Dunham to assess value of space exploration in Brown Bag talk

Roger Coda
Dr. Michael Dunham

Dr. Michael Dunham

A candid probe into America’s space exploration program will be given by Department of Physics Associate Professor Michael Dunham in a talk – “The Costs of Space Exploration: Is It Worth it?” – in the final Brown Bag Lunch of the spring semester on Wednesday, May 3, from noon to 1 p.m., in Williams Center Room S204.

Dr. Dunham’s strong background in astronomy complements a candid assessment of the space exploration program. There are three basic types of space exploration – space telescopes, un-crewed missions to solar system objects and crewed missions (to the Moon, potentially Mars, and beyond), Dunham said.

“I will also present some data on how these costs compare to other things we spend public taxpayer money on, as well as a few comments on the utility of these various types of space exploration,” Dunham said. Concluding the presentation will be an open discussion focusing on the question of whether space exploration is worth its very high costs.

“This is a complicated question with no clearly correct answer, and my goal is to provide some factual context and a place to discuss various thoughts and opinions on the subject,” Dunham said.

A strong interest in astronomy took shape in Dunham’s graduate and postdoctoral work that utilized data from space telescopes. His research and scholarship lie in observational studies of star and planet formation. He is a co-author of more than 100 refereed articles that have appeared in top tier astronomy journals. Dunham’s Ph.D. and M.A. are both in Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dunham conducts public astronomy nights at the Science Center’s rooftop observatory and supervises student research projects using its telescope. He is also a prior recipient of the William T. and Charlotte N. Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award, established through the Fredonia College Foundation, that recognizes an individual who has made outstanding achievements in research or creativity.

Department of Psychology Professor Jack Croxton will offer opening remarks at the talk. The theme of this year’s series is “Back to the Future: Where Are We Going? What Have We Learned?”

Free and open to the public, Brown Bag presentations are supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with additional support by the Carnahan Jackson Fund for the Humanities of the Fredonia College Foundation.

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