Schedule at a glance...

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Course Description

This course introduces students to current controversies in space science that illustrate the scientific method and the interplay of observation, theory, and science policy. Students 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. Prereqs., ASTR 1110 and 1120, or equivalent, or PHYS 1110 and 1120, or PHYS 2010 and 2020. Approved for the arts and sciences core curriculum: critical thinking.

In Astronomy 4800 – Space Science: Practice & Policy, we will explore the science goals and technology of major space science missions as well as the public policy process that leads to selecting and funding such missions. The class begins with an historical overview of the international politics that created the first space programs in the Soviet Union and the United States. We will read and analyze classic science policy papers that advocated the creation of the first science funding agencies (such as NASA) and contrast these with recent influential reports from the National Academy of Sciences. In this class, we will review the science and mission plans from the Decadal Surveys of Astrophysics, Planetary Science, and Heliophysics.  Major missions such as the Mars Curiosity Rover and the James Webb Space Telescope will be presented by guest speakers and by members of the class.

We anticipate a number of exciting guest speakers, including former NASA Administrators, a NASA Center Director, NASA Associate Administrator for Science, Space Shuttle astronauts, leaders from Aerospace industries (Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace) and new space companies, and lead investigators of space science missions (e.g., MAVEN, JUNO, New Horizons) to speak with our class. Class members will do role-playing to simulate hearings before the Congressional science committees and debates on issues such as NASA's recently-proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission concept. We also are planning of tour to the facilities of Ball Aerospace in Boulder.