SEDS History Project: An Overview

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
- George Santayana
Why should an organization like SEDS, which deals with the future of humankind’s growth into space by educating those who will live and work in that future, have any concern with the past, and in particular its past? Why should we concern ourselves with the past conferences, past projects, past leaders of the organization, when we can be busy working on the future?

The reason is that the past can tell us a lot about the future. From the past we can learn what has been attempted by the organization in the past, and why is did (or didn’t) work. Projects that were dismissed several years ago as unfeasible may now be feasible. A look at the past trials and tribulations of the organization can shed light on the current situation and future plans.

A problem with SEDS is that is has been run throughout its fifteen-year-plus history by students. Students, in gener al, stay in school and are active in the organization for a few years at a time (with a few notable exceptions.) This m eans that there have been several "generations" of SEDS members since the organization’s founding, which means some of the problems and projects of the SEDS of 1986 are unknown to the SEDS of 1996.

SEDS does have written records of its history, but they are neither centrally organized nor easily accessible. The c hapter-based nature of the organization, plus the system of locating "co-chairs" at other institutions over s several-ye ar span, has meant that records regarding the history of SEDS are scattered in chapters offices around the country. Sin ce some of these chapters have since become defunct, some records have been lost. There is a wide range of SEDS materia ls at the national headquarters at MIT, particularly for the early years of the organization, but again this is not easi ly accessible to people outside the area.

What SEDS needs is a repository of information that is easily accessible and shed light on the past of the organizati on, with the hopes that the SEDS of old can guide the SEDS of the future. The SEDS History Project aims to meet this goal.

The goal of the SEDS History Project is to provide an online resource of SEDS historical information. This informati on would include old national project information, conference information, other national information, and chapter histo ries and related documents. These would be accessible online in the appropriate formats for anyone with Internet (FTP o r Web) access. Depending on the size of the archive, a search engine may be installed to help people find particular snippets of information.

However, SEDS is more than just documents about projects and conferences. SEDS is about people, students who were me mbers of their school’s chapter and who may have served at the national level. Those current and former students form a n incredible resource of information about the organization that no archive of old documents could ever match. it is th e plan of the SEDS History Project to interview past and present SEDS members to gain their insights on the organization and their experiences with it.

All of this information will be made available on a set of Web pages and FTP directories on the SEDS server ( or in the very near future. We will need contributions from as many people as possible - anyone with materials or experiences to contribute is more than welcome to do so! Simply contact Jeff Foust at the address below. Also contact Jeff is you have any general questions or comments about the project.

Ad astra per ardua,
Jeff Foust
12 Windsor St. #2
Arlington, MA 02174
617/646-1166 or 617/253-7354
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