ISDC 2011 Debrief

Howdy everyone!

I’m safely back from the road trip to this year’s ISDC in Huntsville, AL. My agenda this year was a little more complicated than in years past:

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1) Continue building the Lunar Library
2) Make concrete strides in establishing self as Gen X Moon guy
3) Not screw up my presentation
4) Achieve The Moon Society goals
5) Throw a great party

Tuesday was the drive in. About 10 hours, not too bad. About the same as the drive up to Albquerque to see Mom. Since I was driving I had loaded up the car with goodies for the trip – handout materials for The Moon Society display, Moon-themed alcohol (more on that anon), and stuff for the party. Far more than I could have taken on a plane…

Wednesday was the Space Investment Summit (SIS). I tried to get motivated to go early, but instead spent the morning cruising Huntsville bookstores looking for new additions to the Lunar Library to tackle objective one. The BookLegger, just down the street from my hotel, turned out to be the best of the lot. The rest were either laden with bodice-rippers, or, like Five Points Books, closed. Still, I was happier with the finds at one place in Huntsville than in my entire search across the L.A. basin last month after the Space Tourism Society anniversary dinner for Dennis Tito.

I got to the SIS early in the afternoon, and quickly saw that things have not been progressing much with regards to investment activity. Here’s what I’d like to see:

I have 401K money that is sitting in cash. I refuse to invest in what I view to be corrupted markets, but I would dearly love to invest in some of these new space companies and get cash into projects like Lunabots and sticky-booms.

However, since I am not a “Qualified Investor”, I am not able to do so with my personal investment monies. I may do “Qualified Investor”-level work at the bank, but that does not mean that I personally have the wherewithal either income or asset-wise to put my investment money in anything other than mutual funds and publicly-traded stocks and bonds. I want to put my money where my mouth is, but our current rules and regulations do not permit such a thing.

So I’ve been trying to think of ways to allow individual investors to mutually pool their money into some sort of fund that can invest in non-publicly-traded companies. The best I’ve been able to come up with is a Trust that would hold the actual equity or debt investments. This Trust would register as a publicly-traded company that makes investments in “NewSpace” companies, as well as non-traditional investments like funding a particularly promising CubeSat in return for all commercial and IP rights. (an issue the Google Lunar X Prize contestants are wrestling with right now)

Though a publicly-traded company, all of the shares would be held by the Fund, which assets are offset by the liabilities of the investments by individual investors and pension and mutual funds in the Fund. The Fund itself would be publicly-traded, which ticker I would buy with my 401K money which is currently earning peanuts, but is at least hedged against principal loss by being in cash.

Other investors of a like mind would also buy into the fund. It would probably have to be set up something like a money market fund, with an NAV of $1 so that the total amount of shares outstanding solely reflects the pool of money invested by the Trust in space companies. But then how do you pass through losses?

This is probably too transparent a structure for the Feds, so it would likely not work. Plus you’d have to fend off all of the lawsuits from entrenched powers that be that don’t like threats to the status quo, even if that status quo is leading us on a road to poverty. So the fundamental issue remains unaddressed: How do we get money from average investors to the space sector to accelerate developments? (and without ending up in the kind of tech bubble we saw in the 90s where capital is squandered and malinvested in really bad ideas)

I did, however, get a chance to speak briefly with Richard Phillips, who ran the Space Economy Leadership Summit (SELS) a little while back down in Austin. He had expressed an interest in taking the SELS model around the country as a means of trying to hook up more venture capital money with the space sector. I suggested he instead take it around Texas to help drum up support for the industry in the state. The reason I was so anxious to speak with him was that one of NSS of NT‘s best event partners, the UT Arlington Planetarium, was interested in participating in a Moon Day event this year, and so I’ve committed to organizing the event. I’m getting a much lighter level of interest from the usual exhibitors, so one way to work around that is to add some kind of business track to supplement the family exhibits.

This is not as oddball as it sounds. Rick Tumlinson recently got the ball rolling on the Texas Space Alliance (TXA), and has agreed to have someone from TXA (and possibly himself) up for the event. There is a lot more space industry in Texas than most people realize, with companies like Armadillo Aerospace, SpaceX, Paragon SDC, AstroTech, Oceaneering, Wyle Labs, Blue Origin and many others having operations here in the state. Now if I could just get them to start showing off their stuff so that people can see that yes, this is a real industry with real American hardware being produced. We’re at the time when the space industry version of air shows is going to be a very, very good and important thing, as it gives people hope in dark economic times that there are still things this nation can do better than anyone else (at least for the moment). People need to see that, which means that stuff needs to be shown off. Like at Moon Day… Mr. Phillips said he would see what he could do to help.

