Press Release

Space Pioneers, Alabama Astronauts, Campus Experts to Share Ideas at UA’s Blackburn Symposium Aug. 25

By SpaceRef Editor
August 16, 2007
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, the world’s first privately funded spacecraft, and David King, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will be the keynote speakers for the inaugural Gloria and John L. Blackburn Academic Symposium at The University of Alabama on Saturday, Aug. 25.

The 2007 Gloria and John L. Blackburn Academic Symposium on “Responsibility for the Future Exploration and Development of Space” will be held in Sellers Auditorium at the Bryant Conference Center. The event will also feature panel discussions with astronauts representing UA, UAH and UAB, as well as experts in government, private enterprise and research from the three campuses. The event is free and open to the public.

“This symposium presents a unique opportunity to hear two of the nation’s foremost experts on space exploration and development. Burt Rutan’s and David King’s ideas on this topic are essentially polar opposites, so their remarks are bound to generate some interesting discussion,” said Marc Shook, director of UA’s Blackburn Institute which is sponsoring the symposium.

Rutan, founder and CEO of Scaled Composites, will be a keynote speaker from 9:15-10:15 a.m., followed by King who will be the second keynote speaker from 10:30-11:15 a.m.

A panel discussion on “The Role of Government, Private Enterprise, and the University Research Community in Future Space Exploration and Development” will be held from 1-2:15 p.m. featuring academic experts, followed by a panel discussion on “Space Exploration from an Astronaut’s Perspective” from 2:30-3:45 p.m. featuring astronauts Dr. Jan Davis (a UAH graduate), Dr. Larry DeLucas (a UAB graduate) and Col. James M. Kelly (a UA graduate).

An autograph/picture signing session with the astronauts and poster sessions highlighting topic-relevant research from UA, UAB, and UAH are planned from 4-5 p.m., and members of the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions during the event.

Rutan made international headlines in 2004 as designer of SpaceShipOne which went on to travel to space twice in two weeks, winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize, the competition created to spur the development of affordable space tourism. “Manned space flight is not only for governments to do. We proved it can be done by a small company operating with limited resources and a few dozen dedicated employees,” says Rutan, who was named to the 2006 list of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

As director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, King heads one of NASA’s largest field installations with more than 6,500 on-site civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of $2.3 billion. A long-time NASA employee, King was named director of the Marshall Center in 2003 where he manages a broad range of propulsion, scientific and space transportation activities contributing to the nation’s space program.

The Gloria and John H. Blackburn Academic Symposium is an endowed program sponsored by the UA Blackburn Institute and funded by a gift from Blackburn Institute advisory board member Donald Stewart and his wife, Priscilla “LuLu” Stewart, of Anniston.

The Blackburn Institute, part of the UA Division of Student Affairs, is one of the most unique and effective leadership programs sponsored by an institution of higher education in the country. The purpose of the institute is to create a network of student leaders, the Blackburn Fellows, who have a clear understanding of the issues that face Alabama and the nation.

The 2007 Gloria and John L. Blackburn Academic Symposium is presented in partnership with the UA, UAB and UAH Colleges of Engineering.

For more information on the symposium go to The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is in the midst of a planned, steady enrollment growth with a goal of reaching 28,000 students by 2010. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state’s economy, is in keeping with UA’s vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state’s flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

SpaceRef staff editor.