Broadcast 1274 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

13 Dec 2009 Dr. Ray Williamson
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Guest: Dr. Ray Williamson. Topics: Secure World Foundation, space debris. Dr. Ray Williamson, Executive Director of the Secure World Foundation (SWF), was the guest for this Space Show program. We started segment one by asking Dr. Williamson to provide us with an overview of SWF. As you will hear, SWF is looking at the long term sustainability of outer space. One of their main interests lies in mitigating the space debris problem and we talked about this throughout today's program. Dr. Williamson summarized the increased interest in the issue by not only the United States but also by ESA, Russia, and others. A listener asked our guest about his recent congressional testimony on the Global Space Capabilities. This discussion led to our talking about the NASA budget and political priorities as reflected in the budget. A listener asked about SSP and Dr. Williamson quickly disposed of that topic. Planetary Defense was talked about and as you will hear and was a recurring theme for this show. As we moved to the second segment, we continued talking about space debris and congressional testimony. Ray said that testifying before Congress was a good example of how our system works. In response to a question about our technical readiness to mitigate space debris, he said we still need more work , we are not there yet. One of the issues about space debris is that there might be a particular intervention method that is also construed as a space weapon. Nobody knows for the sure the time table for finding solutions to the debris problem but he estimated it ranged from 10-20 years. As we started the third segment, a listener asked Ray how his work as a college professor differed from his work with SWF in for example, the issue of space debris. Ray said that in teaching, knowing the audience is important and student feedback with questions was very important. His role as Executive Director at SWF is more of an activist role. He received a listener question about the statistical likelihood of our planet getting hit by something so why should planetary defense be a major issue. Ray addressed this and you will want to hear the discussion. That said, SWF allocates about 5% of its resources to the planetary defense issue. Others such as NASA are in a more appropriate position to deal with the issue differently and with more resources. Also in this segment, we talked about space policy issues, Ray's thoughts on Augustine, and we asked him for a look forward for SWF and 2010. Don't miss what he had to say about the upcoming year. To find out more about the Secure World Foundation, visit their website at For general information on SWF, please email If you have a question or comment for Dr. Ray Williamson, please email him at To see Dr. Williamson's paper, please visit



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