Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer Space Seminar 2008

From Sunday, May 18th until Thursday, May 29th, I was attending the Summer Space Seminar 2008. It is organized and run by the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies, which is affiliated with the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). The seminar was broken into three parts, one taking place in California, one in Colorado, and one in Washington, DC. The idea was to cover commercial, military, and civilian aspects of the aerospace industry.

The seminar was an amazing experience. I saw a lot of places that I was familiar with but had never had a chance to visit. I heard talks and went on tours that gave me a chance to understand the cultures of various aerospace companies and gave an overall feeling for the industry. The trips to military locations were especially interesting for me, because I knew very little about them in advance. In addition, though I've studied military space policy as part of my masters program, this is the first time I've had the opportunity to see the policies presented and explained by military officers, which really provided a new and interesting perspective. The round table panels in Washington, DC also provided good insight - I was especially interested in the executive branch space policy speakers, and am now hoping to find an internship in this area.

The seminar was really unique, and was a great way to end a year of studying space policy. My experiences over the last two weeks really changed the way I view space policy, inspiring me to look into new aspects of the field that I had known little about previously. I feel like I have a better understanding of commercial and military policy, which were weaker points for me before, and now that I understand them better, I have also discovered that I find them very intriguing, so I plan to continue to studying these areas in more detail. I have one year remaining to complete my masters in space policy, and have been wrestling with choosing a thesis topic. My experiences in the Space Seminar program have helped me to identify a topic that I'm really interested in - I'm now planning to compare and contrast strategic goals and methodologies of a variety of cooperative international space projects, including the International Space Station, the Global Exploration Initiative, Space Science Satellites, and Space Security/ Space Situational Awareness Systems.

The other aspect of the program that made it so enjoyable and interesting was the mix of participants. There were 26 students in the program, from 10 different schools: United States Air Force Academy, United States Naval Academy, West Point, University of Colorado, University of Mississippi, MIT, George Washington University, University of Bath, University of Nottingham, and University of Glasgow (three students were from the UK Royal Air Force). Spending time with students from all parts of the country (and world), with different backgrounds and widely varied future plans, really added to the program. It was interesting to participate in discussions with the group, as other students would ask questions I would not have even considered. While traveling together for two weeks, we had a lot of time to talk and learn about each other's backgrounds and current situations. It was interesting to see how our university experiences differed. I learned a lot about how the military and service academies function - something I had not known anything about previously.

The Summer Space Seminar was a very unique experience, and I feel lucky to have been chosen to take part in it. It provided me with insight into the aerospace industry that I believe will help me greatly in my future career in space policy. I'd highly recommend the program to students in the future.

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