Many years ago, while living in Manhattan, I was trying to figure out ways to meet girls. I don’t really drink alcohol (except as the occasion merits, like a wedding or gala), so bars were pretty much out of the question. I don’t get to do church socials, so there was another swath of society ruled out. I decided to try my luck with civic organizations, figuring I would meet women who cared about their communities and are probably pretty smart. Given my international background, I figured the United Nations Association would be a place to try. Of course, as is true with most civic organizations, it was mostly greyhairs, but I was learning international stuff and got to do stuff at places like UN headquarters so I was pretty okay with it.
At one point, one of the Directors of the NYC chapter invited me out to dinner, where he asked me to consider running for the BoD. The national organization had done an analysis of their membership rolls, and quickly decided to engage in a marketing campaign of having members make bequests to UNA in their will. Turns out most of them had been around when the UN was formed, and there was a dearth of young blood in the ranks. So they were also engaged in a campaign of rejuvenating the organization, and the local chapter wanted some new blood on the Board. Somehow they saw promise in me, and I ended up serving on the BoD for many years. Through UNA-NYC I participated in the charter meeting of the Rotaract Club at the United Nations, which was a terrific experience, and also had a hand in the formation of the UNA-NYC Young Professionals Group, which has expanded to a national initiative through YPIC.
Ken does space stuff because he loves his planet
It was through these organizations that I got to do things like plant flowers in Morningside Park, clean up an elementary school in Queens, play Santa Claus for disabled kids in Harlem, plant trees in the Bronx, collect books for orphans in Haiti, and help organize volunteers for the NY Citywide Model UN each year. My job was to round up volunteers to prepare the briefing books, and chaperon the event. In return, I got to serve as Secretary-General for the General Assembly (GA) meetings, which were held at UN headquarters. I was either Boutros Boutros-Murphy, or Kenni Annan depending on which year we’re talking about. [Full Disclosure: While in high school I won Outstanding Delegate in the Capitol Area Model UN in 1984]
It was in 1999 that I single-handedly wrote the GA Briefing Paper on the Outer Space Treaties (as the funding hadn’t come through until late in the process, and I couldn’t organize volunteers to write a paper for an event that might not happen), which research led me to the Space Generation Forum at UNISPACE III, and then I went to Adult Space Camp and got the Right Stuff medal for my class, then STAIF 2000 with all the cool technology way cooler than finance and credit, and then on to International Space University for a year of Masters studies, and NASA Academy, and ISDC 2007 and the adventure just goes on and on.
One thing I made sure to do after ISU was to join the space advocacy groups that most closely align with my interests. That would be The Moon Society and the National Space Society. My work to date has been largely with NSS and especially our local chapter, NSS of North Texas. Sure I co-chaired the 2007 ISDC, and recently spent two years on the NSS Board of Directors, but I’m most proud of my work locally. I’ve organized a World Space Week event, two Moon Days, done countless outreach displays, initiated our Santa Space Toy Drive which over the last five years has given over 400 outer-space-themed toys to the local Santa’s Helpers program, initiated the Science Fair Scholarship, which has donated $550 over the last two years to projects at the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair, initiated book drives for the play area at the local Frontiers of Flight museum, and many more projects. Our membership level is at least flat, impressive given the number of older members we’ve lost over the last few years. Our chapter has done a lot of work to educate the people of the D/FW metroplex about the importance of space. And the chapter budget is in a much stronger position than it was was when I joined. Enough so that the chapter can commit advertising dollars to the Dallas Mars Society, which is hosting this year’s Mars Society annual conference.
I got a phone call recently from one of the Directors of the Moon Society who was passing through Dallas on his way down to Houston for the Lunar & Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) and who invited me out to dinner. Hmm, where had I seen this scenario before? Long story short, he asked me to consider running for President of the Moon Society.
After consideration, I’ve decided that I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and run for the office of President of the Moon Society.
I think I can make a difference in how the Moon is perceived as an object of importance, not just here in the U.S. but around the world.
My goal is for a much better informed citizenry with regards to the Moon. It’s the same fundamental motivation that led me to put the Lunar Library online. Informing the citizenry means lots of outreach efforts, something with which I am not unfamiliar. It means talks and lectures in small towns and big cities across the U.S. and around the world. It means content for various media.
To that end, the first item on my agenda is to increase the membership numbers. This will be done through a variety of measures, both online and off. As membership numbers increase, this facilitates the formation of more local chapters around the country and around the world. India is a phenomenal example of what the Moon Society can achieve when it comes to forming chapters. These chapters would be tasked with organizing public lectures about our Moon and related topics in their local communities.v
Organizing public events help to develop the skillsets of the members, as well as establish links into the community. Who might speak at these events? Members might reach out to scientists at local universities, Moon-watching astronomers from the local astronomical society, local Solar System Ambassadors with strong Moon interests, and others in the community. Where might these be held? Any town with an airport likely has a flight museum associated therewith. Libraries are another option. Oftentimes restaurants will let you use their community rooms if attendees buy enough food. Science museums and planetariums are yet more possibilities.
Why would they do this? To teach more people about the importance of the Moon. The Moon is humanity’s sandbox for learning how to spread out into the Solar system, how to tap the resources of space, and can serve as an anchor tenant for the development of cislunar space.
What would I bring to the position of Moon Society president? Over 15 years experience with not-for-profit organizations in leadership roles, including a decade in space advocacy. A 20+ year professional background in international business, economics, banking and finance. Global networks of space professionals from Space Generation Forum, International Space University, and NASA Academy. And a passion for and knowledge of the Moon unparalleled in my generation.
I will also bring a strong history of working with other space advocacy groups to advance the common cause of people moving into space to better tap the resources and opportunities that the Solar system offers.
I’ve been told that I was propped up in front of the TV set for the Apollo Moon landings, but my experience is closer to that of the young ladies who won the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation award for their energy bar, who at last year’s ISDC declared “Do you remember Apollo? Well, we don’t!” I don’t either. For me, Apollo is something in history books, and my interest in the Moon has always been forward looking; how can we use the resources of the Moon to make life better here on Earth?
There are many answers, including the use of water to enable increased cislunar activity, and use of regolith to make the structural elements of Solar power satellites in GEO. Even things like shipping raw regolith back to Earth to be used in fertilizers for all of the trace elements.
There is also significant science to be done on the Moon, as many know, and initiatives like the Google Lunar X Prize are offering new avenues to achieving those science ends. Our robotic tools are progressing in their capabilities, and offer increasingly sophisticated solutions. Ultimately it is people living, working and playing on the Moon that is the goal of the Moon Society, and my own as well.
If anyone is curious about how I perceive the road going forward, I just got word that I’ve been approved for a speaking slot at the 2011 ISDC, and so will be giving an abbreviated (25 min. + 5 min questions) version of my infamous “Introduction to Cislunar Space” talk in the Space Settlement track. Not sure which day yet, so stay tuned for updates. I’m also working with NSS on arranging a hospitality room so we can throw a Moon party on Friday or Saturday.
So as every leader must do, I must ask for your support. (or as Heinlein put it: “Follow me!”) Please consider joining the Moon Society, and giving me your vote in the upcoming election. Maybe even stick around, and help make the future happen.