November 20, 2009
The history of spaceflight during the past fifty years will be explored, concentrating on the early years of the space age during the 1950s and 1960s, and then comments will be offered on the five core challenges for future exploration. Those challenges include political will; cheap, reliable access to space; smart robotics; protecting this planet and this species; and exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Roger D. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where he was division chair 2003-2007. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, he received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1982. He has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, most recently the Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration (HarperCollins, 2009); Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Societal Impact of Spaceflight (NASA SP-2007-4801, 2007); Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight (NASA SP-2006-4702, 2006); Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars (Smithsonian Books, 2003), which received the AIAA’s history manuscript prize; Reconsidering a Century of Flight (University of North Carolina Press, 2003); To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles (University Press of Kentucky, 2002); and Imagining Space: Achievements, Possibilities, Projections, 1950-2050 (Chronicle Books, 2001). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the American Astronautical Society, and associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He also served as a consultant to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and presented the prestigious Harmon Memorial Lecture on the history of national security space policy at the United States Air Force Academy in 2006. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues, and has been a guest commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.