Also calling for my attention was an ISU-USA alumni workshop. There were a half-dozen or so alumni at the conference, and the new president of the ISU-USA alumni association, Michael Laine, was looking for ideas on how to revive what has generally been a rather moribund organization. A few of the problems are things like international alumni not knowing that they are welcome to be part of ISU-USA while they are here and help enrich the organization’s activities, or where to find alumni, as e-mail lists fall out of date, data gets lost, and people move on, or what the role of the social networks like LinkedIn should be.

Unable to solve all the problems in one fell swoop, we did what all good alumni do – went out to a dinner party instead. Great camaraderie was had by all, and now we knew who each other were for the rest of the conference. Which was good, as Angela was in charge of the hospitality suites and she struck me as a no-nonsense type. She immediately knew how to manage me and my party, and was even sweet enough to call me problem child.

Thursday was my big day. My speaking gig was at 3pm, so I was able to roll in at a decent hour. Most of the morning was spent setting up The Moon Society’s booth (a last minute freebie from the organizers), and I got to enjoy the lunch talk by Owen and Richard Garriott. I disagree with Owen that the government should choose one or two vehicles and focus on those, and much rather prefer that there be 5+ options and the market, in the form of those who purchase the vehicles, provides the solution. He seems to be falling into the trap of ‘only NASA as a customer for human spaceflight’ thinking, though his own son disproves that notion.

Interestingly, I happened to be seated next to a reporter from the Huntsville Times. So I grilled him.

Last week, I gave a talk about the Moon to an elementary school up in Plano. While getting set up beforehand, one of the teachers came up and asked what was happening with NASA. The reason she asked, she said, was because her elementary school students were coming up to her and asking why it was that the Shuttle was going away and NASA ending?

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Think about that for a second. Little kids are getting the message that there is going to be no more space stuff. NASA is ending. That is the distilled essence of what they get from their peers, parents, teachers and -media-. Why was it, I asked the reporter, that this is the message that kids are getting from the media?

He hemmed and hawed a bit about Congress, and National Priorities, and Policy, so I had to pin him down. Luckily, the lovely young redhead from the Space Frontier Foundation seated on my other side, N_______, chimed in that she had been getting the same question, ‘why was NASA ending?’, from folks in her peer group (early 20s) who aren’t space junkies like we are and don’t know any better.

Can there be any more heartbreaking question from a kid than

“Why aren’t we going to do space stuff anymore?”

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The reporter couldn’t answer the question. Maybe he understands a bit better that the media is doing an abysmal job of informing the public of what is going on, or maybe I just pissed him off. Whatever. FWIW, I explained to the teacher last week how things got to where they are now, from Columbia disintegrating in the skies above our state, to the VSE and decision to wind down the shuttle program, to the CE&R studies of 2004, to ESAS and ARES and their eventual cancellation (and why), how Congress is currently mandating that NASA build it a ginormous rocket, and how private industry is working hard to provide not one, not two, but three launch vehicles as well as near half-a-dozen different crew vehicles. So there is actually great reason for optimism, and her students have very exciting things to look forward to in the future.

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Thursday afternoon was back to getting the Space-Based Solar Power display put up at The Moon Society table. One of the things advocated by TMS is that as much of SBSP as makes sense should be derived from Lunar materials. These would be low-value-added products like extruded girders, trusses, solar cells, those sorts of basic things. And wandering around the exhibit hall to see what kinds of goodies were available, as well as taking a load or two of party stuff up to the hospitality suite.

3pm was getting close, so I headed up to Salon 5, just in time to see the end of Gordon Woodcock’s presentation. Holy guacamole! I’m supposed to follow Gordon Woodcock? WTF?

For those who don’t know why this existential crisis was descending upon me, Gordon is one of the old school Moon guys. He’s got papers in many, many of the books in the Lunar Library. If you’re talking about doing a Moon base, he’s one of the guys you’d want on your team. He’s one of the folks in the Lunar Underground, that kept the selenian flame burning at NASA during the long dark years of Faster! Better! Cheaper! and Mars uber alles! (a/k/a Mars is The Goal), and a planetary science community that basically considers itself (mistakenly in my view) done with learning anything from the Moon.

