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KNOXVILLE — Imagine deciding between a trip to the beach and a trip to outer space for your next family vacation. It may seem silly now, but University of Tennessee professor Gary A. Flandro says space tourism is on the horizon.

Gary Flandro

“The idea that space exploration can only be carried out as gigantic government projects must be questioned,” said Flandro, the Boling Chair of Excellence in Space Propulsion at the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma and a recipient of a major NASA achievement award. “Recent events show that a much more efficient pathway involves private industry.”

Flandro will discuss this and other efforts related to the future of space travel and exploration this Friday at the UT Science Forum. His lecture, entitled “Space Flight: New Pathways,” will also explore the many energy resources that lie beyond Earth’s borders, like the sun and moon.

“Most people have learned to think of the earth as closed environment,” Flandro said. “They believe we have to use the earth’s resources and then we’re done for, but that-s just ridiculous. There are other options. Our very survival depends on harnessing the energy and resources that are available in abundance within our reach outside the atmosphere.”

The pursuit of space tourism has the potential to develop necessary support from private industry on the continued study of those resources.

“Space is becoming more and more a place for the ordinary person. We can get the private sector involved, but one of the keys to that is making space flight available to more than just astronauts,” said Flandro.

Awarded with NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1998, Flandro’s career included mapping the path of the highly-successful Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. His work helped reduce the time required for the crafts’ “Grand Tour” of the planets in the solar system reduced the time required for the mission from 40 years to 12 years.

The UT Science Forum is a weekly, non-technical lecture and discussion designed to help others better understand research across many disciplines. It is held every Friday at noon in Thompson-Boling Arena, dining rooms C and D. Attendees may bring their own lunch or purchase it at the arena. Each presentation should last around 40 minutes followed by a question and answer session.

Other upcoming Science Forum lectures:

– “The Secret of the Starfish: How 5 Arms Could Become 4 or 2,” Friday, March 3, Colin Sumrall, lecturer in earth and planetary sciences.
– “The Renaissance of Nuclear Power in the United States,” Friday, March 10, Jeffery Binder, senior R&D program manager, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
– “Can a Robot Have a Mind?” Friday, March 17, Bruce MacLennan, associate professor of computer science.


Jay Mayfield, media relations, (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)

Gary A. Flandro, Boling Chair of Excellence in Space Propulsion at the UT Space Institute, (931-393-7217, gflandro@tennessee.edu)

Mark Littmann, forum organizer, (865-974-8156,