New Documentary Sheds Light on Space Based Solar Power
Burbank, CA (The Futures Channel) November 18, 2008 — Space-based Solar Power—the concept of collecting high-intensity solar energy in space, beaming it to Earth, and feeding it into existing power grids—is getting a closer look. Groups studying the idea, including the Pentagon, think the project could create as many as 1.2 million jobs in addition to enormous energy benefits.
The Futures Channel’s latest online documentary, Powering the Planet, introduces the concept to the future designers, engineers and scientists who would make it a reality: students in math and science classrooms across the country. Tens of thousands of educators use the company’s video programs to help students make the link between their studies and exciting, real-world careers.
“Through Powering the Planet, students will gain exceptional insight into one of the most exciting alternatives for meeting global energy demand,” said Alan Ladwig, space consultant and former NASA official. “The documentary describes the history, concept and technical requirements for this cutting-edge energy source, and introduces students to the leading scientists and engineers who are guiding current research.”
“It’s going to be the new generation of students coming through the system now that are going to be the engineers, the designers, the builders of these systems,” Air Force Col. Michael “Coyote” Smith, a space-based solar power strategist, says in his interview. A program to build spacebased solar power technology would require people across hundreds of career tracks, ranging from electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineers to metallurgists and welding technicians, he explains.
“Our objective was mainly to pose the concept to today’s students,” says Steve Heard, Executive Producer. “They would be the initial builders, and the idea is to deliver a sort of ‘101’ on the concept of space-based solar power, so they can include it in their discussions on energy.” Since 1999, The Futures Channel has brought hundreds of fascinating, real-world science, technology, engineering and math applications into classrooms through its engaging “microdocumentary” videos.
Pamela Fazel, a teacher at Kentucky’s Butler County Middle School, previewed the program. “This video is a powerful tool for teachers to inspire and empower students to believe that they can be the scientists of the future. Here we see real people like us working together to solve one of the world’s biggest dilemmas—energy. I can’t wait to show this to my students.”
The documentary features the late, world-renowned physicist and space visionary Gerard O’Neill, in excerpts from a 1991 interview. “Things like mathematics and physics and engineering—the hard scientific subjects—those are the subjects which are going to be of the most use to you in getting a job, whether it’s on the earth or in space,” O’Neill explains.
The documentary was premiered last week for delegates at the annual meeting of the Japan-US Science, Technology and Space Applications Program (JUSTSAP), an international forum of scientists, educators, government officials and business professionals working to identify and explore opportunities for international collaboration in space exploration. Adam Newman, a former teacher, longtime education industry analyst and current director of the education group at Berkery Noyes, noted that Powering the Planet underscores the power of video in the classroom.
“The Futures Channel’s newest video captures one of the most critical issues facing our planet—renewable energy sources, while helping to address one of our country’s greatest education challenges: driving student interest in and awareness of the STEM disciplines. This type of webdelivered educational programming is gaining greater traction in K-12 schools, engaging students with real-world challenges and opportunities that they will one day help to solve.”