New Epoch Speakers
Hisotry In The Making
Proudly Presents:

James E. Van Laak
Jim Van Laak Image
Jim Van Laak has had a broad and challenging career in aerospace systems development, management, and operations.  Ranging from his early career as an Air Force fighter pilot to his leadership of multinational space flight operations, he has developed profound insights into how we can improve cooperation and trust. 

His commitment to building trust proved to be the definitive asset for his illustrious career with NASA.  In the mid 1990’s Jim was apppinted Deputy Program Manager for the Shuttle-Mir Program that flew 7 Americans on the Russian Mir Space Station.  This pioneering program, which brought the Cold War adversaries together in mutual dependence, soon became put  his skills to the ultimate test.  As the program battled to overcome a serious in-flight fire, multiple system failures, and a crippling collision with a re-supply vehicle, tensions and mistrust between the US and Russian teams built to a fever pitch.  Finding opportunity in adversity, Jim forged a new level of trust and understanding between the former Cold War adversaries as the US aided the Russians in their moment of need..

This experience would become a critical advantage needed to hold the fledgling ISS program together.  As the cooperating nations prepared for the launch of the first crew, Jim was able to overcome prejudice and mistrust to make a single operations team spanning many proud nations.  Over the next few years, as the program struggled through its vulnerable early assembly period, this teamwork would prove decisive in addressing numerous technical and operational challenges.  Through crisis and celebration, he brought very different and mutually mistrustful organizations together to form the outstanding human spaceflight team that operates the ISS today.  The proof can be found in the way the Russians stepped in to support the ISS following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident.  Such teamwork was the goal, and it was fully met.

In addition to this space management experience, Jim’s wide-ranging education in technical and humanistic disciplines has given him insights into both the opportunities and limitations of human efforts.  His skills and passion have made him a superb ally in advancing Doris Hamill’s breakthrough work on human purpose and societal development.

Jim is the author of numerous technical papers on space systems development, operations, management, and lessons learned.

Abstract: Society in a Time of Terrorism

Abstract: Hubris and Heroism in Space

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