OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - Space Day is a global educational initiative that takes place annually on the first Friday of May focused on the extraordinary achievements, benefits, and opportunities in the exploration and use of space. Each year, the space community and enthusiasts come together to promote math, science, technology, and engineering education in order to nurture young people's enthusiasm for the wonders of the universe and inspire them to continue the stellar work of today's space explorers. Thanks to widespread media, millions of people from around the globe have participated in Space Day programs since its inception in 1997.
Behind the scenes, we are also reminded of the efforts of United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) personnel who supported Discovery during those critical space missions - ensuring the safe passage of Discovery while on orbit by tracking the thousands of pieces of man-made orbital debris and recommending the appropriate avoidance maneuvers. So as mankind continues exploration deeper into space, we realize the need to preserve the sanctity of the space domain. One of the USSTRATCOM's responsibilities, charged by the Unified Command Plan, is to manage the U.S. human space flight operations.
In order to meet this responsibility, USSTRATCOM engages daily with various civil and commercial entities, allies, and international space-faring countries. USSTRATCOM has become a focal point for global cooperation and promoting responsible and safe space operations for an increasingly congested and competitive space environment. As an example of on March 23, there was a threat to the safety of space exploration for the International Space Station (ISS) crew. USSTRATCOM, NASA, and the ISS crew tracked orbital debris that would pass close and potentially hit the ISS. The debris was predicted to pass within 15 kilometers of the ISS, and there was no time to move the station safely away from it. Instead, the six members of the station's crew sheltered themselves in the two Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked to the ISS during the event. Fortunately, the debris safely cleared the station, and the crew exited the Soyuz capsules shortly after the debris passed. This is not the first time that ISS crewmembers had to take shelter in the Soyuz vehicles because of orbital debris. Last year in June, an object passed just 260 meters from the ISS. This object was the result of a satellite collision in February 2009 between the Iridium 33 communications satellite and the defunct Russian Cosmos 2251 satellite. (National Security Space Institute, 9 April 2012, Page 20)
Just like the explorers before us who feared sailing too far risked falling off the edge of the earth and eventually discovered that the earth was round and began to traverse the planet, we must continue to promote and nurture young people's enthusiasm for the wonders of the universe. We need to inspire them to continue to explorer space and seek more benefits and opportunities as mankind has only just begun to discover its secrets. USSTRATCOM recognizes the extraordinary achievements, benefits and opportunities of the exploration and use of space. The U.S. will continue to further space exploration and preserve the sanctity of space for all mankind. New ideas and concepts discovered by the U.S. and others have been globally shared leading to all kinds of innovations and improvements in human daily life and ultimately the survival of mankind.
For more information about Space Day visit their website at www.spaceday.org/index.php/About-Us.html. For more information on U.S. Strategic Command's space mission, please visit us at our website www.stratcom.mil/.
Maj. Anderson is a Space Policy and Strategic planner at USSTRATCOM.