In 1979, a trio of visionary aerospace engineers formed The Founders of the World Space Foundation as a nonprofit, nongovernmental testbed to advance innovative scientific and technical research for space exploration. Under the leadership of Robert Staehle, President, the World Space Foundation sponsored pioneering research in Solar Sail technology, which harnesses the radiative power of the Sun to create thrust for space cargo vehicles, as well as asteroid discovery and planetary research projects.

Richard Shope joined World Space to launch Science Education programs (2002) and the Urban Science Corps (2006), to prepare youth to become next generation science scholars through traveling inquiry expeditions and the creative use of mime and theater as science communication media. Energized by new insights gained by looking at Earth from Space, Ecology and Environmental Sciences were added to the central mission (2012).

In 2015, Dr. Richard Shope became the President, with Robert Staehle staying on as President Emeritus. Dr. Shope re-organized World Space into three Divisions to manage and operate its programs: Enterprises, Expeditions, and Productions.