Global Engagement Solutions, LLC, is an international management consulting firm that provides a broad spectrum of services for those interested in building public and private sector partnerships abroad. The primary focus area is in finding disruptive technologies and assisting the client in bringing them to market. Bill retired after 31 years of foreign service with the Department of State with the rank of Minister-Counselor, which is the diplomatic equivalent of Major General. He was Foreign Policy Advisor at USSTRATCOM, and at NATO missions worldwide.
While I have known Bill Parker for many years from the GeoInt and Space Symposiums, I had not realized both the depth and breadth of his experience with the Foreign Service, and his deep commitment to building bridges across cultures and among nations. These concepts provide the solid foundation for his work, projects, boards, and everything he does. It was my privilege to discuss topics from the work of the foundations in which he’s involved, to the importance of “Space for Living” – helping citizens appreciate how much of their daily lives benefit from assets in space. We discussed the proudest moments of his career, which took us to the beaches of Normandy and were deeply personal. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
JAMES YOO Bill, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m very excited to be doing this. So, Apogeo Spatial partnered with Secure World Foundation for many years. What is your connection there?
PARKER I have attended many of their outstanding workshops and seminars in Washington. At one point, Michael Simpson (former Executive Director) asked me if I wanted to be on their Advisory Committee. I said it would be an honor and a pleasure. They are on the cutting edge of bringing everybody together on some very critical issues in space.
JAMES YOO Yes, they really bring in the absolute experts on everything that they do, whether it’s space debris cleanup, or keeping all the assets in space safe; they really bring in the top people worldwide.
PARKER You’re absolutely correct, including Pete Martinez, who’s their new boss, who came from the U.N., and understands the importance
of space touching everyone on Earth and all the issues. They’re just very capable, very devoted, and understand the complexities and are able to put it into words and workshops that help the users.
JAMES YOO That’s great. It is important work. Our editor, Ray Williamson, was their first Executive Director. He is wonderful. He has been the editor of the magazine providing some guidance on the content since my company has owned it, for 16 years. Now, can you explain what you do, and how the organization works, first of all? I realize that you’re global in reach, and doing some important work.
PARKER What I’ve tried to do is use my foundation in international awareness and being a former foreign service officer. I look at the issues facing the world today. I maintain my network of people from all facets of life in various countries, throughout my career, from various assignments in international organizations and in specific nations, and ended up at U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), where I really just dove into space. I recognized quite early that space would be advantageous to foreign service officers, and to those who are not necessarily official representatives but those who do international engagement – if they had a better understanding of the importance of and how to utilize space, and all the capabilities that are now available that weren’t available to us when I was a young foreign service officer.At STRATCOM I took many courses, and learned from some of the best and brightest in the business, both in uniform and in suits. When I was serving overseas, we didn’t have smart phones. We had RF for communication. Some people had a satellite phone, and they were far and few between. In the modern era, we are now able to communicate with the speed of thought, and we’re moving larger and larger amounts of data to screens that fit in your hand. Therefore, it can change a lot of our decisions and how we do business.
JAMES YOO It’s pretty incredible, really, when you think about that.
PARKER Right. It’s just moving so rapidly. If you just think a couple years back… You know this better than most. There were, what, six or seven firms that did launch or lift, and now they’re just growing exponentially. When you get into smallsats, and satellites, and communication – it’s just growing. What I do is, I see people and know people around the world. Some nations don’t consider themselves spacefaring. With the Secure World Foundation, there was a great workshop at the last Space Symposium where we talked about, “Are we all on the same page? What does ‘spacefaring’ mean?” Some people think all nations are spacefaring. So, “Are we agreed on rules of the road?” What I try to do is discover technologies – those that could be adapted or adopted by various nations or foreign entities, companies, or governments, and how they could utilize them to augment what they already have or to improve their lives as individuals on the Earth.
