Top 20 Space Visionaries

Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt with Jim Plaxco
Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt (right) and Jim Plaxco at the 2007 International Space Development Conference

The Winter 2007 issue of Ad Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society, features an article on the Top 20 Space Visionaries. The goal: to identify those 20 individuals alive today who are having the greatest impact on humanity's future in space.

The twenty people listed are:

  1. Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites and SpaceShipOne fame.
  2. Peter Diamandis – founder of SEDS, cofounder of International Space University and XPRIZE founder.
  3. Eric Anderson – cofounder of Space Adventures.
  4. Robert Bigelow – founder of Bigelow Aerospace which aims to provide inflatable habitats to low earth orbit.
  5. Dr. Stephen Hawking – noted physicist and supporter of human space exploration.
  6. Elon Musk – founder of SpaceX, which is working to create a family of low cost ELVs.
  7. Mike Griffin – the current NASA Administrator.
  8. Dr. Sally Ride – the first U.S. female astronaut to go into space.
  9. Dr. Martin Sweeting – designer and promoter of small satellites and CEO of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.
  10. Buzz Aldrin – most noted for the Apollo 11 mission but also an active advocate of human space exploration.
  11. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt – Apollo 17 astronaut, geologist, and champion of mining the Moon for Helium-3 as a fuel for fusion reactors.
  12. Franklin Chang-Diaz – former director of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at Johnson Space Center and creator of VASIMIR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket). He created Ad Astra Rocket in 2005 to pursue VASIMIR development.
  13. Russell “Rusty” Schweickart – Apollo 9 , cofounder of the Association of Space Explorers and chairman of the Board of Directors for the B612 Foundation, an organization whose goal is to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.
  14. Dr. Laurie Leshin – Director of Science and Exploration at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
  15. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – former President of India and aeronautical engineer. Worked on development of India's first launch vehicle: SLV-III.
  16. Anoushen Ansari – of Ansari XPRIZE fame and first female space tourist via a 2004 Soyuz trip to ISS.
  17. Simon “Pete” Worden – doctorate in astronomy, brigadier general in the USAF who was involved in the DC-X and Clementine programs. Currently director of NASA Ames Research Center.
  18. Neil Degrasse Tyson – Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York.
  19. Bradley Edwards – a leader in the field of space elevators.
  20. Robert Zubrin – author, co-developer of the Mars Direct concept, founder of the Mars Society.

You can post your comments about this list to the NSS Members Write blog. My comment on the list of visionaries was to wonder why Dr. Stephen Hawking was on the list but Sir Richard Branson was not. After all, it is Richard Branson who founded Virgin Galactic to take Scaled Composite's SpaceShipOne to the next level and to actually open the door to real private enterprise based space tourism – as opposed to tourism sponsored by the Russian government. I would drop Hawking and substitute Branson.

And what about Dr. Peter Glaser, the father of the Solar Power Satellite concept and member of the Space Technology Hall of Fame? His idea of creating a system of Earth orbiting solar power satellites to supply electric power to Earth could have a profound positive impact on our future. Also there is Dr. David Criswell, creator of the Lunar Solar Power concept and Director of the Institute of Space Systems Operations at the University of Houston. The Lunar Solar Power concept relocates those Earth orbiting solar power satellites to the surface of the Moon.

As to who to drop from the list to make room for these two additions: I would remove two of the following – take your pick: Dr. Laurie Leshin or Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or Dr. Martin Sweeting or Neil Degrasse Tyson.

What do you think? You can comment here or at the NSS Members Write blog.

Ad Astra, Jim

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Sunday, November 25th, 2007 at 7:57 pm and is filed under National Space Society, Space Exploration.