July 21, 2015 – Last Thursday, the Biennial of the Americas featured a Space Collaboration Panel moderated by Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia and hosted by Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado. Panelists included leaders from space agencies and industry representatives from the Americas.
The Biennial of the Americas is a non-profit organization established by Colorado Governor Hickenlooper during his tenure as Mayor of Denver. The Biennial’s marquee event is an international festival of ideas, art and culture hosted in Denver, Colorado every two years. The Biennial’s goal is to bring together the most innovative leaders from across the Western Hemisphere for activities and events intended to accelerate and transform how we do business and live together.
This year marks the third Biennial held in Denver. As a major sponsor, Lockheed Martin brought a space-oriented focus to the event for the first time since its inception. Space is a particularly relevant topic because it fuels the global economy and shapes every facet of modern life. Lockheed has actively sought out partnerships with international businesses, universities and governments around the world for more than fifty years.
As the moderator, Lt. Gov. Garcia focused on topics that included:
Panel members included Vicky Lea of Metro Denver EDC; George Sowers from United Launch Alliance; Jim Crocker of Lockheed Martin; Enrique Pacheco from the Mexican Space Agency; and Art Maples from NASA.
Joe Rice, Director of Government Relations for Lockheed Martin Space Systems introduced the panel and started the discussion by addressing the ‘Space Paradox.’
“At a time when space is critical to everyday life, we realize it less,” Rice said.
Weather forecasts, GPS, cell phones, internet, television, and radio all rely on space capability. So do banking, national security, medical technology, and transportation.
“We’ve lost the connectivity to understand how we use space in our everyday lives,” Crocker said. “We want to see the next generation excited about space because of all the opportunities and technologies that space enables.”
Pacheco also addressed the importance of getting younger generations involved in STEM subjects. The Mexican Space Agency began a mere three and half years ago, but now has 82 full-time employees.
“Building a Space Agency has been more challenging than building a satellite, but the most exciting part is building a future for Mexico,” Pacheco said. “Space is an open door because it’s very inspiring.”
Pacheco stressed the importance of promoting a space program at the primary school level to convince kids that subjects like math and physics are not hard – they are simply a part of our daily lives.
“We tend to think they are hard and difficult because we don’t show the fun parts – launching a rocket is FUN – this engages the kids so they want to innovate,” Pacheco said.
By creating a space industry in Mexico, the government hopes to gives kids something tangible that will inspire them to become engineers. In fact, many people in the aerospace industry can point to a particular event — the Apollo moon landing, the Shuttle Program, or a planetary mission — that inspired them to pursue a STEM career.
“Motivation to become an engineer often comes from a dream of doing great things – like going to Mars,” Crocker said.
The panel stressed that space is an area that allows us to reach across national boundaries to achieve mutual goals.
“It’s obvious that our next destination for humans is Mars,” said Crocker. “It will totally change the way we think about ourselves and other nations when we go to Mars – and it will take a consortium of nations to get to Mars.”
Crocker pointed out that Colorado companies have worked together to achieve historic planetary missions like MAVEN and New Horizons and he presented a similar model for international cooperation.
“We don’t compete here in Colorado – we collaborate. Sixty-six cents from every dollar in contract awards goes to someone else,” Crocker said. “We partner with a lot of small companies in Colorado. The reason why those companies are important is because they specialize in something and they get really good at it.”
In a global economy, he said, the same business model applies to nations – they become global suppliers of whatever industry they’re really good at.
The Mexican government can’t afford to build an entire space program from scratch, so they have had to prioritize, by deciding what their strengths are and then collaborating with other countries to realize mutual goals.
“Cooperation is key,” Pacheco said. “It will enable us to make anything possible.”