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Jim Newman, PhD

Chair, Space Systems Academic Group, Former NASA Astronaut

Dr. Jim Newman came to NPS’ Space Systems Academic Group in 2006 as a NASA Visiting Professor. He subsequently transferred from NASA in 2008 to the Department of the Navy to accept a professorship at NPS. As Chair and Professor, Space Systems Academic Group, he continues to teach orbital mechanics and launch systems and perform applied infrastructure research in the use of very small satellites for focused projects of national interest and for motivating hands-on, officer-student educational opportunities. NASA selected Newman into its astronaut program in 1990. Newman’s space flight experience includes four missions aboard the Space Shuttles Discovery, Endeavour, and Columbia. Notably, he logged 43 days in space, including six spacewalks totaling 43 hours. On the spacewalks, he installed mission-critical equipment on the International Space Station and worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. As the robotic arm operator, he also deployed and retrieved satellites. At NASA since 1985, Newman worked as an instructor, served in the Astronaut Office Mission Support Branch, the Mission Development Branch, and as the Chief of the Astronaut Office Computer Support Branch. Before coming to NPS, he spent three years in Moscow, Russia working for the International Space Station (ISS) Program Office as NASA’s Human Space Flight Program Director in Russia.

The establishment of Space Force has in some ways reinvigorated DOD interest in space and space systems. NPS has, so far, had six students transfer from their respective branches to Space Force during their time at NPS and many more after graduating. How does an NPS education prepare current and future Guardians to lead the U.S.’ newest uniformed service?

An NPS education is valuable not only for the Naval Officers who come here, but also for the many other officers and civilians from other services, agencies, companies, and countries.  This is because of the unique blend of faculty and their courses and research that is truly defense focused and geared towards the wide range of students interested in returning to academia, usually after a significant absence.  Given the need to guard our nation’s secrets, NPS also offers a range of classified classes and research opportunities.  For all these reasons, the newest service, the Space Force, can benefit from the pre-existing infrastructure and courses of study at NPS.  In addition to a number of strong curricula, including but not limited to such curricula as space systems, operations research, and systems engineering, NPS actively involves the stakeholders whose students are represented in each curriculum in the decisions about what the students need to learn.  The combination of these attributes should make NPS an attractive choice for the graduate education needs of the Space Force, along with AFIT (the Air Force Institute of Technology) and some civilian schools.

Dr. Newman's advice to the next generation of astronauts:

Although it is somewhat presumptuous of me to offer advice to this next generation of astronauts, whether already assigned to a crew or just starting their training, I will offer similar advice to what was given to me many years ago and what I assume they will hear many times over.  Be sure to enjoy the journey!

It is during the training that you really get to know not only the hardware and software, but the other human beings on the team and yourself.  In the end, the human element of spaceflight is what makes it important and memorable.  So find time to hear your instructors’ stories, to know how other humans have interacted with these machines, to understand what works and what may not work. Be sure to find time during the flight to reflect on the flight and what it means to you – and how you will communicate this experience to others. It is hard to believe while flying, but time certainly does fly, and before you can imagine it possible, you will be offering your own advice to the next generation of astronauts!

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