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Events In Athens Explore Ohio's Legacy In Flight

Jun 12, 2015

Ohio has long celebrated its history in flight.

Over the next nine weeks, the International Space University will continue that celebration in Athens. Ben Postlethwait of member station WOUB in Athens reports.

The International Space University has bravely gone to China, Canada, and next year, to Israel. But, this week, it has landed safely in Southeast Ohio.  
 
112 participants from over 30 nations are gathering in Athens, Ohio for the 2015 Space Studies Program.  
 
“ISU is a unique group of us who meet every year, somewhere else around the world to train the next generation of space professionals who will be the leaders in the space section in the future.”  
 
That’s John Connolly the director of the Space Studies Program and a NASA researcher who’s worked in the community for a long time.  
 
Over the next 9 weeks, these participants will go through lectures, training courses, and other rigorous curriculum alongside some of the biggest names in space research and exploration.  
 
The International Space University Space Studies program began in 1988 when three students at MIT got together and decided to begin a professional program dedicated to studying aerospace engineering.  
 
They approached Arthur C Clarke, author of the famous book series 2001: A space odyssey. He became the chancellor of the program and the first session was held in Cambridge Massachusetts.  
 
Since then, the program has been traveling around the world. John Connolly has been to many of these events, but this particular program has stood out for him.  
 
“As I was doing the planing for SSP15 there was a phrase that stuck in my head. Everytime I asked the people at Ohio University ‘Do you think you can make this happen?’ The answer was always ‘yes’ and the phrase that stuck in my head was ‘These people just keep increasing the awesome.”  
 
But how does an international organization that travels around the world end up in Appalachian Ohio?  
 
Dr. Dennis Erwin is the Dean of Ohio University’s College of Engineering. He’s also been involved with the space studies program since 1998.  
 
He says that bringing the event to southeast Ohio was originally the thought of a previous director of the program, Gary Martin.  
 
“His ideas was, let’s bring it to a real community in the heartland of the United States, and see what our culture as a whole really is. Not just the culture of Florida, or New york, or boston or something like that”  
 
Additionally He says a small college town like Athens offers ample space, amenities and services. The Ohio University airport will be used as the site of a small rocket launch competition in July.  
 
As a whole, Southeast Ohio offers a different type of location for this international group.  
 
John Connolly, the Director of the program. has traveled with the program for several years.  
 
He says that often times, the program ends up in big cities where there’s a lot else going on. But when it came down to it, the decision to bring SSP to Ohio was simple.  
 
“Like many thing in the aerospace world we issue a request for proposal and we get very many countries and cities from around the world who want to host us. This year, Ohio University had the best proposal”  
 
When asked the same question, Dr. Roderick McDavis, Ohio University’s President, recalled Ohio’s heritage as a leader in flight dating back to the Wright Brothers  
 
“I see it as more than southeast Ohio. I see it as Ohio. Ohio has a rich history in aviation - going back the wright brothers - You talk about John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, you talk about a state with rich space studies, you won’t find one much better than Ohio.”  
 
McDavis says that facilities like the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland are a testament to the state’s ties with the history of aeronautics.  
 
Over the next 9 weeks, researchers and astronauts will come to Athens to extend that history.