ASTR 4800 – Space Science:

 Practice & Policy

Spring 2008

Duane E-126

MWF 9:00 – 9:50 am



Professor Jack Burns, Ph.D.

Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences

Office: Duane D311

Office Hours: MW 10:00-11:00 pm or by appointment

Phone: 303-735-0963


Web page:



Required Texts: The Heaven and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age, 1997 by Walter A. McDougall, Johns Hopkins Press; and Beyond Sputnik: U.S. Science Policy in the 21st Century, 2008 by H. Neal, T. Smith, and J. McCormick.


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 twice during the semester, the first about a third of the way through the class and the second about two-thirds of the way through 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).  An archive of Space in the News articles can be found at this link: Space in the News.


Homeworks: Homework assignments will given on occasion throughout the semester.  These assignments may include calculations, short essays, and interpretations 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.


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 new NASA Administrator in the Obama Administration (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


Discrimination and Harassment:

The University of Colorado at Boulder policy on Discrimination and Harassment, the University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships apply to all students, staff and faculty.  Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of sexual harassment or discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the ODH, the above referenced policies and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at


 Classroom Behavior:

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender, gender variance, and nationalities.  Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  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!



            20% Class participation, homeworks, and Space in the News presentations.

            25% Exams

            20% Class Presentation

            35% Mid-term and final papers



Schedule of Student Presentations (click here).


Schedule of Space in the News Presentations (click here).


Space in the News articles web link here!


Planned Class Schedule


1.    Week 1 (January 12-16): Overview of Space Science & Space Policy

·       January 12           Introductions and Course Overview, Syllabus

·       January 14           Overview of Space Policy

o      Reading: Chapter 1 in Beyond Sputnik book.

·       January 16           Introduction to Outer Space

o      Reading: Report to President Eisenhower on “Introduction to Outer Space” (web link)

o      Reading: Chapter 1 of McDougall “Rocketry and Revolution”

o      Homework #1 (link here)


2.    Week 2 (January 19-23): Beginnings of the Space Race – Before Sputnik

·       January 19           Martin Luther King Day – No class.

·       January 21           The Soviet Union Before Sputnik

o      Reading: Chapter 2 of McDougall: “The Cold War and Sputnik”

·       January 23           The U.S. Before Sputnik

o      Reading: Part II, Chapters 3-5 of McDougall: “America Before Sputnik”

o      Web links: Inflation calculator and AAAS Federal Budget Analysis for FY08/09


·       Homework # 1 Solutions here


3.    Week 3 (January 26-30): NASA Emerges from the Cold War

·       January 26           The Endless Frontier (student presentation)

o      Reading: Chapter 2 in Beyond Sputnik

o      Reading: Chapter 6 of McDougall

o      Reading: “Science: The Endless Frontier” by Vannevar Bush (web link)

·       January 28           Why Does the U.S. Invest in Research? – Pasteur’s Quadrant (student presentation)

o      Reading: p. 7 and Chapter 5 in Beyond Sputnik

·       January 30           The Birth of NASA

o      Reading: Part III of McDougall

o      Reading: “Eisenhower Farewell Address” (web link)

o      Homework #2 (link here)


4.    Week 4 (February 2-6): U.S. versus U.S.S.R. in Space

·       February 2           Khrushchev and U.S.S.R. Space Policies

o      Reading: Part IV of McDougall

·       February 4           The Many Faces of Hubble – Meet at Fiske Planetarium

o      Reading: 18 years of Science with the Hubble Space Telescope (web link)

·       February 6           Kennedy’s Vision for the U.S. Space Program

o      Reading: Chapters 15, 18 in McDougall

o      Kennedy video here.


·       Homework #2 Solutions here.


5.    Week 5 (February 9-13): The Apollo Program

·       February 9           The  Apollo Program

o      Reading: Chapter 19 & Part V Conclusions, Chapter 20 of McDougall

·       February 11         A Conversation with Apollo 17 Astronaut (and former U.S. Senator) Dr. Harrison (Jack) Schmitt

o      Reading: Looking Backwards – And Forward by J. Logsdon (web link)

o      Reading: Biographical sketch of Dr. Schmitt

·       February 13         Legacies of Apollo

o      Reading: Part VI, Chapters 21 -22 of McDougall


·       Homework #3 (link here)


6.    Week 6 (February 16-20): The Space Shuttle

·       February 16         History and Accomplishments of the Space Shuttle Program (student presentation)

o      Reading: History of the Space Shuttle (web link here)

·       February 18         A View from the Cockpit of the Space Shuttle – A conversation with Shuttle Pilot Admiral Richard Truly, former NASA Administrator

o      Reading: Brief biography of Richard Truly (web link here)

·       February 20         Servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope from the Shuttle – A conversation with Shuttle Astronaut Dr. John Grunsfeld.

o      Reading: National Research Council Report on Hubble Servicing (read only Executive Summary)


·       Homework #3 Solutions here.