JAMES YOO Are you involved with some of the nations that do not have access to space, and connecting them to affordable ways for them to get involved? Is that part of it?
PARKER Yes, that is part of it, having friends in various countries, not necessarily officials, but friends who are working in the various communication sectors, such as Indonesia, or countries in Africa. It’s very difficult for them. How do they become aware of technologies that would better their condition or give them a larger knowledge base? What I try to do is connect those dots, bringing folks who can help them either in training, because, what I also realize is that our U.S. technical training is also critical.
JAMES YOO Now, that really has become a very important thing. The space-based data we get on Earth is so important for companies, academia, and government, but it has to be useful. It has to be turned into “actionable information…” All the companies have their own versions of this. I think, for a long time, when the commercial data became available, with IKONOS, really, as the first commercial satellite from Space Imaging in 1999…
JAMES YOO Back then, there was all this incredible data, but it took many years for that to tip over into being affordable, and useful, and really pervasive, and now it is. It’s been fun to watch that over the years, right?
PARKER It’s interesting you say that. The training center for the U.S. foreign service is in the National Foreign Affairs Training Institute in Northern Virginia. The officers should be made aware of what’s available on their desktop, for example, if you’re an embassy officer sitting in Bamako, Mali, and you need a map of the countryside, you want to visualize spatial relationships among various features. You can look for quantities. You can map densities. You can ascertain what’s inside of certain areas. This becomes quite helpful for our diplomats, and others in the U.N. and international organizations, in quiet conflicts. Show people that they’re not fighting over 10 gallons of water; there’s much more water there. There’s enough water for people. Using digital elevation models, showing what’s underground. How do we help conserve it? How do we explore for more? Whereas, I was old school. You had to get on a plane, or you had to leave the embassy. You had to drive through roads, you had to have exploratory digs. You had to take contractors there. A lot of this can be done and shared with all parties now, Myrna, almost instantaneously. But, do we recognize the need for this as a basic human need? It needs to be a course that’s similar to geography, for example, or English, or science.
JAMES YOO Yes. Another thing that has changed that will make this really possible and immediately impactful is that only in the last several years has it been easy to use. You truly do not have to be a technical GIS expert to go in and get the information you need. That’s really very recent that this change has occurred, but that should have huge benefits.
“Space for Living”
PARKER That’s what I’m trying to do as an international advisor to the Space Foundation, and being on the Advisory Committee of Secure World Foundation. Both organizations engage internationally and locally. Space is for everyone. It’s for living. How do we utilize it? How do we bring the man on the street into this realm — for example, in America, recognizing and being able to use, as you just talked about, GIS data, and seeing it as something as useful as spell check?
JAMES YOO GPS made that transition, right? GPS was created by our military.
PARKER That’s right.
JAMES YOO Our federal government’s funded the creation of GPS via satellites, and now it is not only pervasive, it’s embedded in everyone’s cell phone, and, of course, most people know that, but they don’t know that it’s also embedded in almost every app that they download. Right?
JAMES YOO It’s happening in the background for consumers, but it’s free for all these companies to use GPS data and integrate it into their business model. They don’t even have to kick anything back to those who created it. There are a lot of technologies like that.
PARKER As I say, I’m trying to call it “Space for Living.” People don’t necessarily have to know how GPS is related to precise timing. A man or woman on the street will never know all of the intricacies of space, because space is really hard. But, most people don’t have a good idea of how self-driving vehicles function. We don’t necessarily need to know. What we need to have is confidence. We need to have confidence and awareness that space is for living. How do we utilize it? How do we get it to the lowest common denominator for human beings, which is their phone? How do we get it down to their smartphone and their everyday household necessities?
The ISS Example of International Cooperation
JAMES YOO Right. That’s great. One thing that I think can help bridge the gap of awareness and interest with the people, consumers, citizens around the world, is the ISS (International Space Station). It’s such an incredible example of international cooperation, as well. I want to ask you about that, because with your contacts around the world, from all of your foreign service experience, you’re in a unique position to bring people together, and really create some more international cooperation. I realize with politics and everything, how people feel about the United States certainly ebbs and flows. But, it’s a really important… Maybe your work is more important than ever on that side, and it’s really a great thing. It’s really unique and rare, I think.
