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David C. Webb

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David C. Webb

David Charles Napier Webb is a consultant.

Consultant to government agencies, corporations, universities and nonprofit organizations on various aspects of aerospace development, technology, and education. Government and corporate agencies include: DOD, DARPA, USAF, NASA, Rockwell International, McDonnell Douglas, SAIC, Rocketdyne, Space Services, General Space Corporation, Eagle Engineering, International Space Corporation, Aerospace Industries Association. Universities include: Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, California, Texas, Georgetown, George Washington University, George Mason University, William & Mary, North Carolina, North Dakota, Florida, Central Florida, Embry-Riddle. Non-profit organizations include: The Webb Vocational Institute, Florida and California Space Grant Consortia, Florida Space Research Foundation, Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Space Studies Institute, National Space Society, U.S. Space Foundation, Mid-West Space Development Corporation, others. Activities include consulting to government agencies in national and international technological, economic and policy development issues; to corporations on space commercialization, space remote sensing, political and media issues; to universities on multidisciplinary space curricula development, information technology and 'virtual' program development and multi-university, cross-cultural program issues. Prepared a number of studies, reports, memoranda and presentations on these and other specific requirements.

Developed a widespread network of contacts in the aerospace and high-technology arena in many areas and levels of activity, both nationally and internationally. In the U.S. this includes the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, Congressional Committees on Science, Technology and Space, NASA, DOD, USAF, FAA, JPL, Los Alamos Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Stanford Research Institute, most major aerospace corporations and space organizations. In Europe, ESA, CNES, and corporations such as SEP, Arianespace, DARA, British Aerospace. In Japan, NASDA, ISAS and NAL in government, NEC and Shimizu corporations. In Russia, the Moscow Aviation Institute, some cosmonauts and start-up industries. Additional contacts in the United Nations both in the Outer Space Affairs Division and in the Environmental Program.

Early life and family

David C Webb was born the fifth child and second son of Gordon and Cornelia Mary Webb at the family home, Curraghbawn, near Nenagh, in County Tipperary, Ireland on 20, November, 1928. The Webb family had a passion for adventure, and David was no exception. From the time he could toddle around, he wandered rural Ireland, rejoicing in imaginative games. As a school boy, he excelled in all sports, setting records as a “bowler” in cricket, as a sprinter, and as a swimmer – among other sports! David’s father was a World War I fighter pilot, and his brother Patrick was a flier during World War II. All three Webb sisters, Pamela, April, and Rosemary, also served during WWII. David graduated from public school (Saint Columba's College, Dublin) just as the war was ending. Although he shared his father and brother’s passions for flight, the timing was against him – so many fliers just released from the military service meant that there was no call for trainees.

Partly because he was unable to take his passion for speed to the sky, David found another outlet. He became a highly competitive motorcycle racer. He was good enough at the sport to be offered a chance to “go pro”. Simultaneously, he went to work for Avery Scales, a multinational company in Dublin, where he was a rising star. Both those careers were left behind when he and a group of friends decided to build a boat, sail across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and out to the South Pacific. “We wanted to see those beautiful girls in Samoa,” he recalls.[1] The expedition was organized by famed sailor Tony Jacobs. The group of young men pooled their resources, bought a hull, and spent months building the boat they dubbed the AislingIrish Gaelic for great dreams. On May 2, 1952, David, Tony and their companions – Anthony Blythe and brothers Fionn and Christopher Darby – sailed from Galway Bay, Newspaper articles at the time made many references to the successful young businessman, David Webb, who had given it all up to sail the world. Several months and many exciting ... and frightening moments later, the Aisling and her crew arrived in Puerto Rico, where the American Coast Guard put a halt to their big plans. They never got through the Panama Canal or into the South Pacific. Coast Guard personnel hauled the Aisling out of the water and showed them that the hull was being consumed by parasites. Their rudder was very nearly torn from the boat!

David stayed in Puerto Rico briefly, but was offered the chance to set up a lobster business on Antigua, and accepted. It took the Antiguan locals a while to accept that the lanky Irishman could hold his own as a lobster fisherman. They dove without any gear, often to a depth of 40 feet, to pull the lobsters off the ocean floor. As they saw he could go to the depths with them, however, they accepted him. David spent about a year on Antigua, then hitched a ride aboard a 21-foot sailboat on its way to Canada.


“A Calgary businessman I met in Antigua told me that if I could get to his office in Canada by a certain date, he would guarantee me a job,”[2] David recalls. He walked in on the very date, and went to work immediately, driving “big rigs” over the icy Canadian highways. During the next several years, David enjoyed a lifetime’s worth of amazing activities. He served on the earliest teams that went to the Arctic Circle to build the Distant Early Warning Line. He was there the first day they started “scraping ice” – and the night one entire section of the camp burned.