7.    Week 7 (February 23-27): Funding for Research, Education, and NASA

·       February 23         NASA’s Budget

o      Reading: Summary of NASA’s Budget Request for FY09 (web link here)

·       February 25         National Academy Report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” – A conversation with Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed-Martin.

o      Reading: Section 1.1 of Gathering Storm report (web link here)

o      Reading: Brief bio of Mr. Norm Augustine.

·       February 27         Overview of how NASA’s budget bill is passed through the Congress (student panel)

o      Reading: Chapter 4 in Beyond Sputnik


8.    Week 8 (March 2-6): Mock House Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing

·       March 2                Exam 1—Solutions here!

·       March 4-6            Overview of how NASA’s budget bill is passed through Congress & Mock Hearing of the House Science Committee (student panel)

o      View video of hearing on NASA’s FY09 budget request before the House Science Committee (click on webcast on right side)

o      Reading: Burns Testimony on “NASA’s Science Programs: Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request”

o      Pictures here of the in-class Mock Hearing.

·       March 5                Fiske Planetarium show on “Dr. Einstein’s Universe” by J. Burns at 7:30 pm.  Extra credit for attendance!


9.    Week 9 (March 9-13): NASA’s Plans for Space Exploration

·       March 9                Back to the Moon, Back to the Future – Fiske Planetarium Lecture by J. Burns

o      Reading: (1) Observatories on the Moon and (2) Low Frequency Telescope for Lunar Farside

·       March 11              NASA’s Constellation System – A Conversation with NASA ESMD Budget Director Andrew Hunter (CU alumnus)

o      Reading: Short bio of Andrew Hunter

o      Reading: Review NASA’s webpage on Constellation (web link here).

o      Pictures of Constellation component construction & testing (web link here).

·       March 13              NASA’s Exploration Roadmap (student presentation)

o      Reading: The Lunar Exploration Roadmap

o      Midterm paper due


10.Week 10 (March 16-20): Mars

·       March 16              What have we learned so far about Mars? (student presentation)

o      Reading: NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

·       March 18              Robotic Exploration of Mars – Guest Lecture by Professor Brian Hynek, LASP/Geology

o      Reading: Mars Mission has some seeing Red

·       March 20              Spitzer Space Telescope (student presentation)

o      Reading: About Spitzer


11.Week 11 (March 23-27): Spring Break!


12.Week 12 (March 30 – April 3): Robotic Exploration of the Solar System

·       March 30              Messenger at Mercury (student presentation)

o      Reading:  Messenger’s Mission

·       April 1                   Cassini at Saturn (student presentation)

o      Reading: Cassini’s Mission

·       April 3                   Exam 2 – Exam solutions here!           


13.Week 13 (April 6-10): Science with Flagship Telescopes

·       April 6                   JWST (Dennis Ebbets, Ball Aerospace)

o      Reading: JWST Overview

·       April 8                   Fermi/GLAST (student presentation)

o      Reading: Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

·       April 10                 Q&A Session with recent NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin (tentative)

o      Reading: We Have a Long Way to Go by Michael Griffin (web link)


14.Week 14 (April 13-17): Search for Life in the Universe

·       April 13                 Life in the Universe Debate(student presentation)

o      Reading: The Odds of Intelligent Life in the Universe

·       April 15                 New Worlds Observer (Professor Web Cash)

o      Reading: New Worlds Observer Overview

·       April 17                 The European Space Agency

o      Reading: ESA Overview


15.Week 15 (April 20-24):  The Sun and Space Weather

·       April 20                 The Space Scientist as an Honest Broker in Space Policy – guest lecture by Professor Roger Pielke, CU Center for Science & Technology Policy Research

o      Reading: The Honest Broker

·       April 22                 Space Radiation Hazards – Dr. Scot Elkington, CU LASP

o      Reading: Space Radiation Hazard & the Vision for Space Exploration

·       April 24                 Astrobiology - Professor Bruce Jakosky, Geology and CU LASP

o      Reading: NASA Astrobiology


16.Week 16 (April 27 – May 1): Global Warming & Debate on Climate Change

·       April 27                 Student Debate on Global Climate Change

o      Reading: Climate Change: Summary for Policymakers

·       April 29                 Global Warming – Guest Lecture by Professor Lisa Dilling, CU Environmental Studies

o      Readings: America’s long hard road to climate-change law and Environment Gridlock

·       May 1                   The NASA Advisory Council and Summary Class Discussion

o      Final Paper due