Letter from the President

I would like to talk about UA SEDS strategies for the upcoming year. We have reached a remarkable moment in history; for the first time we have discovered other planetary systems and the signs of an organic environment on ancient Mars. And after a number of lull years, high-profile space missions are back big-time. Take a look at what's going on:
* Galileo has finally made it to Jupiter and is returning startling results such as a Ganymedan magnetosphere and water flows on Europa.
* Preperation for the first International Space Station will increase, including more Space-Shuttle + Mir docks and the launch of actual space station hardware.
* Three spacecraft will be launched to Mars this winter: the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder with microrover, and Russia's Mars 96. NASA is begining to seriously consider a manned mission to Mars as the step beyond the Space Station.
* NASA's committment to technology development programs (X-33, X-34, New Millenium) and smaller, faster, cheaper missions (Discovery Program) ensure novel, futuristic spacecraft that don't have the bank bet on them. NASA has also renewed interest in stude
nt involvement including our own SEDS Sat.
* Space--at least Low Earth Orbit--has become big big business with a plethora of launch systems, satellite constellations in the works.
* Development of reusable launch vehicle technology hints that the doors to the space frontier may soon be pushed wide open.
* The science of astronomy is in a golden age: the Hubble Space Telescope and a host of incredibly large telescopes already built or under construction return revolutionary results about the nature of the universe. The study of the universe at wavelengthsLetter From the President above and below the optical has never been more complete and seems to be generating more mysteries than it solves.

I believe that there will be a rising tide of public support for the space program and astronomy in general. It may not reach the fever pitch of the Apollo days, but I believe it will recapture much of that aura, the sense perhaps our parents had in that time that a whole new universe was opening up. We can simply surf these waves, or we can help drive them. The more and better informed the public is about space, the greater is the likelihood that they will support a stronger space program--programs now experiencing severe budget cuts.

We've seen how recent developments such as the possibility of life on Mars have captured widespread media attention and public imagination. People will turn to the Internet for information. They're looking for interaction, dynamic content, and web pages that inspire their imagination. If you were like me as a kid, you spend hours leafing through encyclopedias reading about the space program, watched Carl Sagan's Cosmos and got up early for televised shuttle launches. Well the kids of today are turning to the Internet for hypertext encyclopedias and multicast video feeds.

About a year ago, I remember "seeing" a shuttle land on NASA's Shuttle Web. There was no video, only orbiter telemetry (airspeed, rate of descent etc.) updated once a minute. Nonetheless, it was thrilling to see. We can expect more, and more sophisticated , items such as this. hopefully we can even provide some of our own. Imagine being able to call up a computer on the other side of the globe, send in a request that will trigger a satellite to take a picture of your locality and have the picture emailed to you when the satellite sends it down. We plan to attempt such a system with SEDS Sat. Here are the things I think we can succeed in: Providing high-quality information products on the World Wide Web. Taking presentations to elementary, middle, and high schoolers. Going forward with our own projects.

So much of public policy is driven by fear. Fear of losing to the Soviets, fear of public safety eroding, fear of drugs and diseases, fear of a New World Order. With space and astronomy, we have a special opportunity to drive public policy by curiosity and imagination instead. NASA's budget curve has become concave downward. The trend needs to be reversed and public interest will be the fulcrum on which it turns.

Guy McArthur, President, UASEDS