2010 Metroplex Moon Day Machinations

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Howdy everyone! I’m just taking a break here from my current project, the cobbling together of some kind of coherent program for this year’s Moon Day celebration on July 18th from 1-5 pm at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. That’s right, folks from elsewhere can fly in on Southwest Airlines, spend a couple bucks on a cab to take them around the corner (literally, the museum is at the south end of the runway), bask in all of the space goodness for a few hours, and then fly home in time for dinner.

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The planning is marching ahead nicely for this year’s event, so I thought I’d share a bit of what I guess could be considered something of a systems engineering exercise. These are notes, and I tend to be overly optimistic in my planning with the expectation of many, many fails in the mix. In fact, I’ve already accumulated a few this year.

Last year, the museum’s Program Director, Bruce Bleakley, complained that I was throwing so much stuff at him for the event that it was like a three ring circus. I riposted that no, it was more like a three-ring-squared circus, which would be nine rings of space activity. This actually gave me an idea for organizing this year’s Moon Day on July 18th. I broke down the layout of the museum into zones (or rings) and then laid out the plan for each zone, being careful to avoid overlaps of thematic content.

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Zone 1 is Bruce’s favorite, the auditorium. Seating 200 and with state-of-the-art A/V equipment, this is where we host our big names, to the extent that we can dig up big space names for a non-NASA locale. The first person I approached was Anousheh Ansari, who did a book signing for “My Dream of Stars” at the local independent bookstore Legacy Books up in Plano. I asked her if she would be interested in speaking at our event, to which she answered in the affirmative, and I also suggested that she might consider offering a special award at the annual Science Fair. I didn’t know if either suggestion will work out, but I hoped they both would.

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The next person I approached was Richard Garriott, at the Space Economy Leadership Summit (SELS) earlier this month. He gave me a “maybe, let me check my calendar” response. I sent an e-mail, but haven’t heard back, so the museum is going to take over this one as they can offer perquisites that I don’t have a budget for. In fact, my budget for this event is $0.

It turns out that inviting two relatively local private space travellers to the ISS wasn’t necessarily a good idea. My thinking was that having the two of them would make the event more newsworthy, and offer a unique opportunity for the two of them to interact with the audience. The museum, though, is looking for balance in the content, and having both of them would, in their opinion, not be as good an idea as I thought. The museum is going to sort that little mess out. Oops.

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The last speaker for the day will hopefully be local Starman Ron DiIulio, one of the local Solar System Ambassadors. Last year’s presentation was really well received, as was the asteroid door prize, and so the museum has him as a priority for the event. Unfortunately, this year I have to now ask everyone I approach about the event for a door prize. Sucks for me, but should be really, really good for the attendees. I’ve already got autographed copies of Brian Fies’ “Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow” and Robert Black’s “Lunar Pioneers“.

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So that’s the glamorous stuff. Not quite so glamorous is Zone 2, the upstairs conference rooms. We make these into a single classroom, and get some folks to talk about grown-up space stuff that would bore the bejeesus out of younger attendees. Figure a junior college/university level type of talk. Last year we had Dr. James Carter talk about his formulation of regolith simulant used in abundant quantities by NASA, as well as Dr. John Hoffman, who had instruments on Mars, and was involved in the Lunar atmosphere experiments during Apollo.

This year I’ve blocked for three classes. For the first talk I’m trying to get a local meteorite hunter to talk about his experiences and how to look for meteorites. I met McCartney Taylor at a Mensa conference where we both gave space presentations, and he runs the Texas Meteorite Laboratory down in Austin. His talk will book-end nicely with Starman’s talk on meteorites in the auditorium at the end of the afternoon. Ron’s talk is going to be geared more towards how meteorites came to be and why we find them, compared with McCartney’s talk on how to hunt meteorites. McCartney will then spend the rest of the afternoon at a table on the main floor where he’ll have meteorites for sale. He’s just got to check his calendar.

The middle class will hopefully be someone that the museum knows, a cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center and space medicine enthusiast. I had been trying to find someone in the area who could talk about Space Medicine, and it turns out the museum may have had it covered. This is an area that doesn’t get as much coverage as it should, and so I really wanted the ISS-themed content in the classroom to be on that topic.

