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Space Agency Review

February 25, 2023

Space Agency Review

The space agency provides many examples of good leadership. This week Jeff Foust reviews a book by a former astronaut and a space journalist that distills those lessons into general leadership wisdom.

The International Astronautical Congress is underway in Paris this week, with a major focus on Europe’s place in space. Jeff Foust reports on how ESA’s leaders are seeking a significant budget increase even as their member states face other economic and geopolitical challenges.

Human spaceflight

Human spaceflight is the activity of launching and returning humans to space. In the United States, commercial companies and private individuals may be licensed to do this, as well as government agencies such as NASA.

While this is a critical activity, it is also an area of growing concern. The current political environment has created a number of problems that could have an impact on the future of human spaceflight, including budget shortfalls and programmatic risks.

In the United States, spaceflight is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This agency issues commercial space licenses, verifies launch or reentry vehicles meant to carry humans operate as intended and regulates flight crew qualifications and training.

The goal of human spaceflight is to extend humanity’s presence beyond low-Earth orbit and to Mars. This goal can be accomplished only by utilizing advanced modes of propulsion to achieve long-term, affordable and sustainable missions into deep space.

Life sciences

Life sciences research is the study of living things, from animals to plants and microorganisms. It covers many areas, including biology, genetics, physiology, chemistry, physics and environmental science.

The life sciences focus on the processes that make organisms tick, from the formation of new cells to how they develop and change over time. It also involves the study of diseases and illnesses that affect human beings.

A wide range of life sciences studies is conducted on the ISS, as well as ground-based facilities and analogue environments. These studies contribute to our understanding of the impact of spaceflight on biological systems in terms of metabolism, growth, stress responses, physiology and development.

As NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars, life sciences is a critical research area for improving human health during extended missions. The agency is already partnering with universities and private industry to conduct space life sciences research. Its programs encourage both horizontal integration of projects and vertical translation to help advance scientific knowledge and prevent disease and injury.

Space exploration

Space exploration has captured the imagination of many people. For thousands of years, humans have looked up at the night sky with questions about what lies beyond it. As technology has developed, so too have our abilities to explore the universe.

Humans have built telescopes, satellites, space rovers, and eventually manned spacecraft to answer those questions. And they’ve gone on to accomplish incredible feats, like setting foot on the moon and successfully landing rovers on Mars.

While some of these journeys to other planets and solar systems will be exciting, others could also pose serious risks. One hazard is distance from Earth itself, which causes psychological stress and disrupts team dynamics.

Another hazard is the risk of asteroids impacting spacecraft. As a result, NASA has devoted much of its resources to detecting and protecting against these potential threats. Yet other challenges lie ahead, such as maintaining human health for long periods of time in space.

Space leadership

The space agency has been on a mission to become a world leader in space exploration and science. To make this happen, it needs to accomplish feats that demonstrate prowess, inspire national pride and international prestige and engender respect and desire among other nations to associate with American space activities.

It also needs to create an environment in which leadership can be achieved and managed effectively. This requires developing and executing a set of priorities that support those goals.

In the end, it’s up to people in charge to choose a vision and set worthy goals for humanity in space, then work with others to carry out those objectives.

This is why ASU Thunderbird School of Management is offering a new Executive Master of Global Management: Space Leadership, Business and Policy. Students will learn about business and space policy, alongside lessons in space entrepreneurship. They’ll also participate in unique business simulators and events, including a space challenge laboratory and an inter-galactic field study.

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