So, tough act to follow, and I only have 25 minutes to do a 50+ minute presentation. Which I manage somehow to achieve, with a few questions at the end. It’s the same presentation I gave to the kids the week prior, but with the scripting stepped up a few notches for a much more learned audience. Afterwards I stepped out into the hall, and who should Gordon be talking to but Paul Spudis? Who it turns out had also seen my presentation. Dr. Woodcock gave me a thumbs up, good job, and Paul, being the good Moon mentor, noted that “there are a couple of mistakes I need to get with you on, but, fundamentally, a good job.”

Wow. What higher praise can a Moon guy get? Sweet as.

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This put a nice warm glow on my evening beer run as I raced to get the hospitality suite set up for the Moon party that night. As one approached the suite, one would see my “Lunar Adventures: See the world in a whole new way” framed poster sitting on a tripod outside the door. As one entered, immediately to the left and behind the door, were the Moon movies. Postcards from the Future looped a few times, and then it was on to classics like Plymouth and Murder by Moonlight. On the left wall was a -large- printout of the oblique view of Copernicus crater. Chris Carson of Luna City had done this for the original photo, but got a LOIRP restored version for the new one from Dennis Wingo. Most excellent. Further down the left wall was the kitchenette area, with a counter facing the front of the room and a bar facing the back, and very little room to maneuver in between.

For libations I had arranged for cases of Blue Moon and Honey Moon beer, as well as a six-pack of an oatmeal stout that had a crescent Man in the Moon face on it, and which was my emergency stash for later. There were seven bottles of wine, including Luna di Luna, Spellbound, Luna, Astrolabe, Luna e Stellae, and one more I can’t remember but which also had a Moon theme. And then there were the liquors. Green Moon absinthe-flavored vodka. Midnight Moon Carolina moonshine. Lunazul tequila. Magic Moon orange liquer. Moon Mountain wild raspberry vodka. You get the picture.

The beer ran out at 10pm. I had left on a beer run at 9:30, but the directions were missing one key element, and by the time I was crossing narrow bridges with trees growing overhead I knew I needed to get back to the party and that there was no way I was going to be able to get more beer in a decent timeframe. The wine ran out next, then the liquor. Every drop was consumed, and then many folks wandered up to the SFF suite to drink their booze.

Back behind the bar was a love seat/chair/table arrangement where I had put out all of the new LEGOs for folks to play with, and a lamp with a black light bulb. Moving to the right side of the suite in the back was the bedroom area. Here I had a flat screen showing Moon documentaries. I had brought several with me, but got so caught up in the party that Direct from the Moon ended up looping all night. There was a blacklight in the bathroom.

Coming back to the open front area, there was a sofa and chair with side tables and a coffee table. There was a GameBoy with Lunar Lander and a Nintendo DS with Moon ready to play, and glow sticks available on the table (very popular – so much so that SFF got some for Friday night). The lamps had faux black lightbulbs in them, and there were also miscellaneous trading cards laying around for folks to take.

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I didn’t hear any complaints about the party, other than, you know, Rick shouting for my head when the beer ran out. (just kidding) So I consider it a success. The best compliment came when someone noted later that Apollo was conspicuous by its absence from the party. Mission accomplished!

What was most edifying was how many youngsters were there. SEDS, ISU, SFF, Yuri’s Night, and even the NASA Academy. Special thanks to Omar (one of my charges at the 2002 Goddard Academy) and Nick for bringing the NASA Academy folks out. Not just Thursday night, but Friday for the SFF party and Saturday for the SEDS party as well. One of my objectives for throwing the party was to recruit some younger folks to The Moon Society, which is proving a hard sell. Many of them have experience with joining all sorts of things in college or right out of college, and everyone asking them for money and time and skills and they burn out quick on the whole joining organizations thing.

This is emblematic of a larger societal problem facing many organizations in many industries, and one that boils down to demographics. The Baby Boomers are a huge generation, outnumbering Gen Xers by nearly 2 to 1. The Baby Boomers are notorious for not grooming their successors, and so when companies and organizations get to the point where people start retiring from being active in any particular activity, there’s no one to take over and continue the work of the organization. So they scramble to try to find someone. Except there are only half as many Gen Xers around, and they move in entirely different social circles, so they’re hard to find. Latch key kids grew into latch key adults, and we’ve got our own projects and activities that we’re working on, thank you very much. What exactly is our motivation for working towards your goals?

