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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. There are no required prerequisites, although ASTR 1110 and 1120, or PHYS 1110 and 1120, or PHYS 2010 and 2020 are recommended before taking this class. 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, the New Horizons mission to Pluto, and the James Webb Space Telescope will be presented by guest speakers and by members of the class. Students will work in teams on a semester-long project to develop business plans for a new space technology company in Colorado.
We will have a number of exciting guest speakers, including a former NASA Administrator, a NASA Center Director, Space Shuttle astronaut, executives from Colorado 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 concepts for missions to the Moon and to Mars. A number of classes will be held in the Fiske Planetarium.