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'Interdependence' Key Theme of 51st Goddard Memorial Symposium
"Success Through Interdependence" was the theme of the American Astronautical Society's (AAS) 51st Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium held March 19-21 at the Marriott Hotel in Greenbelt, Md. For more than 50 years, senior representatives from NASA and leaders in aerospace policy have attended the annual event to review the status of space exploration and discuss challenges that might lie ahead.

This year's challenges for the symposium included the influence of NASA-imposed travel restrictions for employees. "We were pleased with the outstanding content of our symposium and the very good attendance," said Harley Thronson, chairperson of the RHGMS planning committee. "Especially in times that are challenged by the effects of budget uncertainties."

Slideshow of photographs from the 51st Goddard Memorial Symposium.
Credit: NASA Goddard
› View images on Flickr

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden opened the session acknowledging the budget challenges and stressed an obligation to ensure America's leadership in space exploration continues. He talked about having a crewed mission for an asteroid rendezvous by 2025 and a crewed mission orbiting Mars in the 2030s. "We will continue with the international operations of the ISS," said Bolden, "and the development of Orion with an upcoming test flight and development of the Space Launch System."

The administrator also talked about the success of current NASA missions such as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) and the Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM). He spoke about the commercial space accomplishments with the SpaceX Dragon vehicle and the soon-to-be-launched Orbital Sciences Corporation vehicle Antares.

Again this year a group of students from the University of Illinois was in attendance. The administrator took a few minutes to talk directly to them about being part of NASA's future. Following his presentation the administrator met separately with the students and interns from Goddard to talk about their goals and future career plans.

Alan Ladwig, deputy associate administrator for Communications and Public Outreach at NASA Headquarters, began the first panel discussion by taking a photo of the audience to tweet. He spoke about how active NASA has become with connecting with the public using social media. During the discussion, Jaiwon Shin, NASA associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, reminded the audience that, "NASA aeronautics [research] is with you when you fly."

Panel members John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, and Greg Williams, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, spoke about NASA's interdependence in science, human exploration and technology. Former astronaut Grunsfeld reviewed the NASA vision for continued robotic exploration of Mars that includes the 2016 InSight Rover mission and the Curiosity Twin Rover mission in 2020. Mike Gazarik, NASA associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, talked about the three major technology focuses for NASA: optical communication, solar sail propulsion and navigation.

Following lunch, Chris Scolese, Goddard center director, and Greg Robinson, deputy director of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, along with Robert Lightfoot, NASA associate administrator, presented a panel discussion chaired by Frank Morring, senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Their discussion focused on matching the needs of NASA Headquarters and the centers' capabilities while aligning with their resources. Scolese cited the need for a "sensible analysis" of tools and infrastructure required to build and launch missions. He talked about the cost of creating unique capabilities that are not used very often but necessary for space exploration.

Warren Ferster, Space News editor, chaired the panel discussion titled "Three Chiefs Plus One." Gale Allen, NASA's acting chief scientist, discussed the importance of internal and external interdependence in space science research. She led a discussion about how budget challenges drive innovation and collaboration. NASA Chief Engineer Mike Ryschkewitsch spoke of the importance of "just-right" interaction between customer and contractor, and program and project management, to achieve the optimum level of success within cost.

Opening the second day Rebecca Spyke Keiser, NASA associate deputy administrator for strategy and policy, provided the keynote address. During her presentation Keiser described the strategic planning process citing increased interdependence as the building blocks for NASA's space program.

Balance, innovation and cooperation, while bringing space into Earth's economic sphere, was the focus of a talk given by White House representative John Olson, assistant director, Space and Aeronautics, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He closed his presentation noting an opportunity to further develop interdependence at the International Academy of Astronautics Summit of Heads of Space Agencies, January 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Michael Maloney, director of Space Studies for the National Research Council, highlighted a finding in the 2012 study of NASA's strategic direction. "There is little evidence that the current stated interim goal for NASA's human spaceflight program—namely to visit an asteroid by 2025—has been widely accepted . . . by NASA's own workforce," Maloney said. He talked about how a lack of consensus is undermining NASA's ability to establish a direction that can guide program planning and budget allocation.

A final discussion about international influence focused on partner and customer interactions, team building and interdependence to meet mission requirements. "International partnerships is an enabling feature, providing a ‘diversity of approach' in science," said Jim Garvin, chief scientist of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA Goddard. Quoting Antoine de Saint-Exupéry he said, "Your task is not to foresee the future but to enable it."

Jim Cocker, vice president and general manager of Civil Space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, provided the closing remarks for the symposium. He stated that with interdependence and partnerships, we achieve a vision. "Collectively, we can be greater than our individual efforts and that this is enabled by trust," said Crocker. "The International Space Station is a great example of the fulfillment of this vision." He closed with a reference to "vision" in the Vincent Van Gogh "Starry Night" painting, urging us to "look at the stars and dream."

Awards presented by AAS included the 2012 Randolph Lovelace II Award to Thomas Flatley; the Victor A. Prather Award to Jan Stepanek; the Military Astronautics Award to Maj. Gen. Todd Wolters, USAF; the International Cooperation Award to Dick Barnes; and the American Astronautical Society President's Award to Jim Kirkpatrick, executive director of AAS.

Prepared remarks, power point graphics and videos of the presentations are available at the AAS web site:


For more information about NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, visit:

Dewayne Washington and Mike Calabrese
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.