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Space Policy Expert to Speak Feb. 8 at Ohio Wesleyan University
James Oberg, Class of 1966, is Author of 12 Books, On-Air Commentator for NBC News, BBC

January 29, 2010

James Oberg
Photo courtesy of James Oberg
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DELAWARE, OH – Ohio Wesleyan University graduate James Oberg has spent decades studying space policy and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on Russian and Chinese space initiatives and exploration.

On Feb. 8, Oberg will return to his alma mater to meet with students and give a public lecture on “Sleuthing Space Secrets.” Oberg will speak at 8 p.m. in the Benes Rooms of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave., Delaware. The event is free and open to the public.

Since launching his career in 1970, Oberg has written 12 books and more than 2,000 articles on space-related issues, testified multiple times before Congress, and served as an on-air space expert for ABC News, CNN, Discovery Canada, the BBC, and other media outlets. He has served as the “space guy” for NBC News since 2003.

During his career, Oberg also has theorized both about the future development of space technology and about the use of space-derived knowledge, power, and wisdom to mend and tend Earth’s biosphere. He has used spaceflight-proven methods of technological safety to examine where, how, and why urgent situations have occurred in space exploration, and he has contributed to private aviation accident investigations involving seemingly inexplicable disasters.

At Ohio Wesleyan, Oberg majored in math and graduated summa cum laude. He was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, he worked in Ohio Wesleyan’s first computer center in summer 1963, and he served as an alternate on the “GE College Bowl” team of in spring 1964. He went on to earn master’s degrees in applied mathematics and in computer science. He was working toward his doctorate in mathematics in 1970, when he was called to active duty by the U.S. Air Force. His assignment was to work on the computer modeling of airborne laser weapons.

From 1972 to 1975, Oberg served on the faculty of the Department of Defense Computer Institute in Washington, D.C., where he took part in developing and testing the ARPANET, the ancestor of the Internet. Loaned to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, he then trained for a mission control position for the first space shuttle launch (April 1981), resigned from the Air Force, and continued work as a contractor specialist in orbital rendezvous and mission design, serving in front-row positions of the mission control center in Houston during space flights.

After receiving professional honors for leading the design of the initial orbit of the International Space Station, he testified before Congress in 1997 about what he saw as dangerously decaying safety standards at NASA, and he left the space program soon after to begin full-time freelance work in writing, lecturing, and consulting on space policy, which he continues today.

Oberg is speaking at Ohio Wesleyan as part of the university’s new Sagan Fellows initiative designed to help students translate theoretical classroom learning into real-world practice. One of the Sagan Fellows courses, titled “International Competition and Cooperation in the Exploration of Space,” will include a trip to Japan, where students will visit Waseda University in Tokyo and spend a week meeting with Japanese scientists and others involved with the Asian nation’s space program.

The Sagan Fellows courses are an extension of fall 2009’s Sagan National Colloquium speaker series, which brought world-renowned experts to campus to discuss “Renewing America for a Global Century: From Theory to Practice at Ohio Wesleyan University.”

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 45 states and 57 countries.