"2020: A Space Odyssey" Symposium to Explore the Science and Science Fiction of Modern Space Exploration

February 12, 2020

Grinnell College will host a symposium entitled “2020: A Space Odyssey” Feb. 20–26 sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights.

The symposium will bring together experts from across disciplines and around the world to address issues ranging from new discoveries in space and the role of space agencies to the ethical challenges of space exploration and the utopian possibilities of science fiction. The symposium, which is free and open to the public, reflects Grinnell College’s commitment to exploring important issues of purpose, responsibility and justice on campus and beyond.

All symposium events will take place in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

Alice Bowman
Alice Bowman

The opening event of the symposium is a Scholars’ Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, presented by Alice Bowman of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. She is the Space Mission Operations Group supervisor and the NASA New Horizons Mission operations manager (MOM). As the New Horizons MOM, Alice leads the team that controls the spacecraft that made a historic flyby of the Pluto system in July 2015. And on New Year’s Day 2019, just after midnight, New Horizons made history again with a flight past the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule — the most distant flyby ever conducted, 4 billion miles from Earth.

Additional speakers at the symposium will be:

  • Marina Koren, staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers all things space — from science and technology to politics and policy — will give a talk entitled “We’re Surrounded: The Complicated Future of Space Junk.” Her talk will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20.
  • Gerry Canavan, associate professor in the English department at Marquette University and an editor at Extrapolation and Science Fiction Film and Television, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. Canavan will discuss the utopian possibilities of science fiction in a moment of political and ecological crisis.
  • Tony Milligan is the author of several books on ethics and a visiting research fellow at King’s College London. He will speak about “An Ethical Dilemma at the Heart of Space Exploration” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25.
  • Sara Issaoun is an observational astronomer and a doctoral candidate in astrophysics at Radboud University in the Netherlands and a member of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration. She will present “Imaging Black Holes with the Event Horizon Telescope” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25.
  • Kartik Sheth ’93, an astrophysicist in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, will discuss “NASA’s Integral Role in Our Society.” This event, which will conclude the symposium, will begin at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26.

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