In the early 1980s, John D. Odegard, the Dean of the College of Aerospace Sciences,
invited Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, to come to UND to help
organize a space education program within the college. Aldrin’s contributions
included recommending the appointment of Dr. David Webb, a member of the 1985-1986
Presidential Commission on Space, to design the space studies program and to serve
as the first Chair of the Department. In 1986, Dr. David Webb initiated the founding
of the Department of Space Studies as an integral part of the UND College of Aerospace
Sciences. The first batch of M.S. students were admitted in fall 1987. The original
faculty included Dr. Richard Parker, life sciences; James Vedda, military and commercial
space; Joanne Gabrynowicz, space law and policy; and Dr. Grady Blount, remote sensing
and planetary geology. These original faculty members taught classes on campus and
at the Grand Forks and Minot Air Force Bases.
1987 - 1988 Faculty, from left: Dick Parker, Joanne Gabrynowicz, James Vedda and David Webb
In 1990, Dr. Charles A. Wood, then of the NASA Johnson Space Center, became chair
of the Department and brought several educational innovations to fruition including
increased use of the Internet. By 1996, the Department of Space Studies began offering
classes through distance learning via www.space.edu. Distance learning has been
extremely successful and in 1998 the Department of Space Studies became the largest
master’s degree program at the University of North Dakota.
Today, the Department of Space Studies has approximately 25 M.S. students on campus
and more than 100 students in the distance program. Nearly 700 Master of Science
Degrees in Space Studies have been awarded since the program’s inception in 1987.
Space Studies graduates have careers in a variety of different space-related disciplines
including government, business, science, law, medicine, education, military, and
The Department of Space Studies is also headquarters to two state-wide NASA funded
programs - the ND NASA EPSCoR, which is aimed at enhancing NASA relevant research
capabilities in the state and, North Dakota Space Grant Consortium, which promotes
STEM education at college level in North Dakota through "hands on" student projects,
and provides scholarships and fellowships for students, summer internships at NASA
centers, and seed research.
In fall 2012, the 25th anniversary year of the department, the Ph.D. program in
Aerospace Sciences was established in collaboration with the Department of Aviation.
Future plans include the establishment of an undergraduate degree program in Aerospace
Engineering, in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.