Another time, he accompanied a geologist as half the team creating the first ever map of the Arctic Red River. The two spent the time in a pair of canoes lashed together, and encountered everything from raging waters to half-mad Moose families and very hungry Grizzly bears and Kodiak bears.


Dr. Webb currently lives in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he continues to press for educational opportunities for members of under-served communities and works towards improving the socio-economic status of individuals and families through the use of Vocational and Technical Educational Programs, Micro Financing and provisions for providing viable business opportunities in order to utilize the education that has been received by Individuals, Corporations and Families.


Returning to civilization in Calgary, David applied to, and was accepted at, McGill University in Montreal. He received his B.A. in Political Science in 1959, and his M.A. in International Relations in 1961. In 1971, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the first graduate of their new doctoral program in International and Development Education. His thesis topic reflected his deep interest in providing educational opportunities for people who may otherwise be under-served or completely neglected. In addition, he was able to use his passion for the space program as a link to other educational options.

Philanthropic and educational advancements

He served as the Director of Research and senior staff member of the J.W. McConnell Foundation, Montreal, the largest philanthropic organization in Canada. Responsible for all grant evaluations at the local, regional, national and international level in the foundation's multi-million dollar annual donations program. Grants were made to organizations globally across the whole spectrum of activity in the technological, educational, cultural, social, economic and health fields. Adequate evaluation required researching needs in each of these major areas, especially in the medical, aerospace, energy, computers, information sciences and environmental sectors. In reviewing 15-20 major requests each month, he learned much about the technical and political issues involved in these and other areas of social concern both nationally and internationally (1967-‘75).

“The Foundation Board of Directors encouraged my involvement in educational, environmental, technological and social issues at all levels,”[3] he remembers. His additional activities included representing the Arctic Institute of North America as official delegate to the First United Nations Conference on the Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, May 2–12, 1972. Under the direction of Maurice Strong (Director-General of the Conference) worked with Barbara Ward and Margaret Meade in organizing the non-governmental agencies' important contributions to this seminal event.

Environmental research

During his time in Canada, David Webb entered into a self-directed research program into the global need for sustainable development activities at the international level and of the technological advances required to aid in this process. This search led to an understanding of the possibilities remote sensing satellites offered for the better management of the Earth’s resources then demonstrated by NASA’s Landsat I satellite. Studying this issue led to the decision to move to Washington, D.C. in order to become involved in the space field (1976–77).

The aerospace industry

Special Advisor on Technical and Economic Issues to the Royal Commission of Inquiry

He was also appointed as Special Advisor on Technical and Economic Issues to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Provision of Education, Health and Social Services in the Province of Quebec (Castonguay-Nepveu Commission). The Commission played a strong role in the emergence of Quebec as a major player in Canada’s advanced science and technological capabilities. This was especially applicable in the aerospace field, as demonstrated by such global entities as Bombardier Aerospace, CAE Simulation Division, Canadian Space Agency, Radarsat Canada and others, all of which are Quebec-based.

Founding Chairman and Trustee Emeritus of the International Space University

Dr. David Webb was also Founding Chairman and Trustee Emeritus of the International Space University. This institution offers ten-week intensive summer courses in a different country each year to 120 highly motivated recent graduate students from around the world. In 1995 it established a permanent campus in Strasbourg, France. Since 1996, It offers a Masters degree in Space Studies on campus as well as the summer program elsewhere. ISU has 25 affiliated university members around the world (1986–present).

University of North Dakota

Webb was recruited by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin to serve as founding full professor and chairman of the Department of Space Studies, Center for Aerospace Sciences, University of North Dakota. There, Webb created and established the world’s first interdisciplinary graduate degree program in Space Studies. He recruited an eclectic founding faculty with Dick Parker handling space medicine and biology, Joanne Gabrynowitcz[4] for space law and policy, Jim Vedda[5] on space commercialization, and Grady Blount[6] anchoring planetary geology and Earth System Science. The broadly based curriculum combines scientific/technical, political/legal, social/psychological and other relevant fields of study into an integrated approach to our understanding of the issues and impacts associated with our entry into space and our attempts to live in and develop this new frontier. After Webb's departure from UND in 1990, the program was taken over by selenologist Chuck Wood,[7] who expanded the program into the first Internet-based degree program in space studies[8] (1993). Space Studies remains one of the largest graduate programs in North Dakota and more than 400 students have completed this program and received their M.Sc. degree.

At UND, Webb and Blount created one of the first fully interdisciplinary Earth System Science programs in the United States. This incorporates, into a single field of study, the usually separate areas of atmospheric, earth and ocean sciences. This was in response to the then-speculative Earth Observing System of remote sensing satellites and integrated data systems. Blount went on to serve on the International Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems which defined many of the data formating and calibration protocols for global environmental monitoring. The pair wrote an eight million dollar grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which funded the construction and establishment of the Earth System Science Institute at UND (1988–89), now known as the Department of Earth System Science and Policy.[9] Webb, Blount and Vedda hosted the first (and only) International Conference on Hypersonic Flight in the 21st Century[10] (1988). Gabrynowitcz went on to found the National Land Remote Sensing Data Archive Advisory Committee and served as a pioneer in the creation of space law and policy, particularly in the area of satellite remote sensing.

