Exploring A New Frontier
Four Florida Tech students and Andy Aldrin, associate professor and director of the Aldrin Space Institute, will attend the inaugural Sino-U.S. Space Policy Research Center summer study program July 30 in Beijing.
Florida Tech, Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) and Ohio State University are convening for the five-day gathering, which will feature faculty and student policy discussions on topics ranging from the management of space flight projects to the future of global space exploration. There will also be hands-on activities for students, such as role-playing exercises involving international space cooperation negotiations.
Florida Tech’s role in the creation of this program was finalized in April, when President Dwayne McCay met with BIT leaders and signed an agreement to collaborate on space policy research. The meeting followed a December visit from BIT officials to the Florida Tech campus.
The Florida Tech students attending are clinical psychology doctoral candidate Emily Birch, aviation human factors and safety master’s student Alex Coultrup, global management and finance major Tereza Sedlakova, an undergraduate, and aviation sciences doctoral candidate Shayan Shirshekar.
The decision to have a group of students from multiple disciplines was a conscious choice, Aldrin said.
“We really wanted to get people from a variety of educational areas because we’re trying to build a broad community of interest in space policy,” he said.
What the students hope to get out of the program reflects how multifaceted space policy and this program truly are.
With interest in the broad spectrum of spaceflight, such as human factors policy and tourism, Shirshekar hopes to network and learn from the many professionals expected to attend.
“There are individuals who will be going there with very excellent resumes and backgrounds, so it’s an opportunity to interact and communicate with individuals that might open up some paths for me in terms of my dissertation or directions and where to go,” he said.
Birch plans to be a space psychologist, merging her passion for psychology with a fondness for space nurtured on the Space Coast. Like Shirshekar, she is preparing for a deluge of information and insight.
“It’s kind of overwhelming seeing how many different kinds of lectures by experts in the field we’re going to attend,” she said.
Coultrup is hoping to learn about future space policy and how resources could – and should – be regulated.
“As much as generating capital and creating income through entrepreneurship is important for being able to go to space, I want to make sure there is policy and law in place to prevent the equivalent of crony capitalism,” she said.
Sedlakova hopes to use the trip to learn more about space policy from a global management and pre-law aspect, which is one of her double-minor areas.
“I think this can be a good experience both ways,” she said.
Aldrin will use this trip to sit down with BIT leadership to discuss future plans for the program, which may include bilateral or multilateral partnerships with commercial components.
“What I believe we need to look at as a research agenda is to focus on the things that we could really do together with China that will make a difference in space,” he said.