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What's the Use of Space Science?: Space Science in a Modern Society

Professor David Southwood

Tuesday 20 December 2011, 1100-1200
Lecture Theatre 1, Management School Building

Space Science, looking out into our universe and even travelling to the nearer places, the planets and bodies nearby is an unavoidable aspect of the popular idea of what space is for. The vicarious exploration offered by robots on Mars or spacecraft returning samples from distant objects, grabs the imagination, makes one dream of going oneself. The process inspires and challenges young people, indeed most people. However is there a value beyond inspiration and excitement? There is and the rationale for science being at the base of any national space activity is described. Space science has often by intention or accident been a forcing ground for new ideas and technology development.

David Southwood

David was until recently the Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency in Paris. Before that he worked in Earth Observation at ESA, moving to space science in 2001.

Previously, he had been a space scientist at Imperial College, London, becoming head of the Physics Department there. He is an expert on magnetospheres of Earth and other planets. A magnetometer he built at Imperial still operates in orbit around the planet Saturn aboard the NASA Cassini spacecraft.

As ESA science director, he launched spacecraft to Venus, Mars and the Moon as well as several space telescopes. He led the team that landed a European probe on Titan in 2005.

A member of MIST Council, he becomes president of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2012. He is also a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in light of his work on a plan for long-term cooperation in Mars exploration between Europe and the United States and won the 2011 Sir Arthur C. Clarke award for space achievement for his work in shaping the present European Earth Observation programme and his work in the European space science and exploration programme over the past decade.

Formally retired, he retains a position at Imperial College, London, is a member of the Steering board of the new UK Space Agency and is also a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, USA.