James Kass has never been an astronaut but has worked with spacefarers, land-bound scientists and administrators alike in astronaut training, experiment design, neuropsychology, group dynamics and other aspects of spaceflight. He has consulted for NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the space agencies of Germany, France and Russia, and other organizations.
Specific programs he has been involved in include the Soviet space stations Mir and Salyut, along with Skylab, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. Along with his sister, Kass is also an external advisor to the Mars One project, which hopes to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet by 2023.
Kass firmly believes that humankind should get out of the gravitational field of this planet. "Man wants to take risks," he says. "Why do people climb a cliff when there's an easy footpath? So let's take risks in space. There's always been danger in exploration, but it has proven useful for humankind."
"People claim that it's a waste of money," continues Kass. "But the ESA, for example, spends much less than Europe spends on farm subsidies alone. And the whole space flight budget is far less than the U.S. spent on the Iraq war."
Space projects can unite humanity, he argues. "Despite all the recent tension with Russia, the West is still working with Russia on the International Space Station."
And space exploration is inspirational. "I spent 16 years getting my degrees because of my dream. Today people want to get an MBA and make money, when really they need inspiration." Kass has a BSc from Sir George, an MSc in Physics from the University of Michigan and a PhD in Physics from the University of Leeds.
But money can be a motivator, too. The growth of corporate interest in space, Kass hopes, may be the start of "a very great change." Interest in asteroid mining and other commercial ventures may provoke government space agencies to become more active, he says. "Maybe we're in a change of culture. Where there's a will, there's a way."
James Kass speaks Wednesday, June 3, at 2 p.m. in Room 1.210 of the John Molson School of Business Building (MB), on the Sir George Willams Campus (1450 Guy St.).