For the last class of the day I want to cover rocket motors. We’re going to have a rocket building class, so it would be cool to have a lecture on real rockets they could attend afterwards. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can work something out with Armadillo or SpaceX.

Zone 3 is the hallway and the mezzanine it leads to that overlooks the main floor. For the hallway we’re actually going to get an early start. The museum has asked me to have my Lunar art show ready the beginning of June, because they intend to leverage that for publicity for Moon Day. All of a sudden I have to finish getting stuff framed, and the local frame shop has gotten backed up. Plus I’m going to be out of town for the next two weeks to head up to the Space Investment Summit and International Space Development Conference in Chicago next week. That means the soonest I can hope to have it up is the first weekend in June, and I still need to catalogue everything.

The collection is from the Lunar Library, and will be about 20-25 pieces all told, breaking down into three broad themes:

-the Lunar surface
-Lunar tourism
-Lunar Industry

The Lunar surface will be pieces like the framed Lunar Quadrant Maps, “The Dark Side of the Moon“, and a poster of the program cover from “Dans les champs des etoiles“. Then there will be some showing rockets headed for the Moon, and some showing landings and folks getting out and exploring. This section will be things like “Lunar Adventures” and the cover from “Thrilling Wonder Stories”. Eventually you move to industry, and so I have a Lunar greenhouse, and some action shots of Moonbases. Some items are geared more towards kids, and will be hung at a lower level. Things like “The Ultimate Sandbox” and “One Small Step“. The last two items are Plinius Cemetary and one whose name I have to track down showing an image of footprints leading to the Lunar horizon, with a backdrop bespeckled with the stars twinkling in infinity. I think it was from “In the Stream of Stars”. I’ve also got a secret piece that I’m working on to add to the event.

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So that art show is going to be put on the local online art calendars and on the FoF website, which will draw people who can then be told about the Moon Day event. The big problem I’m having right now is coming up with a name for the show. It’s going to be “Something Something: Art from the Lunar Library”. I get stuff like Ars Selenica and Explorer’s Moon and so on bouncing around in my brain and none of it quite fits and falls into place. Any suggestions would be welcome in the comments, and should I select one I’ll send something from the Lunar Library like an extra copy of “Jour J: Les Russes sur La Lune“. I do have English language books as well.

For the open mezzanine area in Zone 3 I’ve suggested that the museum contact NASA about getting some exhibit panels on things like space food, ISS and meteorites. This is another relatively simple away to fill floorspace with space stuff.

Zone 4 is the downstairs classrooms where we’ll hold the kids classes. Local astronomy professor Chaz Hafey is going to hold a couple of classes. Last year he did the Lunar Sample Disks from JSC, and I’m hoping he’ll do the same again this year, but he does have a long pedigree in space education and outreach so I don’t want to limit him. I am going to have to pin him down on something at some point in the not too distant future.

The other classroom is being turned over to local Civil Air Patrol/Solar System Ambassador/NSS-NT member Cynthia Whisennand for her Toys in Space program. Last year she held it at a table, which was a bit awkward when a crowd built up in the through traffic of the displays. Having a classroom will let her stretch her wings a bit and focus on the kids.

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Zone 5 is the kids area. I was hoping to use the play area, but the museum hosts birthday parties, and they pay for priority access to the play area. Looks like this one is going to get pushed off closer to the SR-71 cockpit trainer. What I envision for this area is picture book readings, arts & crafts, and things like crater-making and balloon rockets. My plan is to line up two or three NSS-NT chapter members to run this area.

Zone 6 is the workshop, where the local Dallas Area Rocket Society (DARS) has already agreed to conduct a rocket building class in the area where the museum builds its models. There is an extra fee for this class, but it’s structured so that participants get a rocket and one year membership in DARS. Plus, if they want to launch their brand new rockets they have to go to one of DARS’ monthly launches up in Frisco unless they find other accommodations. The workshop is like a fishbowl with windowed sides so that all of the attendees will get a chance to check out the young rocketeers.