So the answer that I’ve come up with is to have cool projects to work on. Remember, younger folks have been raised in more team-oriented environments, working together towards success. This is great for projects, and TMS has plenty of them. TMS recently received a bequest to be applied towards projects. Two have come up that hold particular appeal for the organization: a solar-sail comm sat for Lunar orbit, and a lava tube exploration analogue. I gotta tell ya, when I mentioned lava tube exploration, I saw eyes light up. It was only recently that it was pointed out to me that since the lava flows had occurred in successive layers over millions of years, there were likely lava tubes in multiple layers. The challenge is how do you send a robot down a skylight to explore. There’s going to be a messy cone of scree under the skylight, and any exploring is going to be done at a right angle to it. It would be interesting to rappel in a spacesuit down a lava tube skylight.

Other ideas are to have chapters and outposts arrange for Moon talks in their communities, and raise money for science fair scholarships for space projects.

Murphy’s Law continued to flog me after the party was over. I’d run low on beer because I had made the mistake of letting folks start early, before the official 9:30pm start. By which point most of the beer was gone. Now at 2:30 in the morning I discover that the skybridge to the Von Braun Center (VBC) has been locked up, and I have to hike around the VBC to get into the parking garage. Which it turns out has been locked up and I can’t get to my car (legally), and couldn’t get out even if I did. So it turns out I’m crashing in the hospitality suite for the night, or what’s left of it.

Friday morning I’m up with the Sun, as I’m going to be speaking to the international students at 10, and I’ve got to get back to my hotel and shower and change. I’m back with time to spare, which is good because the room is still locked. Having chaired an ISDC myself, I knew exactly what to do – go search for someone who worked there. They were unlocking the doors by the time I got back. Since they were still setting up the A/V & computer I equipment I volunteered to go first, since I needed neither. So with a stiff cup of coffee in hand, I dove into it.

The point of my talk, I was told, was to give the basics of setting up and running a chapter. I pointed out the many different organizations that already exist, like NSS, The Moon Society, The Mars Society, SFF, SGAC, and SEDS. Forming a club associated with one of these organizations allows you to leverage off of their structure, as Moon Society – India has done. You can always strike out on your own, though. I talked about different kinds of projects that can be undertaken in the community to help get the space message out. And I laid a quote on them from a Sci-Fi book. IIRC, Moonrise by Ben Bova.

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

Because seriously, if you don’t step up to the plate and make things happen, then nothing will happen. And history only happens to those who show up. If you want to have a space club, then make it happen. Don’t wait for someone else to do it, because they won’t. FWIW, this is also a way that future leaders are unveiled.

With that, my obligations for the conference were over and I could sit back and relax, or so I thought. I decided to take a closer look at the book table and see what I could find, having already espyed a copy of “Somebody Else is on the Moon”, which the Lunar Library has in paperback, but not hardcover. Chatting with the gentleman behind the counter, it turns out that he is Five Point Books, which closed when the landlord tried to jack up the rent on the PoS clapboard house converted into a business with a paved front lawn in a gentrifying neighborhood, and went virtual instead. Hopefully my purchases helped in that endeavour. And where else but an ISDC would you find a banker talking to a poet about space books?

The Friday luncheon was an eye-opener with Dr. Spudis. He’s really coming around to the idea of not just sprinting to the Moon first and then backfilling cislunar space, but developing cislunar space in a way that facilitates getting back to the Moon, especially with the right transport architecture, which can be leveraged to accelerate cislunar (and translunar) development. There’s a lot of work to be done in cislunar space that has nothing to do with the Moon, something I highlight in my talk, but having the resources of the Moon available in cislunar space greatly facilitates further growth. It was when he said something along the lines of “we have to work together to climb out of the cradle” that I threw my arms up in a silent Yes! Why, you ask? Just scroll to the top of the page.

Cislunar space is where it’s at, folks. It’s where the development is going to happen. It’s where the LEO space and gas stations are going to be. My guess is at 0°, 28°, 40-42°, and 51.6°, corresponding to equatorial, Kennedy, most US spaceports, and ISS inclinations. The next destination is EML-1, which is 3.77 km/s delta-V (approx.) from all of those LEO inclinations, which means even the ISS can be used as a platform for stepping out to EML-1. Actually, if you put gas stations in LEO, EML-1, and on the Moon, 4 km/s will either get you to the next gas station, or to/from many destinations of interest. It’s where the GEO broadcast and power platforms are going to be located (and where we really need to send a garbage crew). It’s the L-5 point where NSS and others would eventually like to see space colonies.