UNISPACE and Senior Executive Space Forum Dr. Webb served as Chairman, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) in Consultative Status with the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Vienna Austria, August 9–21, 1982 (UNISPACE 82). He organized a 12-day program with 120 speakers from around the world covering a broad range of topics incorporating most aspects of space exploration and development. Topics included: international satellite communications; technical issues associated with space exploration; energy from and in space from orbiting and lunar-based solar power satellites and free-flying power platforms; a global, U.N. owned and operated remote sensing satellite system that would provide both national security and environmental information to all nations. (1981–82). During the early 1990s, Dr. David Webb served as Chairman of the Senior Executive Space Forum. The Forum is held contemporaneously with the Annual Conference of the U.S. Space Foundation in Colorado Springs. It brings together senior executives from the major aerospace corporations, Members of Congress, Chiefs of Staff, and military advisers of all three armed Services, Directors and senior researchers of the major Federal Research Laboratories and senior management representatives from NASA Headquarters and Centers. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss, openly and frankly, but off-the-record, the goals, objectives, technology development issues and problem areas associated with the U.S. space program.

Scientific and Engineering Council of the Universities Space Research Association

He also served from 1992 through 1996 as one of six members on the Scientific and Engineering Council of the Universities Space Research Association. USRA has 84 university members and works closely with the aerospace industry to outline future technology requirements and advise the federal government of these. In addition, USRA and its associated institutions (e.g., Lunar and Planetary Institute) play a leading role in the space education field and the disposition of government and corporate funds in the aerospace-related scientific and technical fields.

National Commission on Space

In 1985, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a member of the National Commission on Space. The 15-member Commission was mandated by Congress to prepare a bold and visionary fifty-year space agenda for the United States. It included luminaries from many parts of the space program such as Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Chuck Yeager. Before issuing its final report, Pioneering the Space Frontier, the Commission held both public and specialized hearings throughout the nation, nine of which were hosted by Dr. David C Webb. The Commission Report was published by Bantam and had wide circulation

Speaking engagements and papers

During the past 30 years, Dr. Webb has given more than 400 invited presentations and papers on all aspects of space exploration, technology, and development, both nationally and internationally, as keynote speaker, conference leader, panelist and participant in numerous events. These included invited presentations to NASA senior management seminars, in Washington, D.C., Goddard SFC, Lewis (now Glenn) SFC, Marshall SFC in Huntsville, Ames SFC in Palo Alto, CA. Keynote presentations included: International Society of Electric Propulsion Engineers Conference; AIAA/SEP International Propulsion Conference; Batelle Institute International High Speed Flight Conference; USAF Spacecoast 2020 Study; USAF closed meeting (Eglin AFB) on Hypersonic Rail Gun Technologies; IEEE International Conference on Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects; US Department of Energy, National Conference on Mathematics, Science & Engineering Education.

Personal awards and recognition

  • NASA/DOD, National Aero-Space Plane Program: "For Outstanding Vision of the Impact of Hypersonic Technologies on the World Economy and Support of the National Aero-Space Plane Program." (1990).
  • International Space University: "For Outstanding Dedication and Leadership of the International Space University During its Critical Launch Phase 1987-88." (1989).
  • First Frederick E. Osborn Award—International L5 Society: "For leadership in building an international pro-space movement." (1985)
  • Students for the Exploration and Development of Space[11] (SEDS): First Arthur C. Clarke Award, "In recognition of outstanding personal contributions in education towards the peaceful uses of outer space." (1983).[12] (Dr. David C. Webb was the recipient of the Award just before Carl Sagan)


External links

  • The Space Frontier Foundation
  • International Space University
  • Apollo 11 Anniversary at Space Frontier Foundation with tributes to Neal Armstrong
  • Universities Space Research Association
  • A Brief History of the involvement of David Webb with the ISU
  • Dr Webb at the University of North Dakota, Founder of the Space Studies Program Appointed on the recommendation of Buzz Aldrin
  • A report on Coronal Mass Ejections: An on-line review by Dr. David Webb on the NASA website
  • CDAW (Coordinated Data Analysis Workshop) with NASA in 2005
  • Declaration for Space by Dr. David C. Webb on the NASA Website
  • Work with the Space Studies Institute
  • Acknowledgment from NASA for work on the National Commission on Space (NCOS)
  • Presidential Commission of David C Webb from the President Reagan Historical Archives
  • Dr. Webb with SEDS

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