Broadcast 1156 (Special Edition)

15 May 2009 Dean E. Davis
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Guest: Dean Davis. Topics: public education, engineers, lobbying elected officials, GPS vulnerability, airborne laser, SSP, satellite protection, Phantom Works. This program is the first of a series of programs The Space Show is undertaking regarding the state of public education in California as well as the rest of the United States. Dean Davis was our guest today to discuss with us STEM education and educational outreach programs for public high school students as well as other K-12 educational programs. Later in the show we asked Dean about other space programs that he was familiar with including GPS, the airborne laser, low cost space access, and SSP. Returning to education, Dean began the interview with a short summary and overview of the crisis we are facing in education in California and the United States, both in terms of needed engineers but also vocational or career educationally trained students. After Dean's introductory comments regarding the state of education and the need for engineers, he was asked if there were any programs that actually were in place and working. He identified two programs and spoke about one, the Project Lead The Way program in some detail. You can get more information about Project Lead The Way from their website, http://www.pltw.org/. If this interests you, follow Dean's recommendation to bring this program to a high school near you. Another program he mentioned was one that has been discussed on air before, "First Robotics." This program was started by well known inventor Dean Kamen. You can learn more about this program by visiting www.usfirst.org/default.aspx. Dean discussed education and related issues for the first 90 minutes of the show. We explored what inspires students and asked about the current Hubble repair mission, NewSpace and space tourism, and other NASA programs. You will want to hear what he said about these items and student inspiration. We also spent some time discussing who had the responsibility for improving STEM education. Was it NASA? Was it our elected officials, either state or federal? The School Board? It was here that Dean introduced us to the term "Parent Power." Listen to what he had to say about this. Its very important. Listeners asked him about high school as well as college internships in the aerospace industry. On this subject, Dean had much to say. We learned that national security is often used as an excuse to not offer internships but Dean specifically cited several company internships that show that is B.S. Especially since some of the companies offering the internships do highly classified work. Internships are needed, even at the high school level so this too was an important discussion that can help us exercise Parent Power. In the last segment of the show, we moved from education to some of the projects and work that Dean has been involved with and with which he has substantial expertise. One listener asked about using the airborne laser to destroy LEO space debris. While this may prove possible through thermal fluence and some debris might be impacted, such a system might be construed as an ASAT system rendering it useless for debris mitigation on the policy side. He mentioned other possible downsides as well. Another issue I brought up was based on a recent discussion among Space Show listeners about possible GPS vulnerability to the actions of an unfriendly state or group. Here, Dean explained just how fault tolerant GPS was and how much more so the newer versions are that are coming on line and will be coming online. I felt this was a fairly complete discussion given the fact that the discussion had to remain very general but as you will hear, GPS is fairly safe from interference both now and into the future. This led me to ask Dean what parts of the government are in charge of protecting important satellite arrays such as GPS and testing to make sure that the systems designed actually work. You will want to hear this discussion. And then as we were talking about protecting these systems and hardening satellites, we mentioned the vulnerabilities of commercial satellites as here, commercial users to not engineer the satellites to be radiation hardened or to be protected from interference. He said such changes in satellite design might represent a 10% cost and mass penalty and that the satellite has to be engineered from the ground up to be designed to be protected. We talked about the possible loss of business and what this would mean in lost revenues for a commercial company so it seemed like protecting the satellite made commercial sense. Dean also mentioned that were the commercial satellites protected, they might be subject to U.S. use in time of emergency such as our airliners are but that often there are partners in the commercial satellite ventures and not all those partners are friends with the United States. As we so often learn, these are not black and white subjects. This was an amazing program in my opinion and an absolute must listen to program regarding all topics discussed. For sure Dean Davis will be back on The Space Show. You can send your comments or questions to Dean using Dean.E.Davis@boeing.com.

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