What I love about the Space Station is that it seems like it has always been sort of above politics, in a way, similar to the way it’s above the Earth, too, pardon the pun.
PARKER That’s correct.
JAMES YOO Can you think of other examples like that?
PARKER You’re absolutely correct. It’s interesting. The United States could have a certain type of relationship with Country A based on a trade relationship, a diplomatic relationship, education and cultural exchange relationship, and we might say things in the press, or we might say things back and forth over diplomatic lines of communication.
When your diplomat’s serving in Country A’s capital, you have day to day, hourly contact with the people of that country to include their foreign ministry, and economic ministries, and university presidents. That’s where the real work gets done. That’s where the real cultural understanding takes place.
When we bring them to this country on a Fulbright program, or on
a grant to study at NASA, and they go back and they understand not only who we are culturally, but they understand what we’re trying to do scientifically… You’re living with them, you’re eating with them, you have people from that nation working in your embassy, you see them every day. You can’t escape. You don’t want to escape!
That’s how I view the ISS. ISS is even more important, because you can’t just walk away. You can’t pick up and leave, nor can the support function people on Earth do so. That’s why it’s so important to have all those flags and all those cultures working together. Not only do they bring technical skills in supporting that environment, you work with that person for a common purpose. You’re working for the general good of mankind on the ISS. You begin to understand and can overcome, possibly, some of those delicate issues or tough issues that are Earthbound, because you’re working for a larger, bigger cause.
Does that make any sense?
JAMES YOO Absolutely. I love that. Your work is just so important for those reasons.
PARKER So what happens, now, is COPUOS (the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space) and other organizations that are Earthbound necessarily go through a structure, and they have rules and regulations. I think what joint international space projects do, and especially things like ISS, or going to the Moon with an international effort will allow us to have something that we could all take pride in and also have some ownership.
JAMES YOO Absolutely. I’m really thrilled to let you know that we are actually starting a new International Space Station Special Section in the magazine, working directly with NASA and the ISS National Lab. We are featuring the remote sensing projects that are on the Space Station…
PARKER That benefit humankind…
JAMES YOO Yes. Absolutely. We’ll also be featuring the astronauts’ photos of Earth while they’re on the space station, sharing their experiences of the Overview Effect – the change in consciousness to perceiving a “oneness.” We’re so excited.
PARKER Wonderful. You’d be surprised what kind of cross-cultural communication and deeper understanding comes from two people living together, even in a space that’s not so confined. I’d really like to see an interview with astronauts from different cultures and countries. What did they learn about other nations, and their cultures, and their philosophies that they never knew, and would not have an opportunity to know if they weren’t on the ISS, or on the first Moon base, or on Mars together? I’d be more than willing to help volunteer to do some of that questioning.
JAMES YOO I am quite sure those interviews would reveal specific examples of cross-cultural appreciation and fascination. They have to be becoming lifelong friends up there.
PARKER That’s correct. They’re depending on
JAMES YOO Right? It’s a really amazing example of what diplomacy should be.
PARKER Yes, as is what we do. The strongest programs, in my opinion, in the U.S. diplomatic or government arsenal are exchange programs, like
the Fulbright program and other programs, where American professors and students go to India or Germany. Those programs have included people like Margaret Thatcher and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (former President of France). The Fulbright program started with Senator Fulbright from Arkansas, and it is still run by the Department of State.
One thing is certain. When you spend two years, three years in a country, you begin to understand who we are and why we do and say some of the things we do and say. You have a deeper understanding.
JAMES YOO Definitely.