After the luncheon I was trying to get away so I could take a nap at my hotel and be rested and refreshed for the rest of the day, but that was not to be. Alvin over at Moonandback had seen my presentation the prior day and wanted to do an interview. I kept getting questions about one of the images in my presentation, and whether or not it was going to be online. Unfortunately, there is enough copyrighted material in the presentation that while I can claim fair use in a talk, distributing it online is just asking for trouble. Alvin’s going to be using some of the slides in the interview when he posts it online.

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The image everyone kept asking about is one I’ve used previously here at OotC, and is from one of the books I picked up at the Xinhua Bookstore by the Forbidden Palace during a business trip to Beijing. What struck me was the number of young men hanging out in the aisles of the book store poring over the engineering books. I was able to pick up about a dozen Moon-related titles while there, and so have access to a vast plethora of information (in a language I can’t read) about China and the Moon. Want to know what their Moon plans are? Here you go:

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My basic understanding is that they’re working on five-year plans. Chang’e-1 was in 07, so I would expect the Moon rover sometime around the end of 2012, and the sample return by the end of 2017. I wouldn’t try to pin them to a specific date, as they will launch when they are ready to do so, not when outsiders expect them to. Failure of the mission would cause the Chinese, in their view, to incur loss of face. They’re not too hip on that, so they’ll launch when they feel they have the maximum likelihood of success.

After the interview I did get to retire to my hotel for a nap. I wasn’t going to the gala, so I just kicked about town for a bit before heading back downtown for the SFF party. Since I wasn’t going to be parking in the VBC again, I tried the Holiday Inn across the road from the conference hotel. I was staying at a sister hotel up on University, so I asked if I could borrow a parking spot off in the corner. The manager was a bit surprised that I even asked for permission, but said okay, no prob. I’ve generally found that being courteous and asking for permission generally helps smooth things much better than the situational ethics version of “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” (or put another way, a fait accompli tilts the balance in your favor). I dabbled in moral relativism and situational ethics back in the 80s when it was really coming into style (it seemed quite popular with the thirtysomething Baby Boomers), but three days in the pen will cure you of that mental illness real quick.

With my Beetle safely parked I could enjoy the SFF party without worry. They’d learned from my experience the night before, and gone with more mixed drinks and only a small amount of beer in an effort to last the night. They also picked up some glow sticks, to use as stirrers in the mixed drinks. One note for those who want to do this in the future – let the recipient of the drink start the chemical process. Running your hands all up and down the stirrer before dropping it in my drink strikes me as a bit unhygienic. Definitely a more classy affair, as befits a post-gala affair, though the booze didn’t last for too much longer than at my party. I got a fair amount of networking done, and was actually able to relax a bit.

Perhaps the oddest moment of the night came when Jessco von Puttkamer came wandering into the much cooler bedroom area. We had met the year prior at the ISU Symposium, where he gave the closing presentation, so I introduced myself again. He ended up asking IT Guru Hugh about his get-up – unshaven and a kilt. My guess is that in Jessco’s view, if Hugh was to be a role-model for the space interested, why would he wear such an ‘outrageous’ outfit. This led to discussion’s of a person’s role in society, and Hugh pointed out that as a Libertarian, he was not necessarilly obliged to live his life by the expectations of Jessco or anyone else. Jessco was confused by this ‘libertarian’ (small l, not ‘Tea Party’) philosophy and wanted to know more.

The variant that I prefer comes from a sci-fi story. Hold on, let me go pull out the graphic novel…here we go, ‘Open Space’ from May 1990. “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Launch!” It’s a Randian tale of bright individuals who decide to leave Earth to create a new civilization founded on the principles of liberty and justness. The founding credo of this society is as follows:

“I may not like the way you wish to live, but injure no other and I’ll defend to the death your right to live as you wish”

A covenant to which all of the citizens of the new society would avow. It’s the best distillation I’ve found so far of the libertarian philosophy, encapsulated in a structure familiar to all fans of the First Amendment: “I may not like what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”. I’m personally of the belief that it is better if ideas are aired in the market of public discourse, so that people can make up their own minds as to whether any particular meme has merit or not. Bad ideas are quickly unveiled and better solutions can be offered.

The problem arises when the Fourth Estate, the press, devolves into a oligopoly situation where the public discourse is limited to what a handful of individuals decide (so long as everyone continues to use the venues they control), and so things like the provisions of the Patriot Act and the actions of the TSA don’t get the proper airing they need so that our society can determine if those are in fact the best approaches, or if they even conform to the Constitution that underpins the governance of the United States. In that regard I consider Texas Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to be a pussy, in that he so quickly rolled over when a TSA lawyer threatened to turn Texas into a no-fly zone if we stopped TSA agents from groping and manhandling our state’s citizenry.

I am at the point where I refuse to fly. I would dearly like to go to the NLSI and NewSpace conferences at the end of July, but the drive to and from Cali just doesn’t make sense, especially since this year they are not being held contiguously. I will go to the SEDS SpaceVision conference up in Colorado, since I can crash in Albuquerque and see Mom on the way. But I will not fly unless work requires it, which is unlikely in my current role. I got manhandled at LAX on my way back from the Space Tourism Society dinner, and that was the last straw. I am not a criminal; some might even regard me as a benefit to my community because of my civic engagement. I’m one of the emergency coordinators at work, and receive first aid training on a regular basis. I’m the kind of lean and fit Boy Scout lad that you want sitting in your emergency exit row on the flight. Except that now they can’t have me since as a U.S. citizen (and a Texan) I refuse to submit to having my 4th Amendment rights trampled.

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Saturday I rolled in late. I knew that today I was going to have to review the student space settlement projects and the students were anxious for me to do so. With my cowboy hat on, of course. It seems to have become iconic, and people don’t recognize me without it. And it seems that my motivational talk on Friday morning may have had more of an impact than was evident at the time, as they were practically treating me like a rock star and asking for my autograph and taking a picture with me. It’s a bit tough for my Aspie brain to wrap around, as nothing I’ve done so far really merits that kind response. It’s also a bit of work as I try to individualize each autograph, which can have freaky effects. For one young lady, when I opened up my mind to see what fell in I kept getting thoughts of equations and algorithms. While flipping through the presentation she was asking me to sign, looking for further inspiration, it kept falling open to a page with a number of equations on it, so I asked her if she had contributed that particular section of the report, which she affirmed. It happened with another young lady where I was getting thoughts of surgical procedures and medical treatments, and she indicated she was interested in biology and medicine. Freaky stuff that makes zero sense and has no scientific basis on any non-quantum level, and humans aren’t supposed to have quantum-level sensory input.

I put on my Science Fair judge hat and got to work, spending at least a quarter hour on each one. I would ask them to sell me on their project, and spend some time using my ISU education to ask questions and uncover errors. I try to take a very laid back style as a Science Fair judge, evaluating each project on its merits, asking them to provide rationales for some of the decisions they made, and discussing how certain aspects of the project may have been more or less appropriate for what they were trying to achieve. It’s less of a judgment and more of conversation on where the project might go or how it might be made even more sophisticated. I did uncover a few things that the actual judges had missed in their evaluation (and which the students can now use to their advantage in future years). It’s an exhausting process, but the students are great, and we did get some cool pictures.


The National Space Society 2011 Awards Ceremony from Moonandback Media on Vimeo.

I was debating whether or not to attend the Saturday NSS Awards dinner. I’m not going to be a happy camper until I get one of the NSS Pioneer Awards because, you know, it’s a great Moon sculpture and I want one for the Lunar Library. Still, a buzzing in the back of my brain told me that I should be there, which was proved correct when Larry Ahearn quietly sidled up to me and informed me that NSS of North Texas was going to be getting an award for Excellence in Public Outreach. I was hoping it might be our Santa Space Toy Drive, which over the years has donated hundreds of space and rocket and astronaut toys to disadvantaged kids, that had sold the awards committee. Or perhaps our Science Fair Space Exploration Scholarship, which has donated $600 over the last two years to space-themed projects at the Dallas Regional Science & Engineering Fair. Or perhaps our Moon Day project (now in full swing for 2011), which has brought all the space goodness of the D/FW metroplex to over 1,000 people over the last two years. Or perhaps our work updating the Boy Scout Space Exploration Merit Badge pamphlet for the post-Shuttle era. Or our many outreach displays at cultural institutions in the metroplex. Nope. It was our Perry Middle School project, where we help build an analogue ISS module for the school’s Space Week, and provide speakers for the event, including Carol’s ‘transmission’ from the ISS where she pretends to be floating in microgravity. Carol headed up to the stage first, and I made sure all of my chapter members got up on stage before I did for their moment in the sun. If the video makes it onto the internet that’s me extending my Beaumont in the air and yelling ‘Yee-haa!’ when the award is announced. Gotta represent, know what I mean?

