Blasting off on space policy

From news on drunk astronauts to the severity of shuttle damage, GW’s Space Policy Institute is always available for knowledgeable comments on seminal debates in the world of space policy.

Founded in 1987 as a scholarly reaction to the absence of think tanks dedicated to space policy, the institute has become a cornerstone to advancing globally effective space strategies in the United States and abroad and is working to become one of the leading international think tanks and graduate programs in the field.

“(In 1987) there was a huge need for an individual think tank to discuss space policy,” said John M. Logsdon, principal founder and director of the Space Policy Institute. The following year, Logsdon pursued what he called the “market opportunity” to create a program within GW dedicated solely to the study and advancement of global space policies.

Today, the institute focuses on issues such as space security, international space relations and interplanetary expeditions.

As a part of its 2006 “Space Security” initiative, the institute held several workshops overseas to facilitate international discussions about the necessary steps to create a “collective space security” among nations, Logsdon said.

In May of 2006, a workshop took place in Paris, and featured leading space analysts and officials from all over Europe, he said. This past April, the workshop was in Tokyo, where the institute worked with the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the Tokyo-based Research Institute for Peace and Security.

The institute brought forth many new international ideas about a collective space security system, ranging from increased space situational awareness to a multilateral space code of conduct. Logsdon, who supervised the initiative, said the workshops served as an effort to “make space secure for all space users.”

The students within the program are constantly surrounded by such real-world initiatives in the classroom.

“For the first time, you can take the classes you really want to take,” said Stephanie Bednarek, a first-year graduate student at the institute who is studying aerospace engineering. “I am really happy with the program.”

Bednarek said she came to the institute because she was aware of the prestige of the faculty. She said she plans to work in the policy field after graduation.

Many of the institute’s students are content with not only the faculty’s lengthy experience in the field but also their accessibility.

“The faculty and the students have such a strong bond that many even keep in touch after graduation,” said Golnaz Shadmard, the institute’s executive associate.

Bednarek is following in the footsteps of many alumni who contribute to space policy today. Many work for renowned space organizations such as the National Academy of the Sciences, NASA and the CIA.

Lori Garver, an institute alumnus from the class of 1989, serves as the senior adviser for space at the Avascent Group, a strategic consulting firm in D.C. Prior to her current position, Garver worked at NASA and the National Space Society. She attributes these positions to her degree at the institute.

“I utilized specific knowledge from the program in my career over the past 20 years,” she said. “It’s simply the top institution of its kind anywhere in the universe.”

Logsdon said GW students should pay attention to the institute’s contributions.

“It’s your future,” he said. “The real space century will be the 21st century.”

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