PARKER Having said that, I would love to see this “Space for Living.” We need to begin to connect space to other curricula. Wouldn’t it be great if you had an architect? Wouldn’t it be great if you had someone from Caterpillar that could begin to think about the Moon dozers? Wouldn’t it be great if you had a female fashion designer who now would start training people in, “What does it take to design a space suit for women that’s going to be comfortable, not terribly ugly, that’s going to be wearable and usable”?
By doing this new space education that touches on all the familiar disciplines, you do several things. You bring those people into “Space for Living.” You have more than just the engineering department, the bio department, the technical department. Everybody has a piece. How do you stay in shape in space? Bring in the coaches, and test some of the new equipment. Bring in the physical education people.
I guess what I’m saying is that, I like to see people be able to interact, to understand that every technology on Earth probably has a benefit or role in the future of space.
JAMES YOO I think you’re right.
PARKER Since I’ve been around the Space Foundation for so long, I’ve seen their space symposium grow over the past 10 years. I think you’ve seen it. It’s enormous and quite popular now. Most people are blown away by the big-ticket items, and they’re absolutely magnificent and wonderful. And when you go out to the other tents and exhibits, there are people that are making things, and they’re designing things that I have never thought of, but they come from a ground beginning. A terrestrial beginning. An Earth beginning.
JAMES YOO Absolutely. That’s true. That’s a really good point.
PARKER Right? They just need somebody to get their arms around it, to bring them into the enterprise, into the dialogue.
It would be great if we had several models, several cylinders of excellence, where you could retire from DOD and with a space background, and be on loan to one of the corporations. Then after a while, go back to DOD
to engage and help them – help them even in their acquisition processes. Don’t budget and fund for what your platform is; budget and fund for where you want to be in the space enterprise.
Can we have people that take a break from corporate, do more training and speaking at National Security Space Institute, or NASA, and then transition back to government, to another organization, maybe the State Department, and show people what we can do with GIS layers and digital elevation models? Does that make any sense?
JAMES YOO Yes, definitely. I think one thing you’re getting at, is utilizing the incredibly gifted and intelligent people within the commercial sector – having them ultimately bring some of that expertise into our government, and vice versa.
PARKER It’s improving everybody’s understanding and cooperation.
The Japanese do it fairly well, because they have a Ministry of Government and Private Sector Cooperation. We still have these cylinders of excellence – silos that keep people separate. “I’m a government person. You’re a private sector person. You’re an academic person. You’re a research person.” We seem to forget, sometimes, why we established the RAND Corporation, because it brought all of those people together. But, can they go back? Can they leave RAND for a while and go into a Boeing, and share their expertise? Or, maybe you go into three or four companies, and you share it under one tent, especially when you have a major problem? Yes, it has to be capitalized, and somebody’s going to market it. When we were on a war footing in this country, everybody had a role. Make it so that everybody can play a role and engage in the end product.
JAMES YOO Absolutely. I’m so glad I asked you about that. Should we talk about BridgeSat for a minute? I know you sit on their Advisory Board, and they’re doing some pretty cool things with optical comms. Do you want to share a little bit about BridgeSat?
PARKER A couple years back, one of my friends at ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, said, “Bill, we’re going to put maybe 100 or 200 smallsats up in one go.” I said, “Yeah, right. I wouldn’t even mention that. I don’t believe it.” Myrna, you just saw it last year! 104 satellites launched in one shot!
JAMES YOO Yes!
PARKER When I lived in remote islands in the Philippines, I had this big ham transceiver thing that used to glow and get hot in my bedroom. I’d tell my wife, “This is what we’re supposed to use to call the embassy when we need help.” This thing never did anything except receive a periodic VOA (Voice of America) broadcasts. It was either jammed by a palm tree, or the antenna was downed by a typhoon… Okay? Nobody in the embassy was listening. The one time I got through, the poor Marine guards were like, “Who is this? Who do you want?”
JAMES YOO “Where are you? What?”