Speaking of mean, the SEDS party once again featured Rocket Juice, which uses a secret formula carefully guarded by the SEDS leadership to super-saturate the alcohol in the drinks, and one shot will seriously mess you up, so it’s best sipped very slowly. I have to say that I particularly enjoyed the SEDS party, as there came a point in the evening where the balance between the old guard and the youngsters came somewhat into parity, for the first time that I’d ever seen, and you could tell that some of the greyhairs were feeling a bit lost in the shifting culture. I was reveling in it, regaling NASA Academy alum with tales of adventure from the ’02 Goddard Academy, like where I got both the Goddard and Ames Academies in front of Congress, or helped kick start the exchange program with CNES, and Yuri’s Night alum with stories of the dancing astronaut Snoopy awards they were wearing. I was getting folks excited about Lunar lava tubes and The Moon Society. It was a good, good night.

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from Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow by Brian Fies, an excellent read

Sunday morning was packing up for the trip home. While I had unloaded quantities of alcohol and handouts, I was also picking up a bunch of stuff like the Solar Power Satellite display, and the many books I’d found, so the bug was once again stuffed to the gills. I finally got a chance to talk with Paul at OpenLuna, a network of Canadian Lunar advocates, and we discussed how our organizations could work together to advance our common cause. My search for my cooler, which had been used by the subsequent hospitality parties, kept me around long enough to get caught up in the tornado drill. I’d noticed the dark clouds approaching, but wasn’t too worried as it didn’t look to have enough energy, and the clouds didn’t have any of the weird colors that usually presage a tornado. It was a good opportunity to note that space advocates should get used to this sort of thing, as Solar flare storm warnings and shelters will be common in the inner Solar system.

The drive back was a bit more leisurely, taking 11 hours to get back to Addison. Still, I despise the games that 18-wheelers play on the interstates; it’s dangerous and clogs up the traffic flow. I had taken Monday off to de-conference and unpack, as well as get started on this debrief.

Monday was also a day to get the next project going – Moon Day on July 16th (which corresponds with the launch date of Apollo 11) at Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. Regular readers know this is a big project for me, and this year is going to be particularly difficult, as some of my big exhibitors can’t make it, attendance was a bit down last year since it wasn’t an Apollo decadal or semi-decadal anniversary, which trend may well continue this year despite the switch to Saturday, and that switch also gives me three more hours to schedule content for. Working in a business component with a focus on Texas space businesses will help fill that out, and may even facilitate access to underwriting monies. In past years I’ve put together the event with a budget of $0, which makes things like advertising difficult. If I can get some money from an underwriter, I can do things like advertise in the Dallas Business Journal. Still, it’s tough hearing no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no. (something the students commented on in their fundraising efforts) It can become quite disheartening, but you have to just keep soldiering on, because if Moon Day is to be, it’s up to me.

Overall a great conference from the National Space Society, and as usual a completely different experience from years past. I don’t think I attended a single session other than the ones at which I spoke, and spent almost the entirety of my time chatting and networking. There was a pleasing surge in younger attendees, and increasing evidence of new ways of thinking on how to tackle this whole space conundrum thing. Shout out to my peeps from ISU, especially my classmates Fujita-san and Nassim, and the NASA Academy. These are networks that are ‘new’ to the status quo, and I’m glad they’re starting to gain recognition. There are a lot of very, very smart individuals, far more so than I, in those networks, and they are the future leaders of the space field. It’s time they started getting more recognition, and I’m strongly considering suggesting a “Next Gen” track at the next ISDC (which I won’t be attending since it’s going to be in D.C. There’s something just wrong about that place, and my karma feels soiled after every visit. Whether it’s the cesspool of Congress, the co-opted by special interests Executive branch, or the corrupted from justice by ideology Judicial branch I couldn’t tell you, but the place is just rotten and I do not like going there)

I’ve also got to buckle down this summer on the transition to president of The Moon Society. I think I’ve scared up enough votes to overcome any write-in threat, so I’ve got to start refining my vision of what to do with the society into action, and there’re so many things to tackle. No rest for the weary.

And that, my friends, is how I spent my 2011 ISDC.

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