By Bob Granath
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Following nine weeks hearing from some of the leading experts in space technology and participating in hands-on activities such as designing and launching model rockets, approximately 130 participants representing 31 countries recently concluded their experience in the International Space University, or ISU, Space Studies Program for 2012. Closing ceremonies took place Aug. 3, highlighted by remarks from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
"ISU is a great tool for expanding your professional experience," Bolden said. "As you know, it's not all about the glories of launches or landings. There's a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make it all happen and to manage missions as they race through space."
The International Space University is an intensive course designed for post-graduate university students and professionals during the summer. The program is hosted by a different country each year, providing a unique educational experience for participants from around the world. NASA Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Institute of Technology served as co-hosts for this year's event which began June 4.
As the keynote speaker for the graduation, Bolden noted international cooperation will play an increasingly important role in future space exploration and solving the problems that lie ahead.
"As we move forward, the partnerships we share among nations are going to be critical to our success as global space-faring people," he said. "I know 'out-of-the-box' thinking was the sort of thing you were looking at in your team projects. I look forward to hearing more about the conclusions you drew about the big questions you brain-stormed and researched."
The International Space University closing came just two days prior to the Mars Science Laboratory's landing on Mars.
"As we wrap up this ISU program, we're on the cusp of another thrilling milestone in exploration as the Curiosity rover prepares to land on Mars," Bolden said. "Curiosity can stand in for a lot of what ISU means to our field. It represents the intersection of exploration and science -- a great example of how each can support the other. Not only will Curiosity return amazing science as the largest rover ever landed on the Red Planet, it will also serve as a precursor to the human missions to Mars we're working for in the 2030s."
Speaking as an ISU class representative, John Conley expressed his view that his classmates’ futures are as limitless as the cosmos.
"If space is truly infinite, then so are the possibilities contained within it," said Conley, who is from the San Francisco Bay area. "I'll never forget our destination is in the sky above. Together we'll build an incredible future."
Bolden echoed Conley's sentiments, looking ahead to a time when spaceflight will not be limited to a few highly-trained astronauts or high-paying tourists.
"My dream is to give any of you, who want to, (the opportunity to) travel into space to have that experience of being there," Bolden said. "I hope that will happen in your lifetime."
Janet Petro, Kennedy's deputy center director, challenged the students to spearhead upcoming programs.
"We have a really bright future, and I believe you can help us move forward," she said. "The space industry is constantly evolving. We've got new places to explore and new ways to get there and new challenges to conquer. With this, we need future international leaders and I think those leaders are sitting here in this audience today."
Headquartered in Strasbourg, France, the International Space University provides an interdisciplinary education experience to support the development of future leaders in the world space community. The program curriculum includes sessions in space physical sciences, space systems engineering, policy and law, business and management, space and society, satellite applications, space life sciences and human spaceflight.
ISU President Walter Peeters believes the organization’s experience can be valuable in the rapidly-advancing world of space flight.
“It is the vision of ISU to be at the forefront, even to anticipate, such changes,” Peeters states on the organization’s website. “The space workforce will become more international and it is therefore important for all space professionals to manage this globalization trend.”
ISU reports their alumni are pleased with the offering of ISU programs. In a recent survey, 75 percent of the alumni work in the space sector and 80 percent of the respondents felt that ISU had helped them in their careers, either during the recruitment phase or in later promotions.