PARKER “What’s your name? How’d you get on this frequency?” What I’m getting at is, when you got 1000 satellites up, you’ve got comms everywhere. I can sit in my office, and I have relevant data. I see the local airport. I see planes landing. I see helicopters taking off from across the river. At some point in time, we’re going to recognize we have a lot of data to move. We have a lot of data to move to a lot of places on Earth, and I’ve never heard anybody say, “I’ll take it tomorrow.”
JAMES YOO Right. The need’s never going to be slower. It’s always going to be faster.
PARKER The bidding wars that go on for frequencies and channels, it is
so competitive. I think companies like BridgeSat, when they’re providing laser communication services for satellites and planes to the ground, will change the paradigm, when they can move 1 or 10 to upwards of 100 gigabits per second of data.
One of the problems we have today, when we’re moving data, we say, “Is somebody watching me?” “Is it going to be hacked?” “Will it get through?” We’re basically talking about confidence. I think what BridgeSat is doing is building confidence with better security for data transfer. “My laser communication services and high-speed data communications will give you confidence that you are able to move and manipulate data worldwide.” Make any sense?
JAMES YOO Definitely. Confidence that it’s more secure.
PARKER That’s what confidence basically is. We talk about security. I try to break it down into the lowest common denominators. Security is a
state of mind and being. Walking down the street, “Am I relatively safe?” By using these new optical communications, and setting up their ground stations, confidence will be very high that the data will arrive safely and unencumbered and immediately.
JAMES YOO Right.
PARKER The point is, for me, when we talk about hacking, what we’re basically saying, both in moving data, and manipulating data, and communications with data, “Are we confident that I can do what I need to do with my communication, and am I extra certain and confident that it will arrive unencumbered?” When you’re not, you change the way you live. You change the way you do things, if it is no longer trusted.
JAMES YOO I love when you said, “Security is a state of mind.” It’s so true.
PARKER It’s just a state of mind. We begin to think about it as a protection device, with the internet. “Give me some more security. Give me a wall.” If I don’t believe it’s secure, then I will not share. I will not send certain things via certain channels.
JAMES YOO Absolutely. We didn’t yet talk about the space rules of the road, similar to the maritime and ITA rules. Do you want to talk about that?
Rules of the Road for Space
PARKER Oh, gosh. I’m going to burn your brain out, because it burns my brain out. In conjunction issues, it used to be this way. When we knew a potential collision or conjunction was likely, at some point in time, the appropriate State Department office was notified so that, especially as telemetry got better, we could notify an embassy to notify the government in that country that they might end up with some unwanted space debris from the possible collision.
JAMES YOO Yes.
PARKER We just talked about 104 smallsats, and things that we may not even be able to track because they’re too small, but they’re lethal, in space. We’re getting to a point where we have to adapt some rules of the road.
I know some people think we do, but I’m thinking more in terms of the airline industry, IATA. They have rules of the road for air traffic that every country, and every pilot, and every airline are aware of. No ifs, ands, or buts. They know exactly what to do when they land in Hong Kong, they know exactly what to do when they’re flying over someone’s territory that’s prohibited. They know what kind of distress calls to put out. They know when a plane is in distress and how to help each other.
It is even more codified in the maritime industry. If you graduated from Kings Point, the Merchant Marine Academy, or Annapolis, or you go to a British maritime academy, when I’m at sea, both ship captains know exactly what to do or say to alert each other. “I’m passing to your port,” or “I’m passing to your starboard.” As a captain, how do I respond to a distress call from another vessel? What are my responsibilities to vector other ships to that location? It’s codified.
Somehow, some way, we have to get to a point where
we can help each other with those types of rules and regulations in space.
JAMES YOO It’s a little bit like the Wild West up there, isn’t it?
PARKER It’s even worse than the Wild West. Now, when you make debris, as some countries have, very irresponsibly, you’re now looking at the possibility of that debris existing for a very long time. Again, that’s where the joint space operation centers and having other nations sit with us comes in. There has to be some responsible rules of the road.