Zone 7 is the main floor with all of the displays and booths, and really my main responsibility. Already lined up for displays are:

NSS of North Texas – 6 tables, two each on ISS/Tech Transfer, Asteroids, and the Moon.
DARS – at least two tables
Dallas Mars Society – at least one table, probably more, because they’re hoping to make a bid to host the 2011 Mars Society annual conference in Dallas. NSS-NT is going to be supporting them in this, just as they supported NSS-NT during the 2007 ISDC in Dallas.
Astronaut Training Center – at least one table, plus possibly a floater chair that rides on compressed air to illustrate Newton’s Laws. There aren’t just indemnification issues, but also acoustic issues from running an air compressor motor inside a big hangar.
UTA Planetarium will once again have a table to sign folks up for their monthly Starry Messenger newsletter.

There are a lot of other feelers out as well, and some yet to be sent out. I have gotten one rejection, from the Monnig Meteorite Gallery, but they always have something else going on during my events so this wasn’t unexpected, but you still have to go through the motions.

The Noble Planetarium over in Fort Worth re-opened recently after an upgrade, so I want to invite them. The Planetarium at Fair Park is a venerable institution, and they do have a portable StarLab in which I’m definitely interested. UNT also has a planetarium, as does the town of Garland for their schools, and the St. Mark’s Academy in Dallas for their students. Richland College is in the process of giving their long closed planetarium a makeover as the new Buzz Aldrin Planetarium. So this is a rich field to mine here in the metroplex in regards to planetariums.

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We’re also trying to line up vendors for the event. I’ve already mentioned that the Texas Meteorite Laboratory down in Austin is interested in a table to sell meteorites. I’m talking to someone about having math & science t-shirts for sale, and the museum is going to be talking to Dallas-headquartered Half-Price Books (HPB) to see about having them bring a whole bunch of space books to the event to sell. I’m also going to try to contact the local The Observatory to see if they want to have a booth again. Their participation last year wasn’t particularly fruitful for them, so this one is 50/50.

I’ve sent out a lot of requests for materials, but have many more to go. These will take two forms – general distribution handouts for the main floor, and special stuff for the ‘Lunar Sample Bag’ that each youngster gets for attending the event. It will be stuffed with things geared toward a younger audience – stickers, bookmarks, posters, and so on. Last year, since we had no budget, the sample bags were white kitchen garbage bags, because they were ultra cheap per unit and large enough to contain even the posters. I want to do better this year, so I am making some special requests to see if I can get some funding to print up some tote bags with ‘Lunar Sample Bag’ and the corporate logo on them. Wish I could do it myself, but most folks won’t take $0 (my budget) for their goods or services.

On the corporate side, I’ve got a “let us think about it and we’ll get back to you” from Armadillo Aerospace, who just had a really nice write-up in the local Dallas Observer (a fine free alternative to the local daily). I managed to corner Ken Bowersox of SpaceX at the SELS conference, who indicated that it was totally unlikely that SpaceX would be willing to throw a rocket motor in the back of a pick-up and haul it all the way from McGregor to Dallas to show off. The stuff down there is all operational equipment, slated for actual use and so not available for gallivanting around North Texas. I’m still hoping to get a speaker about rocket motors from them. There are a couple of other space companies in Texas I’ve approached, but they’re a little farther afield.

At the Summit

The museum already has a bunch of space stuff, so they’ll have their ‘Dr. Apollo’ giving explanations about the inside of the Apollo 7 capsule, there’s a Moon Walk exhibit to wander through, as well as display cases of artifacts, some Beal Aerospace relics, and even a model of the Sputnik hanging from the rafters.

Zone 8 is outside. I’d like to plant a Moon Tree at the museum for the event, but I’m also thinking that the middle of summer in Texas might not be the best time to plant a sapling. When the Texas Astronomical Society comes on board they will probably have telescopes with Solar filters out front. Unfortunately the last quarter Moon will have set before the festivities kick off at 1pm.

My big wish is that we can get the NASA ISS trailers, which would actually be parked there for a couple of weeks. Having that at the Moon Day event would just thoroughly overrun my personal goal of 1,000 attendees this year.

