ASTR 4800 – Space Science: Practice & Policy

Fall 2006



Professor Jack Burns, Ph.D.

Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences

Office: Duane F927

Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:00 pm or by appointment

Phone: 303-735-0963


Web page:



  Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt (left) with Astr 4800 student Ben Herbert during class visit on September 25, 2006.


Colorado Congressman Mark Udall (right) during a visit to Astr 4800 class on December 1, 2006. He is greeting student Ian Cofrin who portrayed Congressman Udall during a class Mock Science Committee Hearing in September, 2006.


Required Text: The Heaven and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age, 1997 by Walter A. McDougall, Johns Hopkins Press.


Course Description: Students will be exposed to current controversies in science that illustrate the scientific method and the interplay of observation, theory, and science policy. Students will research and debate both sides of the issues, which include strategies and spin-offs of space exploration, funding of science, big vs. small science, and scientific heresy and fraud.  Approved for the arts and sciences core curriculum: critical thinking.


Course Prerequisites: ASTR 1110 and 1120, or equivalent, or PHYS 1110 and 1120, or PHYS 2010 and 2020.


Course Objectives:

1. How does NASA’s history give us perspective on the Agency’s present programs and it’s Vision for Space Exploration.

2. What is the rationale for federal support of scientific research in space, in particular astronomy? What fraction of the federal budget goes to basic science? To astronomy? What federal agencies support astronomy and what is their mission?

3. How do scientists interact with policymakers in Congress and the White House? How are scientific priorities established? How is the budget allocated? How/when do scientists bring issues to the attention of policy makers? How/when do policy makers seek information from scientists?

4. What are the scientific objectives, costs, and scientific impact of current space astronomy instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Cassini, and such future missions such as the New Horizons Pluto probe and lunar-based telescopes.


Strategies for Reaching the Objectives:

·        Text chapters and other web materials should be read and thoughtfully analyzed before class so that you are prepared to discuss issues, articulate insights, evaluate others’ ideas, and defend your own ideas.  Participate in discussions of topics by asking original questions, bringing in outside research articles to share with the class, and relating your own experiences or observations.

·        Find time to read updates and articles on NASA and the space program at least weekly.  You will be asked to discuss one or more such articles in class and how these articles relate to the learning objectives.  Some potential resources include Space News (published weekly and in the library) as well as on-line sites such,,, and

·        Make PowerPoint presentation to the class at least once during the semester showing your in-depth research on one of the themes, topics, missions, policies, or science issues in the class schedule (see last section of this syllabus).

·        Begin research early on your mid-term and final papers.

·        Late assignments will not be accepted unless arrangements were made in advance.

Class Web page:

Quizzes:  Short essay quizzes will be given three times during the semester.  These quizzes will ask you to discuss, analyze, and interpret issues presented in class.

In-Class Participation: Regular individual participation in class discussion is a critical part of this class.  Points will be earned for the quality and quantity of your in-class participation.

Individual Attendance:

Daily class attendance is expected and is an individual responsibility. An occasional interview or illness may cause you to miss class, but excessive absences will be penalized in the point distribution system. If you need to miss class, please let me know before class via E-mail or a written note.


Religious Observances:

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to reasonably and fairly deal with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance.  In this class, please contact me in advance of the religious observation to make arrangements.  See details at


Sexual Harassment:

The University of Colorado Policy on Sexual Harassment applies to all students, staff and faculty.  Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention.  It can involve intimidation, threats, coercion, or promises, or create an environment that is hostile or offensive.  Harassment may occur between members of the same or opposite gender and between any combination of members in the campus community: students, faculty, staff, and administrators.  Harassment can occur anywhere on campus, including the classroom, the workplace, or a residence hall.  Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been sexually harassed should contact the Office of Sexual Harassment (OSH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the OSH and the campus resources available to assist individuals who believe they have been sexually harassed can be obtained at:


Classroom Behavior:

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment.  Students who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline.  Faculty have the professional responsibility to treat all students with understanding, dignity and respect, to guide classroom discussion and to set reasonable limits on the manner in which they and their students express opinions.  Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender variance, and nationalities.  See policies at and at


Academic Integrity:

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution.  Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior.  All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Other information about the Honor Code can be found at and at


When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, or collaboration, consult with me.


Disability Services:

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner so that your needs may be addressed.  Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities.  Contact:  303-492-8671, Willard 322, and  Disability Services’ letters for students with disabilities indicate legally mandated reasonable accommodations.  The syllabus statements and answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found at



I may need to communicate with you using email.  Please provide the email address you check daily on the student information sheet.



            10% Class participation

            25% Quizzes

            25% Class Presentations

            40% Mid-term and final papers


Schedule of Topical Article Presentations


Schedule of Class Presentations


Planned Class Schedule:







Aug. 28 – Sep. 1

Space Science & Society

Introduction & Course Overview;

Before Sputnik


Sep. 6, 8


Setting US and USSR Space Policies


Sep. 11 - 15


Apollo & Shuttle Programs


Sep. 18 - 22

NASA Today

NASA Budget & Appropriations




Sep. 25 - 29


Vision for Space Exploration;

New Horizons & Pluto


Oct. 2 - 6


Mock House Science Committee

Hearing -- Pictures from Class


Oct. 9 - 13

Humans  & Science on

the Moon & Mars

Astronomy from the Moon;




Oct. 16 - 20




Mid-term paper due


Oct. 23 - 27

Space Telescopes

Space politics;

Asteroid Impacts Case Study


Oct. 30 – Nov. 3


Hubble Space Telescope;

James Webb Space Telescope


Nov. 6 - 10




Debate on Life in the Universe


Nov. 13 - 17


Science with Flagship Missions:

Chandra, Spitzer, & proposed missions


Nov. 20 - 24


No classes/ Fall Break


Nov. 27 – Dec. 1

The Earth & Near-
Earth Environment  

Explorer-class missions;

Visit from Congressman M. Udall --

pictures from class.



Dec. 4 - 8


The Sun;

Space Weather


Dec. 11 - 15


Global Climate Change; Telecon with

NASA Administrator M. Griffin


Dec. 18


Final Paper due