Regardless of what our diplomatic relationships are with certain nations, it almost comes full circle back to cooperation in space and ISS. We have to work together to ensure that we don’t have any major calamities. You know what I’m saying?
JAMES YOO Right. There are lives at risk in that case, up there, on ISS.
PARKER There are many lives at risk in that case, and we don’t have the capability to rescue anybody.
JAMES YOO Right. Now I have a different type of question to wrap up. What has been your most gratifying moment of your career?
PARKER I was assigned to U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, from ‘90 to ‘94. And I had a large satphone. Somehow, I guess because I spoke French, I was put in charge of the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion commemorative event. I had a team of military and civilians from various U.S. embassies and U.S. military commands in Europe. We were preparing for a visit of then- President Clinton.
If you’ve ever seen one of these things, the Allied nations all assemble on the beaches where they landed. We visited the American cemeteries with them with the President and his gaggle and escorted American veterans to the battlefield where they fought and their friends died. I visited all of the villages on the Normandy coast. Seeing the German soldiers and the American soldiers hug, because they were doing what they were asked to do for their countries.
I was able to call my father on that satphone from a position that he described from when he landed on Utah Beach on D-Day Plus 6, six days after the landing.
JAMES YOO Your father? Really?
JAMES YOO That is amazing. He landed there six days later?
PARKER I found the exact spot. He had told me about it through the years, where he established his first Company HQ.
JAMES YOO You were able to call him from that spot because of that huge satellite phone?
PARKER Yes. He told me where, and I was able to call him from that spot, looking at this village, looking at this place. It had changed. I took pictures and sent them home later. That was tremendous. Just think if he had a satphone and access to the data we find so ubiquitous these days…
JAMES YOO That is an incredible life experience. How incredible that the 50th anniversary fell at a time when you were there, and able to do that with your French, and your father was still around. You could actually talk to him about it.
PARKER Yep. That’s right. He was a soldier, retired as a Colonel, but also
a civilian working for government. He was the one who took us overseas when I was 13. I’ve seen the tools of the trade. Just think, in Normandy,
we drove back and forth, and we had to have a radio man or woman with us to call the other units when we were setting up for dinners and events in the villages, where people wanted to thank the various American and Canadian French units that fought for them. We had to station someone there. We didn’t have sat imagery; we didn’t have GIS; we didn’t have smartphones. You can imagine – you know this business well. If I had had a laptop and a smartphone, I could’ve downloaded everything I needed – maps, GPS, live situational awareness. It would’ve changed the entire exercise. I think about, what if American soldiers had sat phones when they landed in 1940s?
JAMES YOO Right. It was more similar to then, than it was to now.
PARKER Exactly. I did have a satphone, but not a
lot of overlays. Not a lot of GIS. I didn’t have optical communication.
JAMES YOO Can you imagine planning military exercises without all of that?
PARKER That’s my point. The people who know what it was like pre-’89, and where we are now, realize that this has been a major change.
JAMES YOO That’s really amazing.
PARKER It’s absolutely amazing.
JAMES YOO The only thing we didn’t cover is how an FSO educates himself regarding space and what mechanisms are available?
