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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    It's Affirmative: The U.S. Should Increase Its Exploration and/or Development of Space!

    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications

    Debate-Image-150pxA year of debate in the American high school debating community about the future of America’s involvement in space exploration came to a successful close on the afternoon of June 15 at the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Ind. Since September, 2011, students involved in high school debating had been grappling with the resolution: “Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.” In front of a panel of fifteen judges, including three judges from AIAA, the team of Liam Hancock and Jeffrey Ding, representing West High School, from Iowa City, Iowa, upholding the affirmative side of the proposition, defeated the team of Elsa Givan and Nicholas Yan from The College Preparatory School, Oakland, Calif. on a 9 – 6 decision by the judges.

    AIAA members Dr. Lance Bush, President & CEO of the Challenger Learning Center for Space Science; J.R. Edwards, Lockheed Martin Corp., Washington, D.C.; and L. Nicole Smith, John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, served as judges on the panel. The experience was especially poignant for Edwards, as he is a former member of the debate team at Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School, which was the official tournament site and host of this year’s national championship tournament.

    In a very entertaining round of debate, in front of an audience of over 1,000 spectators in the building, and untold thousands around the world watching the livestream broadcast, Hancock and Ding maintained that in order to increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere the United States should fully fund the research laboratory on the International Space Station. Hancok and Ding maintained that by doing so, the U.S. would gain an advantage in vaccine research, which would be needed to stem epidemics, and would also increase international science diplomacy which would aid in diffusing international tensions. Givan and Yan argued that any increased U.S. presence in space would cause China to become more reactive towards the United States, possibly triggering an international incident, and that the U.S. is already supporting the ISS in full. In the end, the judges felt that the risk of China triggering an incident over increased American involvement in space was very low, that funding of the station was not yet as high as it could be otherwise, and that the benefits of vaccine research and increased diplomacy outweighed any disadvantage to not enacting the Affirmative’s proposal.

    Duane Hyland, AIAA Communication Specialist, and himself a national championship high school debate coach, stated that: “This round of debate was everything a debate should be: two well matched teams who took very complex arguments and distilled them to very understandable terms, passionately vying to sway the opinions of 12 debate and 3 technical experts. It is a shame that one team had to lose the contest, as both teams were outstanding.”

    All of the students in the final debate, and several of the debaters and coaches watching the final debate offered perfuse thanks to AIAA and our members, who have spent a year going into classrooms to talk to debaters, fielding research questions from debaters, and traveling across the country to various tournaments to present panel discussions on the multitude of issues presented by the resolution.

    To reward the achievement of both the 1st and 2nd place teams, AIAA presented present specially made plaques to each team. The plaques contained replicas of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the resolution’s wording. They will be displayed in the schools of both teams for some years to come.


    (Pictured: AIAA officials with Liam Hancock and Jeffrey Ding, representing West High School, from Iowa City, Iowa, NFL National Champions in Policy Debate. Left to Right: J.R. Edwards, Lockheed Martin Corp.; L. Nicole Smith, NASA John H. Glenn Research Center; Jeffrey Ding; Liam Hancock; Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications; Dr. Lance Bush, Challenger Education Center for Space Science. Click Image for Larger Version)