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Celebrating 50 Years: Goddard Symposium Continues Tradition of Forward Thinking
Dr. Freeman Hrabowski Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, UMBC president. Credit: NASA/Bill Hrybyk
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grip and grin Mary Glackin receives NASA medal from Charlie Bolden and Chris Scolese. Credit: NASA/Bill Hrybyk
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grip and grin Rob Strain receives Goddard Medal from Frank Slazer, AAS president. Credit: NASA/Bill Hrybyk
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two people interact near a model of a satellite dish Displays included included Space Communication and Navigation, SCaN. Credit: NASA/Bill Hrybyk
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Kathryn Sullivan,  Frank Cepollina and a robotic refueling gadget Kathryn Sullivan, first American woman spacewalker, talks with Frank Cepollina about robotic refueling. Credit: NASA/Bill Hrybyk
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For 50 years the planning committees of the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium have successfully put together programs of both topical and substantive information on space science and exploration. In 1961, the year of the first manned space flights, "Interaction of Space Vehicles With an Ionized Atmosphere" was the inaugural theme. Fifty years later "Dreams and Possibilities: Planning for the Achievable" was the focus of the symposium and the theme for 2012.

This year's symposium held March 28-29 at the Greenbelt, Md. Marriott featured senior representation from NASA and leaders in aerospace policy. "We believe this symposium provided an up-to-date look at the current status of space exploration," said Dr. Harley Thronson, chairperson for the planning committee. "From all accounts this meeting was a great success and we met the high goals we set last fall."

In his opening remarks NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden recognized the significance of the symposium. "Thanks to your commitment to space exploration and thanks for standing with NASA," said Bolden to the American Astronautical Society (AAS). "From the early days, with your help, America has strengthened its position as the world's leading space faring nation."

First day presentations also included Frank Slazer, AAS president, who welcomed attendees and spoke of the significance of NASA Goddard's role as partner in sponsoring the symposium. "Goddard Space Flight Center is a place that has been at the cutting edge of America's space research for 50 years," said Slazer. "This is a great opportunity for Goddard to explain to the world what it has been doing, to share insight, knowledge and to collaborate for future discoveries yet to come."

The Chair of NASA's Advisory Council and Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University, Dr. Steve Squyres was asked to speak about what keeps him up at night concerning NASA and space exploration. He talked about NASA's challenges to stay on course because of budget and government leadership changes. "But NASA has an extraordinary workforce with a passion unmatched in federal service," said Squyres.

Chris Scolese, the recently appointed Center Director of NASA Goddard recognized the fiftieth anniversary and 50 years of accomplishments within NASA programs as a prelude to the next 50 years in space. He and the Administrator also presented the NASA Exceptional Service Medal to NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations, Mary Glackin, upon her retirement. She was responsible for the day-to-day management of NOAA's national and international operations for oceanic and atmospheric services, research, and coastal and marine stewardship.

The morning session concluded with a panel discussion of NASA and commercial industry panelists moderated by Frank Morring, senior editor, Aviation Week. Luncheon speaker for the first day, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman, House Committee on Science, Space and Technology reviewed the committee's 30 years of service to the nation and the focus to maintain America's technological edge through space exploration, research and development.

Goddard's chief scientist, Dr. James Garvin presented during the afternoon panel session moderated by Dr. Waleed Abdalati, NASA's chief scientist. Also on the panel, Dr. John Grunsfeld, associate administrator (AA) for Science and veteran of three Hubble repair missions; Dr. Matt Mountain, director, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.; and Dr. Barbara Giles, NASA Heliophysics division director.

The first day concluded with a Technology Strategy panel chaired by Dr. James Reuther, representing NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist. Marcia Smith, president, Space and Technology Policy Group, presented closing remarks.

Second day keynote speaker Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction at NOAA, is a veteran of three shuttle flights and the first American woman to walk in space. She spoke about the vital role NOAA has providing the nation with "critical environmental intelligence," said Sullivan. "This is timely, reliable, actionable information about Earth phenomena useful to decision makers from heads of households to heads of corporations and governments." She talked about NOAA's continued accomplishments in space despite budget challenges.

The Public Outreach and Education Strategy Panel was moderated by University of Maryland Baltimore County president Freeman Hrabowski, recently recognized by Time magazine as one of the most influential leaders in the world. "Children need to have examples of people who are excited about math, science and engineering and they need to have rigorous experiences that can prepare them for work," said Hrabowski. The panel also included Louisa Koch, NOAA office of education; James Stofan, NASA deputy AA for Program Integration; Lance Bush, CEO, Challenger Center for Space Science Education; and Alan Ladwig, NASA deputy AA for Communications, Public Outreach.

The System Engineering Director at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Rear Admiral Liz Young, USN (ret), was the luncheon speaker. She provided a historical review about the value of strategic reconnaissance with emphasis on space imagery. "Last fall NRO also celebrated 50 years of operations, providing global situational awareness to the country," said Young.

The afternoon panel led by Olga Dominguez, NASA AA for Strategic Infrastructure, discussed challenges facing NASA's infrastructure. They include right sizing, becoming leaner and greener, and sustainability of an infrastructure in which 80 percent is more than 40 years old. The overview included test and launch facilities, and components of NASA's Space Communications and Navigation Network.

Space and Terrestrial Weather: Climate Change and More was the title of the final panel discussion. That discussion included the status of research, space data acquisition, modeling and dissemination of space weather predictions.

A 50-year symposium overview and closing remarks where provided by Dr. Roger Launius, senior curator, Division of Space History at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. "This symposium was named after Dr. Robert Goddard before the Goddard Space Flight Center was built," said Launius. "Past speakers here have included Wernher von Braun, Carl Sagan, Pete Conrad, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Senator Barbara Mikulski. Themes over the years have included 'Human Futures In Space', 'Space Budgets and Economics,' and 'Practical Uses of Space.' As you leave here the hope is that you are energized, enlightened and maybe a little ticked off as you recall what has been discussed over the past two day," Launius concluded.

Awards presented by AAS included the Goddard Medal to Rob Strain; the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award to Rep. Ralph Hall; the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award to John Logsdon and Asif Siddiqi; the William Randolph Lovelace III Award to Nancy Grace Roman; and the Award for the Advancement of International Cooperation to Thomas P. Stafford and Alexi Leonov.

Prepared remarks, power point graphics, and videos of the presentations are available at the AAS web site:
Mike Calabrese
DeWayne Washington
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.