Last week, I had the privilege of providing a colloquium at The University of Kansas (the other UK, or as they write it, KU) in the Aerospace Engineering Department. The topic of was solar sails and how they will not only benefit exploration and science within the solar system but also, potentially, take us to the stars.
I was there because of the initiative of one young man – Brooks Pierson. I met him at the Icarus Interstellar Congress last summer where he invited me to come to KU to talk about interstellar travel using solar sails. Brooks single handedly made all the necessary arrangements for my travel and even had a gift bag containing chocolates and cookies waiting for my wife and me when we arrived. The day went like clockwork and included a lecture to a graduate-level aerospace engineering class, lunch with students, meetings with the Dean and a former NASA astronaut now on faculty at the university, and concluded with my departmental colloquium.
The response was tremendous. Unlike when I’ve spoken at some other universities, the room was packed; no one appeared to be sleeping, and afterward I was mobbed with students asking thoughtful, intelligent questions. Carol and I then went to dinner with a select group of students where the discussion continued until much later in the evening. It reminded me of being in college – back in the day.
Thank you, Brooks, for your interest and initiative. You will go far.
Upon my return, I received this email:
Hello, Mr. Johnson.
My name is John Doe (yes, I changed his name – I don’t have his permission to reprint the letter), and I'm a junior in Aerospace at the University of Kansas, and an AFROTC cadet. I would just like to thank you for coming and speaking at the University of Kansas' aerospace colloquium. Your presentation was honestly the most engaging and interesting one that I've seen in my 3 years of taking the class. I wanted to say this in person, but you had a small army of fans in line and I had a meeting shortly after class.
I found your lecture so fascinating because the sole reason I am in aerospace is to contribute to furthering deep space exploration. As you highlighted in your lecture, not only would this reap an unfathomable scientific and exploratory benefit, but the economic and environmental prosperity would be massive.
Thank you very much for your time.
The passion for space and space exploration is alive and well at The University of Kansas and, I suspect, at colleges all across the USA and around the world. The future is in good hands, indeed.