K. Dean Larson
National Space Society Board of Directors
Dr. Dean Larson is currently the NSS Projects Committee chairman, where he oversees current projects and develops new ones.
His education includes a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering, two master’s degrees (physics and operations management), and a Ph.D. in particle physics. His professional experience includes piloting Air Force jets as well as conducting numerous studies and analyses, defining/writing system requirements, supporting system acquisitions, and conducting developmental and operational testing activities for a variety of government departments and agencies.
As one example, he was the technical lead on a congressionally mandated study of the costs, risks, and benefits of human spaceflight where, in association with top NASA management and several NASA centers, his group examined three reference missions: a 100-meter-deep drilling mission to Mars, an exploration mission to the Lunar South Pole, and the construction of a large space-science telescope at a Lagrange point. In addition to costs, risks, and benefits, the study helped determine the tasks associated with each mission that should be done by humans and those more appropriately done by robots.
Dr. Larson has taken advantage of living close to Washington, D.C. in order to visit Capitol Hill frequently to support various space causes. As an example, he wrote an editorial (Mining Asteroids and Exploiting the New Space Economy) published in the Wall Street Journal supporting language establishing asteroid mineral rights. He followed this up with visits to the Hill to lobby for these rights. Although it is impossible to determine how effective this modest effort was, the recently enacted Public Law 114-90, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, includes language similar to that supported by the WSJ article. The new law addresses mineral rights in space and removes a major area of uncertainty in the development of manufacturing capabilities in space.
As a member of the Board of Directors, Dr. Larson sees NSS as playing a key role in enabling and facilitating the development of the new space economy. To this end, he is working toward policies that will encourage the development of infrastructure that will allow and support space development. He is actively looking for impediments to development, like the lack of legal clarity on the ownership of mineral rights, that can be removed or mitigated by NSS. The idea is to find these impediments, whether they be legal, technological, or regulatory, and address them either by using NSS resources, or by collaborating with other organizations, or both.
In his position as Chairman of the Projects Committee, one of Dr. Larson’s focus areas is determining the technological impediments that can be realistically addressed by NSS projects and targeting the appropriate technology developments and demonstrations. Other project focus areas include educating our youth to ensure the future of space development and inspiring the public at large to support current and future development.