Security Concerns Shade World Space Congress
HOUSTON, Texas, October 14, 2002 (ENS) - The Space Policy Summit, a top level "private and frank" discussion of space policy over the past three days, was influenced by "the renewed emphasis on national and international security concerns," said organizers from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
The Space Policy Summit was held in connection with the World Space Congress that opened October 10 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Held once every 10 years, the World Space Congress has attracted 13,000 scientific, technical, business and government leaders, who will explore every facet of space activity until the Congress closes on Saturday.
Among the 39 international leaders from government and industry of 16 nations and five international organizations who took part in Space Policy Summit discussions at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, were 12 national space agencies, 12 aerospace corporations, and eight additional government agencies. It was sponsored by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.
There were three sessions at the summit - commercial space activities, space exploration, and space applications. A fourth, closed door, session on international security space issues will be convened in the spring of 2003.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave a glimpse into U.S. space security concerns in February when he told Congress in support of his $200 million space budget request for 2003, "From the dawn of time, a key to victory on the battlefield has been to control the high ground. Space is the ultimate high ground."
The 2003 budget requests about $2 billion to strengthen U.S. space capabilities - $1.5 billion over the five years from 2003 to 2007, an increase of 145 percent. The budget still has not been approved by Congress.
Edward Djerejian, director of the Baker Institute, said today, “As government and private sectors pursue the use of space for everything from satellite communications to human spaceflight, a coherent and effective policy to regulate such activities will be of paramount importance.”
Space Policy Summit participants said the commercial satellite market is not strong enough to sustain current space launch systems or justify industry investment in new systems and technologies. "Government support is necessary for the foreseeable future to achieve national objectives in the security, civil, and commercial sectors," the AIAA said in a statement.
Export controls on space technologies reflect "legitimate national security and non-proliferation concerns," but they limit international cooperation and inhibit growth of the commercial sector, the summit participants acknowledged.
A "multinational approach" to harmonizing export control requirements according to "true national security needs" and the creation of "timely, predictable and transparent systems for licensing space technologies," was viewed as productive.
The New Face of Space is the theme of the World Space Congress, and organizers have made an effort to ensure that new face is one of international cooperation.
The International Space Station, a joint endeavor of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, circles every 90 minutes approximately 240 miles overhead, and traveling the distance to the moon and back every day.
Hundreds of national and international exhibitors at the convention center include displays from the International Space University, and exhibits from the British National Space Centre, China National Space Administration, German, Space Systems Finland, Israel Aircraft Industries, the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan, Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes, the Swedish Space Corporation plus dozens of corporate, state and local space exhibits.
University of Houston (UH) scientists are showcasing some cutting edge research on commercial applications of space technology to benefit Earthlings.
Physicist Dr. David Criswell, director of University of Houston’s Institute for Space Systems Operations, is presenting his lunar solar power research at the Congress. He believes it is feasible to build large banks of solar cells on the Moon to collect solar energy and beam it back through space to fill needs for electricity on Earth.
“A priority for me is getting people to realize that the lunar power system may be the only option for sustainable global prosperity,” Criswell says. He contributed a chapter to a new book, "Innovative Solutions for CO2 Stabilization," published in July, which addresses major aspects of sustainability and global commercial power.
Alex Freundlich, UH research professor of physics, says, “The raw materials needed to make solar cells are present in the Moon’s regolith,” the loose, fragmental material on the Moon's surface.
Freundlich, together with research scientist Charles Horton, Alex Ignatiev, director of Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials, and a team of NASA-Johnson Space Center and industry scientists have used simulated moon soil to determine how to go about manufacturing the solar cell devices on the moon.
“Our plan is to use an autonomous lunar rover to move across the moon’s surface, to melt the regolith into a very thin film of glass and then to deposit thin film solar cells on that lunar glass substrate," Freundlich says. "An array of such lunar solar cells could then be used as a giant solar energy converter generating electricity.”
“The best space solar cell technology currently in use converts only about 28 percent of the sunlight hitting the device into electricity,” Freundlich says. “By adding a thin layer of nano-engineered material in these cells we are capable of boosting solar cell efficiencies to well above 35 percent. These cells potentially would last much longer because they are much more resistant to being degraded by radiation from the sun and space.”
Education to nurture the interests of young people in space exploration is an important component of the exhibits and activities presented by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the World Space Congress. To inspire young people, NASA astronauts Dan Bursch and Jim Voss, two recent residents of the International Space Station, will give keynote addresses.
On Friday, the Space Rocks! KidsFest at the University of Houston includes the Robotics Invitational with teams from all over the United States participating in an invitational robotics competition. Kids can design their own space station, and explore Wright brothers' gliders, the vacuum of space, prism optics, inclined planes, rockets, tornados, gyroscopes, wind tunnels, Bernoulli's principle, a Van de Graaff generator, bubbles, angular momentum, space based math learning games, and videos.
There will be eight interactive distance learning webcast and chat events hosted directly from the Congress. For the full schedule of educational events log on to: http://www.aiaa.org/WSC2002/special_educ.cfm