Second View

What Gene Roddenberry Taught Me About Partnership

Written by: developer

by R. Dan Jones, Space Foundation Special Advisor – Latin American Affairs

As we enter 2016, preparations for the Sunjammer Cosmic Archive mission are in full swing. This deep space mission will validate large-scale solar sail technology and provide a final space flight for Gene Roddenberry, Majel Roddenberry, James “Scotty” Doohan and the remains of 13 other people who wished to reach the heavens. If Sunjammer successfully achieves its 2016 launch milestone, these celestial passengers will “boldly go” during the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s original airing.

Star Trek inspired countless people, across multiple generations, to boldly go. Some fans celebrated logic, pinched each other’s necks and exchanged odd hand gestures. Generations of engineers grew up thinking they could fix any problem in the nick of time with a few dilithium crystals and “Scotty-ish” ingenuity. The series taught us anything was possible.

In 2016, we continue to boldly go. Decades since one giant leap for mankind, we are leveraging renewed passions, key technological advances and a healthy dose of venture capital to fuel a revival in human space exploration. Phrases like “off-planetary mining” and “multi-planetary species” are met with hope, not skepticism. Transformational, hands-on STEM outreach programs are providing tangible space experiences to university and K-12 students around the world to ensure we sustain our future space achievements and continue moving forward. We have recaptured a shared sense of excitement for space.

But passion, technology and venture capital are not enough. To a large degree, we are still pursuing our next great space achievements independently with insufficient budgets, inconsistent public support and complex political environments. If we expect to create a Moon Village, colonize Mars and create mining industries to propel us to seemingly unachievable destinations within our lifetime, we must work together.

Throughout Roddenberry’s adult life, we reached space, achieved one giant leap and explored neighboring planets on foundations deeply rooted in competition, not trust. Roddenberry ignored the social chaos and tense geopolitical landscape of the 1960s to create a model of international partnership. Crew members who hailed from Scotland, Africa, Japan, Russia, the United States and countless other countries worked together to discover new worlds and boldly go. Space exploration, in Roddenberry’s mind, transcended national boundaries and was the ultimate team sport.

Our global space community continues to struggle with common problems in isolation. Whether our goals are creating next-generation propulsion technology to reach Mars, developing a more robust space situational awareness capability, providing effective STEM outreach programs to ignite passion in future space explorers or simply improving public support for space, we can move forward faster together. Great opportunities like the International Air & Space Fair (FIDAE), our 32nd Space Symposium, International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2016, Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS), and other international forums allow us to solve problems together through sustained dialogue and effort.  
We have so many reasons to enter 2016 with a shared sense of optimism and opportunity. May we have the collective wisdom to propel mankind beyond our individual horizons through partnership. Let’s allow the Roddenberrys and our beloved Scotty to explore the heavens knowing Star Trek’s legacy of partnership lives on through us. 


Dan Jones is a retired military space professional with 20 years of service through the United States Air Force. He led or organized more than 30 space partnership events to create initial space partnership foundations between the U.S., Brazilian, Chilean and Colombian militaries. He is the CEO of Beyond Horizons Space Consulting, LLC, an international consulting firm providing advisory, business development and strategic planning services for clients within commercial, academic and government organizations. He is also the co-founder and CEO of SparkConnect, Inc., an Arizona-based company that provides collaborative environments for global markets. Jones earned a Bachelor of Science degree in space physics from the United States Air Force Academy, and two Master of Science degrees in space operations and operations research from the Air Force Institute of Technology.


This article is part of Space Watch: January 2016 (Volume: 15, Issue: 1).