Dr. Sandy Magnus, Former Astronaut, Spoke on Space Policy
Dr. Sandy Magnus, former U.S. astronaut and executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), spoke to Georgia Tech faculty and students about her wealth of experience in the space policy realm on September 3, 2014. Her talk was sponsored by the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP) and facilitated by Nunn School Assistant Professor Mariel Borowitz.
Magnus applied her personal experience as an astronaut as a frame for discussing larger space policy issues. She described the evolution of U.S. space policy from the Reagan era to today; noting that erratic funding, frequent project redesigns, and regular shifts in the overarching vision for space present perennial challenges to America’s space program. She discussed the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in this vein, noting that policy shortfalls contributed to the technical problems that caused the shuttle to fail. Conversely, Magnus reported that the International Space Station (which she worked extensively on during her career) has been highly successful as both a scientific endeavor and an international institution.
Magnus closed the discussion by speaking about the future of international space travel; emphasizing the shift toward commercial space flights and the debate on whether NASA should focus on visiting the moon, Mars, or asteroids in coming years.
Dr. Magnus flew on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. She also flew on the STS-112 shuttle mission, and served as a flight engineer and science officer on the International Space Station as part of Expedition 18. While at NASA, Dr. Magnus received numerous awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. She is currently the executive director of AIAA, the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. She earned degrees in physics and electrical engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology before earning a PhD in materials science and engineering from Georgia Tech in 1996.
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