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Dr. Roger D. Launius
Smithsonian Curator and Historian
Dr. Launius will give the keynote address for the symposium at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 in Olin 1.
“Looking Backward/Looking Forward: Spaceflight at the Turn of the New Millennium”
On March 16, 1926, reclusive Robert H. Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts. It traveled only a few feet but represented the “Kitty Hawk” of rocketry and the beginning of what would eventually become one of the most significant endeavors of the twentieth century. After a brief discussion of Goddard and his attempts to reach “extreme altitudes,” as he said in his 1919 Smithsonian paper, this presentation will survey fifty years of space exploration. Using this historical base as a jumping-off point, the presentation assesses five core challenges for the future of spaceflight in the twenty-first century: (1) political will, (2) inexpensive, reliable access to space, (3) smart robotics for exploration, (4) protecting this planet and this species, and (5) human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Roger D. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, he received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1982. He has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, including:
Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight (NASA SP-2006-4702, 2006); Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars (Smithsonian Books, 2003), which received the AIAA's history manuscript prize; Reconsidering a Century of Flight (University of North Carolina Press, 2003); To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles (University Press of Kentucky, 2002); Imagining Space: Achievements, Possibilities, Projections, 1950-2050 (Chronicle Books, 2001); Reconsidering Sputnik: Forty Years Since the Soviet Satellite (Harwood Academic, 2000); Innovation and the Development of Flight (Texas A&M University Press, 1999); Frontiers of Space Exploration (Greenwood Press, 1998, rev. ed. 2004); Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership (University of Illinois Press, 1997); and NASA: A History of the U.S. Civil Space Program (Krieger Publishing Co., 1994, rev. ed. 2001).
He served as a consultant to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and was presented the prestigious Harmon Memorial Lecture on the history of national security space policy at the United States Air Force Academy in 2006. Among his many honors are election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Astronautical Society and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues, and has been a guest commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.