PARKER That’s important. It dovetails with my whole piece about the need to allow movement back and forth from industry to government, to private sector… I served in the foreign service on basically every continent. At the end of my foreign service career, I wanted to serve in some entity that touched all of my areas of interests – a command whose missions involved space, deterrence, cyber security and the need for volumes of data in real time. That’s why I chose STRATCOM. STRATCOM was standing up the first cyber command, standing up intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, joint-functional components. They were doing maritime domain awareness through other components. They were responsible for missile defense and needed reliable data and communications. I’m glad you asked, because this puts it all in context. That was my boost, where I was able to attend the National Security Space Institute, among other laboratories and think tanks. I got to learn from people who have been space professionals and in bunkers during the Cold War, who were now professional enlisted folks and commanders from all branches of our armed services and most civilian agencies. They educated me. I got to travel with them. During my time at STRATCOM, I was tasked with finding ways to change and improve how the acquisition system identified and secured innovative solutions to military problem sets. After studying the issue, I realized I needed to engage with entrepreneurial actors from outside traditional contracting sources. If you want to get out-of-the-box thinking you better be prepared to do a little out-of-the-box thinking yourself. Along those lines, I engaged entrepreneurs who were also venture capitalists. Importantly, neither of my new colleagues possessed government contracting experience. As such, they were simply unaware of what was impossible. The command was so impressed with their approach that they were engaged to secure private funding to demonstrate the capability of commercial IP routers on orbit. While the full story of IRIS is worthy of a book, the bottom line is that, compared to informal bids by military contractors, we delivered at 20% of the cost and 2-4 years faster than contractors’ best estimates. I remain passionate about being a force for introducing this model more broadly into our military and government acquisitions systems.
The State Department could never afford a DOD level of training, and we’ll never have a large enough training budget to maintain a training cohort. But, somehow, some way, through the private sector, research and academic institutions, we are bringing this intellect and this knowledge together to help create that “Space for Living.”
” Neither of my new colleagues possessed government contracting experience. As such, they were simply unaware of what was impossible. The command was so impressed with their approach that they were engaged to secure private funding to demonstrate the capability of commercial IP routers on orbit”
JAMES YOO That really brings us full circle, doesn’t it, how space assets benefit humanity as a whole?
PARKER Being a kid of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle generation, back in the day, when it was so new, we were riveted. We rolled televisions into our classes when I was a kid to make sure we didn’t miss a launch. We knew all the astronauts’ names. We knew their families. It was live television at its best. If you were lucky enough, you got a trip to Cape Canaveral. We built rocket models. The cars at the time all had rocket names, and were all based on looking sleek like a rocket or a missile. That was my early time. Every launch was like Christopher Columbus.
JAMES YOO Yeah. That’s really cool.
PARKER With the advent of the shuttle, and I know now what I didn’t know, having served at STRATCOM, is that space is hard. It’s a hard business. It’s expensive, and it can be unsympathetic, as it was in 1986 and 2003, when two of the Space Shuttles exploded. But most people think it’s routine, and it’s not.
JAMES YOO It’s not at all. That’s really a true statement. Space is really hard, and even people like Elon Musk make it look easy in a way, because they move so fast and do new things like reusable rockets.
PARKER Space is hard. The American public doesn’t have to know all the technology, the GPS, how it affects their banking, and their timing, and their clocks, and when things start and stop. Somehow, though, we have to help them appreciate the benefits to humanity of having satellites and capabilities on orbit.
JAMES YOO I agree. Sixteen years ago, when I took over the magazine, I was a publisher, not a satellite expert. Over these years, I have gained an incredible appreciation for this industry. I now realize the importance of the assets in space for daily living, which we should not take for granted. Also, there’s an underlying theme here of diplomacy, of cooperation, of helping each other.
PARKER It’s the foundation.
JAMES YOO It’s not just the United States we’re talking about. We’re talking about global citizens, countries all over the world, and helping each other. I think this underlying theme is so important, about space being a unifier. I mentioned the Space Station in particular, but I think you’re thinking of it even more broadly, about all of space, the activities and benefits, being a unifier, including your work the Space Foundation and Secure World Foundation. Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
PARKER Only the importance of people like yourself, and magazines, and educating people, including the forums that Secure World Foundation and the Space Foundation, and others in the industry provide for people to get to know each other. I’m seeing more and more, through the years, international engagement with symposiums. I think it becomes a true melting pot, and people will learn from each other.
JAMES YOO I agree. I want you to know we take our role very seriously publishing information that people need to know. Thank you so much for that.
PARKER Thank you, Myrna.