ASTR 4800 – Space Science:

 Practice & Policy

Fall 2007

Duane E-126

MWF 1:00 – 1:50 pm


Professor Jack Burns, Ph.D.

Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences

Office: Duane D311

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

Phone: 303-735-0963


Web page:



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 its 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 are their missions?
  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:


Exams:  Short essay examinations will be given three times during the semester.  These exams 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.  Participation will also include one or two brief (5 minute) presentations at the beginning of class on “Space in the News” – recent topical articles that describe “hot” issues in Space Science or Space Policy (see above for potential sources of articles).


Class Presentations:  Every student will make at least one PowerPoint presentation to the class on one of a topics described below under Planned Class Schedule or will participate as part of a team in one of the debate topics.  Careful preparation, including at least one meeting with the Professor, good presentation materials, practice, and reading materials for the class will all contribute to this portion of the grade.


Archive of “Space in the News” articles


Papers:  Two papers will be written during the semester.  The first midterm paper is a 5 page essay on your choice of topics relating broadly to Space Science and/or Space Policy; topics must be approved in advance.  The final paper, in lieu of a Final Exam, will be a 10 page essay that will describe your vision of NASA if you were selected as the next NASA Administrator in 2009 (including vision, goals, programs, budget, Congressional strategy).


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 will be communicating weekly with you via E-mail on class assignments, reading articles, paper preparation, etc.  It is essential that you log onto your official CU E-mail account at least twice weekly to read these communications!



            15% Class participation

            30% Exams

            20% Class Presentations

            35% Mid-term and final papers


Archive of “Space in the News” articles


Schedule of “Space in the News” articles


Schedule of Class PowerPoint Presentations and Debates



Planned Class Schedule


  1. Week 1: Overview and Before Sputnik
    • August 27                   Introductions and Course Overview, Syllabus
    • August 29                   Introduction to Outer Space
    • August 31                   Beginnings of the Space Race: The Soviet Union Before Sputnik
            • Reading: Chapters 2 of McDougall: “The Cold War and Sputnik”


  1. Week 2: Establishing U.S. Space Policies & Programs


  1. Week 3: U.S. versus U.S.S.R. in Space
    • September 10             The Birth of NASA
    • September 12             Khrushchev and U.S.S.R. Space Policies
            • Reading: Part IV of McDougall
    • September 14             Kennedy’s Vision for the U.S. Space Program
            • Reading: Chapters 15, 18 in McDougall


  1. Week 4: The Apollo Program
    • September 17             The  Apollo Program
            • Reading: Chapter 19 & Part V Conclusions, Chapter 20 of McDougall
    • September 19             Exam 1—Solution set here
    • September 21             Legacies of Apollo
            • Reading: Part VI, Chapters 21 -22 of McDougall


  1. Week 5: Space Shuttle, Gathering Storm Report, NASA Budget


  1. Week 6: Space Entrepreneurship and Europe’s Space Program


  1. Week 7: Vision for Space Exploration and A Return to the Moon


  1. Week 8: Mock House Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing


  1. Week 9: Mars


  1. Week 10: Robotic Exploration of the Solar System


  1. Week 11: Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope


  1. Week 12: Search for Extrasolar Planets, Astrobiology, & Life in the Universe Debate


  1. Week 13: Thanksgiving Fall Break


  1. Week 14: Science with Flagship Telescopes


  1. Week 15:  The Sun and Space Weather


  1. Week 16: Global Warming & Debate on Climate Change


  1.  December 17, 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm
    •                                     Final Paper due
    •                                     Student Presentations on the following: