PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 1, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Before October 1957, space flight was a thing of fantasy. Today we are experienced space explorers with unlimited voyages to undertake. Where is space flight's next horizon? What constitutes sensible space investment? How did the space pioneers accomplish their goals? These topics will be addressed at "50 Years in Space: An International Aerospace Conference Celebrating 50 Years of Space Technology," from Sept. 19 to 21 at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The conference is hosted by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), Caltech, the Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories at Caltech (GALCIT) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, space industry pioneers and experts, and representatives from foreign space programs will speak on the history of space exploration, sensible space investment, and the future of space exploration from the perspectives of the aerospace industry, academia, government, and science. The opening keynote speaker is Ronald D. Sugar, chairman and chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman.

"Our speakers represent all the institutions that essentially created and successfully sustained space exploration," said Ares Rosakis, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, and director of Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories at Caltech. He is also co-organizer of the conference with Dwight Streit, vice president of Foundation Technologies for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector.

"This group crosses international and institutional boundaries. Each of our speakers is a preeminent expert in at least one of the many disciplines required for space travel. Their passion for space science and technology will make this conference the definitive observance worldwide commemorating 50 years in space," Streit noted.

"Many technologies developed as a result of space exploration have become integral terrestrial technologies -- and our efforts benefit society in ways completely separate and surprising from their initial impetus. As we look to the future, we will see how this important aspect of aeronautics continues -- especially in the areas of tracking weather changes, global temperatures and greenhouse gasses, as well as the formations of the earth's crust related to seismic activity," Rosakis said.

The launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, began the Space Age. Within weeks, the Ramo-Woodridge Corporation spun-off Space Technology Laboratories (STL) with Dr. Simon Ramo as its president. STL and the Ramo-Woodridge Corporation became part of TRW Inc. in 1958, and then part of Northrop Grumman in 2002.

In 1958, Explorer-1, built by JPL, and Pioneer 1, built by TRW and the first spacecraft launched by NASA, put the U.S. in the space race. Dr. Ramo, the "R" of TRW, earned his Ph.D at Caltech in 1936. TRW's Space and Electronics Group became the Space Technology sector at Northrop Grumman. The president of the company's Space Technology sector, Alexis Livanos (also a Caltech graduate, having earned his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D degrees at Caltech), will give a special tribute to Dr. Ramo, 94, at the conference.

Livanos joins JPL director Charles Elachi (who earned his master's and Ph.D degrees at Caltech), and Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau as conference chairs of the event. Elachi and Chameau will also be speaking.

Caltech alumnus Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, a geologist, one of the last two men to walk on the moon, and a NASA adviser, will be joined by Ed Stone, director emeritus of JPL, and Gentry Lee, chief engineer for Planetary Flight Systems Directorate at JPL, for a "look back" at the accomplishments of the past 50 years, many of which they bravely spearheaded. JPL remains at the center of unmanned planetary exploration and earth observing science.

Representatives of the top-tier space programs around the globe will also be present, including NASA's Griffin, European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, President of Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales Yannick d'Escatha, and Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science Executive Director Hajime Inoue, all of whom will discuss the future of space of exploration.

Miles O'Brien, CNN chief technology and environment correspondent, will moderate a panel discussion titled "Space and the Environment, Sensible Space Investment."

Other distinguished guests include keynote speaker John C. Mather, James Webb Space Telescope senior project scientist; Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO; and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson. Mather was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the areas of black body form, cosmic microwave background radiation and big-bang theory. PayPal creator Musk, whose space-transportation company, SpaceX, opens up a whole new segment of the aerospace industry, will be speaking on a panel discussing the future of space exploration from an industry perspective. Closing keynote speaker Tyson is the recipient of eight honorary doctorates and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2007.

Several speakers will address the aerospace industry's perspective on the future of space flight. These include Musk of SpaceX, David Thompson, chairman and CEO of Orbital Science Corporation; Joanne Maguire, executive vice president, space systems at Lockheed Martin; and David Whelan, corporate vice president, Boeing.

The perspective from academia will come from, among others, Caltech alumna and president of Purdue University France Cordova, and Charles Kennel, the former director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Ronald Sega, Under Secretary, United States Air Force and the Defense Department's Executive Agent for Space, will also speak on the future of space exploration.

Participants will be able to view replicas of spacecrafts, rovers, and satellites. "This is more than a sit and listen event," said Rosakis. "It is an interactive learning experience. Guests will meet and exchange ideas with like-minded people and professionals in between formal presentations. The displays and replicas will also pique the interest of the guests' visual understanding of space exploration. They will be able to understand what the presence of these structures really feels like."

To register, go to http://www.galcit.caltech.edu/space50/ . Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, and there are limited seats available.

Caltech, JPL, Northrop Grumman, California Space Authority employees, Southern California high school and college students and teachers with ID are welcome to attend the talks free of charge, but must register via the website.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Richard Bent
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology
          (310) 812-4215
          richard.bent@ngc.com
  
          Jane Platt 
          Jet Propulsion Laboratory
          Pasadena, Calif.
          (818) 354-0880

          Jill Remy 
          California Institute of Technology
          Pasadena, Calif.
          (626) 395-3226