Laurie Leshin sees the future of the United States in the stars — or, more precisely, in the moons and planets.
The nation must boldly go farther into outer space or risk losing its competitive edge in the modern world, said the Arizona State University planetary geologist.
The U.S. space program "is a small investment for a huge return in high-tech innovation,’’ she said.
But the investment won’t be made unless it’s embraced by the general population, she said. So Leshin and others working with the National Ae ronautics and Space Administration are making efforts to bring people into the agency’s planning.
She will join fellow scientists and space program officials Friday at ASU in a forum designed to give the public a chance to help formulate the vision for future space endeavors.
Leshin is a member of the President’s Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy, which is writing a report on the challenges to achieving the country’s long-term space science goals.
Other forum leaders include NASA chief scientist John Grunsfeld, NASA engineer Gentry Lee, nationally prominent broadcast journalist, longtime Valley resident and NASA adviser Hugh Downs, and Melissa Wallace, an ASU engineering student devising a Mars satellite proposal. ASU President Michael Crow, a national science policy expert, will moderate the discussion.
"We want to give people a sense of participation in these wonderful explorations of our solar system and to help them understand why they should care about (space missions),’’ Lee said.
The success of current Mars rover missions — in which ASU researchers have a leading role — has NASA riding a wave of re-awakened public interest, he said.
He noted that NASA has had more than 10 billion hits on its rover Web site since the two robotic vehicles reached Mars in January.
According to reports he’s seen, only Web sites about Britney Spears’ Las Vegas wedding and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime wardrobe malfunction had more visits.
Talkin’ about space
What:"Exploring Our Place In Space: A Community Forum"
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Arizona State University Gammage Auditorium, Tempe
Admission: Free, but tickets are required. They’re available at ASU bookstores, Borders Books and Music stores, the Challenger Space Center in Peoria, the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, and at the door
Information: For group reservations and information, call (480) 965-0051.
Questions or comments can be submitted to the forum leaders in advance through www.asu.edu/explorespace