So there you have it, eight zones of chaotic space goodness. What’s amazing is that if you trust that everyone knows what they’re doing, and don’t get in the way of them doing it, then most of the time you’re right. There will be flubs. It happens and can’t be avoided no matter how much forethought and planning one puts into an event.

Planning and forethought, like wait, where’s the Moon stuff?

Zone:
1: ISS, ?, Asteroids
2: Asteroids, ISS, Rockets
3: Lunar art, Asteroids, ISS
4: Moon, ISS
5: Moon, Rockets
6: Rockets
7: ISS, Asteroids, Moon, Mars, Rockets, Apollo, Astronomy
8: Moon?, Sun, ISS?

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So if it’s Moon Day, shouldn’t there be a lot more Moon stuff? The big blank is the question mark in the middle session in the auditorium. We’re unlikely to find a big name Moon person up here in the non-NASA hinterlands of North Texas. Unless Alan Bean decides to pop out of the studio, though frankly this isn’t an Apollo decadal anniversary so I’d like to focus on forward looking stuff like space commercialization.

I do see where there could be concerns about being overbalanced towards ISS subject matter, but I’m okay with that because I like the ISS and I think it will become a useful tool before it’s done. I also know that the delta-V to EML-1 from an ISS orbit is the same as for a station in a lower inclination orbit, which allows for some degree of transport standardization, even if one uses a free-return cycler, and so the ISS isn’t necessarily an albatross tied around the neck of NASA, even if there are plenty of people willing to proclaim it as such.

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I could give a talk on cislunar space and the Moon, but no one knows who I am or why they should listen to me, so the museum is concerned that approximately 99% (or more) of the 200 seats in the auditorium would go unfilled were I to do so. Probably a valid concern, though I’d like to think it would be closer to 95% vacant.

The NASA Lunar Science Institute has just joined up with a couple boxes of materials, although they are concerned about getting materials specifically to educators. I had to tell them that if someone self-identifies as an educator at one of our displays then we can hook them up, but unless they say something then we have no idea. The McDonald Observatory is also going to be sending some nice postcards for the Lunar Sample Bags.

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Marketing of the event is going to kick off in early June once the art show is up, and will be a splash on the museum’s website. I then have to go around to all of the major online event calendars and post the event, with a pointer to the museum’s website. We’re going to print up a bunch of 8.5×11 mini-posters and try to get all of the members of the participating organizations to each post one at a library or used bookstore or record shop or anywhere else they can find a community bulletin board. Libraries are the big one here, as that’s the kind of self-motivated audience we’re looking for.

I may to try to see about getting announcements on local radio stations. Back in the early 90s when I was a volunteer DJ (DJ Ken) on WBER 90.5 FM (The Only Station That Matters) in upstate New York we used to have to read announcements and community calendar stuff every twenty minutes. I guess I’ll have to check around the bottom end of the dial here in the metroplex to see if anyone still does that kind of public service stuff.

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My big secret wish is to get a show on KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd. Back in 2007 when we had the ISDC here I kind of forced the issue with NSS HQ to get George Whitesides on the show to talk about the conference. Which he did, sort of. My intent was to have him mention that the ISDC was open to the public and that Day Passes were available, though that message didn’t get conveyed. They also got a show immediately after the conference with Rusty Schweickart to talk about his B612 Foundation. So there is some precedent. My guess is that they’ll have Bruce on, and perhaps myself (I do have a face for radio), though I’ve already asked Starman if he would be the standby in case they want someone actually important in the local space community to be on the show.

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And that, in a nutshell, is how I put together a public outreach space event that’s fun for everyone. It’s not entirely a flawless process, but the end result should work out well. I am seeing a certain receptiveness to sending outreach materials that I haven’t seen much before, and a lot more folks seem much more approachable about helping out. My hope is that this is in part a recognition that this is a local community grassroots effort. I suppose that makes me something of a ‘community organizer’, although that’s not an appellation I would use myself. I just like to think of myself as a Moon guy who wants his community to know a lot more about space and how important it can be for our economy, and Moon Day is a good way to do it.

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