Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Learning to master a lofty frontier

(U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith) PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – More than 2,700 books and a collection of the Jane’s Space System are amongst resources available to students and non-students, but check out privileges are limited to NSSI students. Lt. Col. Simon McDonald, deputy director for the Defence Space Coordinating Office, Strategy and Planning Branch of the Australian Army, browses the stacks in the background.

By Dave Smith

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  —  The National Security Space Institute in the Moorman Space Education and Training Center at Peterson Air Force Base is a relative newcomer to Peterson AFB, opening three years ago.

Since its opening, about 800 space professionals, from a variety of military services and countries of origin, pass through one of two courses held at the NSSI each year. The 18-day Space 200 course is held 15-17 times a year, while the Space 300 course lasts 15 days and is conducted about a dozen times annually. Roughly 30 percent of students are from sister services and the allied nations of Australia, Britain and Canada. Those groups use the courses to certify members as space professionals.

“Students are in sessions almost constantly,” said Jim Moschgat, NSSI deputy commandant.

The courses are by invitation to people in particular careers during specific windows of eligibility. Moschgat said NSSI staff attempt to get a good mix of students for each course and session to increase value of the educational experience.

“One of the strongest points of our course is that we have such great diversity,” he said. “They are exposed to a broader group within the space community and get a better perspective of how they fit into the biggest picture. Some say they get as much from the other students as from the instructors.”

One of the more notable resources at the facility is its resource center where librarian Lee Ann Benkert and academic support administrator Abby VanDeusen preside over about 2,700 books and other space-focused materials. Through Air University and inter-library loans with area institutions, tens of thousands of sources are available for students. Those who are not students may come to the resource center and view materials but cannot check them out.

Because the collection of resource material is highly specialized and students are typically on a limited time schedule, Benkert says staff may be the best offering in the center.

“Our strongest resource is the staff,” she said. “I think that is what connects people with information. It can take 20 minutes to find something or two minutes if they ask us, we save them time.”

“That’s why we are here, to make it easier for students,” VanDeusen added.

Another valuable resource found at the center is the space professional’s reading list. The list is similar to the chief of staff’s reading list, but maintains a space focus. The list was first published in 2010 and has six books recommended by faculty and approved by Col. James Forand, NSSI commandant.

The complete collection of the Jane’s Space System volumes is another important resource available to visitors and students, VanDeusen said. In addition, there are 10 computers available for use at the center.

Lt. Col. Simon McDonald, deputy director for the Defence Space Coordinating Office, Strategy and Planning Branch of the Australian Army, is finishing up the Space 200 course. He said with increases in integrated crews around the globe it is a valuable experience to come to the NSSI.

“Coming to courses like this help out in working together,” he said. “The value goes both ways, it helps us to be aware of what the other sides are bringing to the table because we are working together.”

McDonald praised the course, saying it is well structured and has an impressive level of quality. Another benefit he pointed out, echoing what Moschgat has heard, is the knowledge of fellow students. The staff are well versed in their courses as well.

“The level of knowledge of the instructors is quite outstanding,” he said.

The NSSI is certainly staying busy, but Moschgat says there is room for expansion. There is the potential to open the programs to more allied international partners, for example. He said that there has also been some work on sending out a mobile team to take the courses out upon request.

“But our primary mission is still the classroom,” Moschgat said.

For more information visit the NSSI online at

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