Press Release

3… 2… 1… IEEE Blasts Into the Final Frontier of Space

By SpaceRef Editor
July 23, 2009
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Space travel for civilians, scientific research and the race to space are key areas of IEEE focus for the future

Forty years after the United States Apollo 11 astronauts became the first humans to walk on the moon, IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional association, is joining the world’s citizens to recognize this feat and celebrate the advances IEEE members have made in space and aeronautics since that memorable day. Before that special moment in the world’s history, and ever since, engineers, scientists, computing and technology experts, physicists and the like from around the globe, led by IEEE members, have worked aggressively to advance space exploration.

“Forty years ago, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, the mission was driven by international competition, national policy, and a spirit of exploration,” commented David Mindell, IEEE Member, MIT professor, and space historian. His most recent book, “Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight” (MIT Press, 2008) explores the relationship between humans and computers in the Apollo program. “Once Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Apollo became a unique event in human history, our first physical foray onto another planetary body. There it stands, by itself forty years later, as a technological achievement that has not been superseded. But the Apollo program’s vision of technology-enabled human beings remains embedded in the daily fabric of our world.”

On the forefront of space-related leadership is IEEE Fellow Norm Augustine, former Lockheed Martin CEO and the previous chair of influential space panels and committees, including the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Augustine was tapped by United States President Barack Obama to chair the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee. By August 2009, the committee is expected to report whether NASA’s human spaceflight efforts should continue or whether the emphasis should shift to unmanned exploration. New programs underway by private organizations, such as commercial flights in space, as well as the promise of exploring new planets, such as Mars, have rekindled interest around the world.

IEEE Spectrum, IEEE’s flagship technology magazine, has an aerospace channel on its website ( The channel hosts blog postings and web-only articles, as well as stories from print issues focusing on aerospace topics. Spectrum devoted its June print and online coverage to the importance of human space exploration in a special report called, “Why Mars? Why Now?”

Susan Hassler, IEEE member and Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Spectrum, commented, “Human space exploration is at a crossroad. Scientists and engineers around the world are now testing and building the technologies that will define both manned and unmanned space exploration for the next 100 years. A great many of us would love to see human beings go back to the moon and beyond to Mars. But does it make sense to send people into deep space? Do we have the political will to engage in such daunting, expensive projects? Can we develop the technical prowess required for humans to go to Mars and back? Many of our members and readers work on space exploration, and we’ve enjoyed discussing these questions with them.”

Space: For Everyday People?

Space travel, once limited to career astronauts, is becoming more of a reality for the world’s citizens. On October 12, 2008, IEEE member Richard Garriott, astronaut, entrepreneur and globally renowned video game designer, became an early self-funded private astronaut when he boarded the Russian Soyuz TMA-13 on a trip to the International Space Station (ISS). Garriott underwent extensive training, both physically and mentally, to be able to withstand the demands of a weightless environment. While in space, Garriott communicated with people in different regions on earth, spoke with students about his travels and conducted scientific experiments.

“This mission to the ISS fulfilled a lifelong dream to experience spaceflight as my father did 35 years ago,” said Richard Garriott. “This experience – from my training, to lift-off, to staying on the ISS – is evidence of the critical role science and technology innovations play in advancing humankind’s exploration, and eventual commercialization, of space.”

The space tourism industry with its focus on private citizen space travel, is once again at the forefront of space-related conversations. NASA, other global space organizations, and private entities are collaboratively investigating the viability and cost-effectiveness of selling seats on shuttles making sub-orbital flights (heights of 100 km above Earth).

IEEE Driving Technology Standards in Space

IEEE is also at the forefront of establishing technology standards for space and aerospace innovations. “Space is the quintessential environment to conduct scientific and technology advancements to benefit humanity,” said Randall Curey, who is a systems engineer within Northrop Grumman’s Navigation Systems Division. Curey is also an IEEE Senior Member and chair of the IEEE Gyro and Accelerometer Panel within the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society, which, along with other groups, is a major driving force in establishing technology standards in space and aerospace. “Due to different geographic and technical distinctions of the collaborating participants, technology standards are established so that everyone can work toward a common goal. IEEE can draw upon its global membership to bring everyone together on this front.”

Two such IEEE standardization efforts include a standard specification format guide and test procedure for inertial measurement units (IMUs) (P1780), and a standard associated with establishing inertial systems terminology (P1559). IMUs are used by military and commercial flight vehicles and help coordinate planetary exploration on Mars and the Moon.

If you are looking for resources and experts to provide insightful commentary on space topics, please contact IEEE at

About IEEE

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.), the world’s largest technical professional society, is commemorating its 125th anniversary in 2009 by “Celebrating 125 Years of Engineering the Future” around the globe. Through its more than 375,000 members in 160 countries, IEEE is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Dedicated to the advancement of technology, IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed nearly 900 active industry standards. The organization annually sponsors more than 850 conferences worldwide. Additional information about IEEE can be found at

Media Contacts:
Adrienne McGarr
Ruder Finn for IEEE

Fran Tardo

SpaceRef staff editor.