From Ad Astra, Volume 13 Number 3, 2001
By The Space Research Working Group
“Migration of Human Beings to Space Is Starting,”
Gerard K. O’Neil, Bild Der Wissenschaft, 1981
These words, which did not mean much in the 1980s, form a starting point for us now. This starting point marks the determination of our aims and carrying them to the future in security.
It will be possible to build spaceships kilometers long. Thousands of human beings can find new living conditions in space. The calculations were completed and now the studies on the details of this important plan have been continuing. Migration to the universe is not a crazy dream any longer.
Based on this philosophy, many young people came together to realize their dreams by just using their own resources under the name of Space Research Working Group (SRWG). Although SRWG members have completed their education in many different disciplines like environment, electronics, aerospace, geology and mining engineering, biology, physics, economics, and city planning, they have a common interest: space.
Space Research Working Group is just a name. The primary aim is to channel some part of the rapidly developing human resource potential of Turkey into space related fields, into the New Ocean. In this age of technology, space is not an alien landscape anymore; it is the peak of a newly discovered mountain. Climbing and exploring this mountain is not a luxury; it is a fundamental need. This very need gives the signs of the beginning of a new era: Space Era. Space Era provides endless research opportunities for young generations. But the young generations, who want to create their own future places in this era, should have efficient and original contributions. From the early days of space exploration, when humankind took its first step on the Moon, space activities have accelerated rapidly, and reached to the point of building the International Space Station (ISS) today and the first step of human beings on Mars tomorrow. But, what is the position of our country in this magnificent era and most importantly, what will our contributions be?
Space research activities are in their primitive stages in Turkey. In general, it can be asserted that Turkey took a big step in space field in the 1990s. These activities are limited to the areas of space science, such as astrophysics and astronomy, earth observation technologies and telecommunication satellites. Unfortunately, like in every developing country, space research activities are seen as a luxury, and as a result, public awareness about space cannot be easily created in Turkey. However, the growing young population and high interest in new technologies form a great potential in Turkey for space research activities. With this potential, we can progress in this domain faster than expected. Everyday, a new discovery or invention is being made as the information revolution transcends national boundaries. Throughout history, humans have thrived on the physical resources of our planet. Today, we know that these resources are not infinite, and they can only increase arithmetically, after Malthus’ famous theorem. On the other hand, we also know that the information resources increase geometrically. Compared to our limited physical resources, this excess information is causing the birth of an enormous inner dynamic. And the only way to be able to exist in this dynamic environment is to provide the productive brains with work in every fields of society.
At this point, it is very important to build a platform, at which students and researchers interested in space can come together and discuss their ideas. To take the first step, we founded Space Research Working Group in 1999. SRWG made its first international participation to Space Generation Forum (UniSpace III), which was organized by United Nations in 1999. In this forum, SRWG represented Turkey’s attitude towards space and space research activities. The most interesting part of this Forum was the participation of young generations coming from different disciplines. At the end of the forum, the participants including SRWG proposed five important space related topics, which were selected to be presented in the Third United Nations Global Conference. Later, United Nations accepted three of these topics.
The most important idea SRWG focuses on is to provide the means for communicating with the world nations to the next generation of Turkish youth. The priorities in this process are no doubt, equality and creativity principles. The main characteristic of SRWG is that all members have equal responsibility in the group, where no vertical hierarchy exists. The only hierarchy in the group comes into existence when creative ideas are brought to life, and at this stage the owner of the idea directs his or her project with the help of other group members. Until today, this method worked with very successful results. This organizational structure has been first introduced in 2000 in the UN/Austria/ESA Symposium on “Enhancing the Participation of Youth in Space Activities” in Graz and received very positive impressions from the participants. In this conference, one of our group members was appointed to coordinate the studies of the Sustainable Development and Space Technologies Group, which is a sub-branch of the United Nations Space Studies Youth Council.
The aim of SRWG is to create public awareness on space research, and to create, evaluate, and observe projects related to space research and technology for the ultimate objective of contributing to social development.
With this appointment, SRWG has started its studies in the field of education, which is one of our priority areas. As the Space Research Working Group, we are trying to introduce the space field to all of our young friends at the threshold of university level education. Contrary to the common belief, many professions that are active in our “Aged World,” can find an application platform in space. For instance, an architect can compose his projects with suitable materials in the space environment very easily. In the future, space will be a concept where architects, geologists, environmental engineers, aerospace and telecommunication engineers, geographic information system (GIS) specialists, physiologists and economists can find application fields. Therefore, it is an inevitable fact that in general space related clarification is a must at all levels of the Turkish education system.
In such a fast-moving area, we are trying to open the doors of the programs in which our young friends can gain international experience and be informed about the financial aid possibilities that they can use in their education. At this point, while the education possibilities for space show variation, we have particular problems in identifying financial aid opportunities. On the other hand, as the Turkish private sector gains a more prominent role in the next five years in the space arena, we anticipate a very high demand for space professionals in Turkey. This anticipation forms the basis of our quest for financial support from these companies today. There are already some signs in this direction, such as the meetings between Turkey and the European Space Agency (ESA) and a new project for establishing a RadarSat ground station in Istanbul.
Among these possibilities, another source we can use for educational purposes is the international communities and societies active in the space field. So far, we have explored the possibilities of cooperation with such organizations. The first concrete example of this initiative was our cooperation with the National Space Society (NSS).
Another project that SRWG will work on is to establish a National Space Databank. This databank will provide new tools for researchers, while institutionalizing the experience and knowledge of national and international specialists working in space related fields. Realizing that this has a vital importance for Turkey in the long run, SRWG is working actively by getting in touch with specialists in Turkey or outside the country in order to develop Turkey’s potential in the space field. Through formal channels (i.e. meetings, conferences) and informal ones (i.e. information exchange, interviews), we will try to enrich this databank. As the first step in this direction, we tried to create a web environment (www.spaceturk.org), where information can be exchanged seamlessly.
As what we can tell you in these pages is limited with words, we welcome all of you, who battled their toy models of “good” Luke and “bad” Darth Vader of Star Wars or tried to talk with the stars which sparkled and became a source of joy for their young hearts, or who have faith and a deep imagination empowered with this faith and want to carry this faith to the unknown, so that we can see more of it and make it real together.