraging the Academic-Commercial Partnership for NewSpace” will look at ways to create the next best practices for delivering results of mutual interest to academia and industry. As an ASU professor, Bell said he also hopes to help faculty connect with private space companies, and to identify internship and job opportunities for ASU students.

“Our panel members plan to get out of their comfort zones and avoid rehashing old topics,” Bell said. “We want to zoom in on what exactly is needed by agile academic institutions to give emerging commercial space entrepreneurs the successful future we all believe in.”

How can leading research and teaching academic institutions best partner with commercial space enterprises to advance the goals of both effectively? Scott Smas, NewSpace project manager, said that question is at the crux of ASU’s new initiative.

“The NewSpace Initiative is an added force working to create an interdisciplinary and focused movement across ASU while working with the commercial space industry in new and inventive ways," he explained.

According to Bell, both his roles with NewSpace and The Planetary Society beg the question about how to engage the general public in the future of space science and exploration: “It’s important to the broader national conversation about ways that we can recapture especially young people's interest and fascination with our space frontier.”

The free session kicks off the annual Space Tech Expo, April 1-3, at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. The event is the leading business-to-business exhibition and conference for the space and satellite industry on the West Coast. For information, visit http://www.spacetechexpo.com/.

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