JPL Part of Space Exploration 50th Anniversary Event

The three men responsible for the success of Explorer 1, America's first Earth satellite A model of Explorer 1, held by JPL's Director William Pickering, scientist James Van Allen and rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun.
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July 13, 2007

Before October 1957, space flight was a thing of fantasy. Today we are experienced space explorers with unlimited voyages to undertake. Where is space flight's next horizon? What constitutes sensible space investment? How did the space pioneers accomplish their goals? These topics will be addressed at "50 Years in Space: An International Aerospace Conference Celebrating 50 Years of Space Technology," which will take place from September 19 to 21 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The conference is hosted by Caltech, the, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Redondo Beach, Calif., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, JPL Director Charles Elachi, astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, space industry pioneers and experts, and foreign space program representatives will speak on the history of space exploration, sensible space investment, and the future of space exploration from the perspectives of the aerospace industry, academia, government and science. Opening keynote speaker is Northrop Grumman Chairman Ronald Sugar.

"Our speakers represent all the institutions that essentially created and successfully sustained space exploration," said Ares Rosakis, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering and Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories director. "This group crosses international and institutional boundaries. Each of our speakers is a preeminent expert in at least one of the many disciplines required for space travel. Their passion for space science and technology will make this conference the definitive observance worldwide commemorating 50 years in space."

"Many technologies developed as a result of space exploration have become integral terrestrial technologies--and our efforts benefit society in surprising ways that are completely separate from their initial impetus. As we look to the future, we will see how this important aspect of aeronautics continues--especially in the areas of tracking weather changes, global temperatures, and greenhouse gases, as well as the formations of the Earth's crust related to seismic activity," Rosakis said.

The launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, began the space age. Within weeks, the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation spun off Space Technology Laboratories, with Simon Ramo as its president. Space Technology Laboratories and Ramo-Wooldridge became part of TRW Inc. in 1958, and then eventually part of Northrop Grumman in 2002.

In 1958, the JPL-built Explorer 1 put the U.S. in the space race, followed soon thereafter by Pioneer 1, built by TRW and the first spacecraft launched by NASA.

Ramo, the "R" in TRW, earned his PhD at Caltech in 1936. TRW's Space and Electronics Group became the Space Technology sector at Northrop Grumman. The president of the company's Space Technology sector, Alexis Livanos (who earned his bachelor's, master's, and PhD at Caltech), will give a special tribute to Ramo, 94, at the conference. Livanos will join JPL's Charles Elachi (who earned his master's and PhD at Caltech), and Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau as chairs of the conference. Elachi and Chameau will also be speaking. Dwight Streit, vice president, foundation technologies in Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector, co-organized the conference. Caltech alumnus Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, a geologist, one of the last two men to walk on the moon, and a NASA adviser, will be joined by Ed Stone, former director of JPL, and Gentry Lee, chief engineer for the Planetary Flight Systems Directorate at JPL, for a "look back" at the accomplishments of the past 50 years, many of which they bravely spearheaded. JPL, which became part of NASA after its formation in 1958, remains at the center of robotic planetary exploration and Earth-observing science. JPL is managed by Caltech.

Participating representatives of the top-tier space programs around the globe include NASA's Griffin; European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain; President of Centre National d'√Čtudes Spatiales Yannick d'Escatha; and Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science Executive Director Hajime Inoue, all of whom will discuss the future of space exploration. Miles O'Brien, CNN chief technology and environment correspondent, will moderate a panel discussion titled "Space and the Environment: Sensible Space Investment."

Other distinguished guests include keynote speaker John C. Mather, James Webb Space Telescope senior project scientist; Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO; and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson. Mather was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the areas of black body form, cosmic microwave background radiation, and Big-Bang theory. PayPal creator Musk, whose space-transportation company, SpaceX, has opened up a whole new segment of the aerospace industry, will be speaking on a panel discussing the future of space exploration from an industry perspective. Closing keynote speaker Tyson is the recipient of eight honorary doctorates and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2007.

Speakers addressing the aerospace industry's perspective on the future of space flight include Musk; David Thompson, Orbital Science Corporation chairman and CEO; Joanne Maguire, Lockheed Martin executive vice president, space systems; and David Whelan, Boeing corporate vice president. The perspective from academia will come from, among others, Caltech alumna and Purdue University President France Córdova, and Charles Kennel, Scripps Institution of Oceanography's former director, and Ronald Sega, undersecretary, United States Air Force, and the Defense Department's executive agent for space, will also speak on the future of space exploration.

Large replicas of spacecrafts, rovers, and satellites will be on display. "This is more than a sit-and-listen event," said Rosakis. "It is an interactive learning experience. Guests will meet and exchange ideas with like-minded people and professionals in between formal presentations. The displays and replicas will also add to the guests' visual understanding of space exploration. They will be able to understand what the presence of these structures really feels like."

Full registration is $550, first-come, first-served, with limited seating. Register at http://www.galcit.caltech.edu/space50/ . Caltech, JPL, Northrop Grumman, California Space Authority employees, Southern California high-school and college students and teachers with ID may attend the talks free, but must register via the website. Information on the conference hosts is at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov , http://pr.caltech.edu/media , and http://www.ngc.com .

Jane Platt 818-354-0880
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Jill Perry 626-395-3226
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

Richard Bent 310-812 4215
Northrop Grumman Corporation

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