The 33rd International Space Development Conference

Commentary by Mike Mackowski

I attended the 33rd International Space Development Conference from May 14-18, held in Los Angeles, CA. This is only the second ISDC I have been to since the early 1990s, when I was able to attend more frequently (I went to the Tucson event held in 2000). In that time a lot of progress has been made in the development of space, but a lot of things are still the same.

This was a great conference from the perspective of being able to hear speakers offering the latest status and plans for all sorts of space exploration, business, and infrastructure initiatives. There were many “big names” from the space arena, including Buzz Aldrin, Elon Musk (SpaceX), Jeff Greason (XCOR), astronauts (Richard Garriott, Chris Ferguson, Rick Searfoss, etc.), engineers and scientists (Dr. John Lewis, John Mankins, Geoffrey Notkin), and folks from the NewSpace community (Rick Tumlinson, Will Pomerantz, Taber McCallum, Art Dula, etc.). If anything, the conference was too big with too many tracks. Most days had seven or more parallel tracks. For someone like me who does not attend on a regular basis, and hopes to get some first hand updates on progress in these areas, you really have to pick and chose what sessions to attend. I thought there was some “fluff” that could have been eliminated to make things simpler (do we really need sessions on “Humans, Exponential Perception, Compassion, and the Universe”?).

On the plus side, I was pleased to hear first-hand updates on such subjects as XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle, space elevators, space solar power, utilization of space resources, and approaches to building affordable space infrastructure. There seems to be a consensus in this space community that a flexible infrastructure is needed more than a focussed development program aimed at a specific destination (say, Mars). By developing elements that can be used by all of these goals (Moon, Mars, asteroids, etc.) it is more likely that a sustainable space economy will actually occur.

Over the past few years there seems to have been a debate over NASA’s future plans. Should they develop the advanced technology we need to make space exploration and development less costly and more effective (infrastructure), or should they pick a destination and develop just the technology needed for that specific goal? Most people at this conference were promoting the infrastructure path, which makes sense to me as well. The problem is that this is difficult to sell. It is much easier to get excited about sending a crew to Mars (or wherever) than designing a propellant depot at L2. Critics say NASA needs specific goals, but achieving those goals might come cheaper (and safer?) if we are patient and develop the elements we need to achieve any of the possible goals first, and even better if we can do it via commercial programs rather than via government-owned assets.

The main disappointment I had at the conference was the lack of sessions on grass roots space advocacy. The membership of NSS is declining and aging. Many speakers encouraged us to get the word out to the general public about the exciting future of space exploration and development. This means grass roots, local level advocacy. There should have been sessions on doing small local conferences, how to work with schools, how to attract young members, how to find media contacts, how to write press releases, what to say to your Congressional representatives, etc. There were no formal sessions on this.

The advantage of attending a conference like this in person (as compared to reading the presentations on line), however, is that you get to network with other like-minded advocates. Socializing at meal functions, between sessions, and at the Chapters Assembly meeting allowed me to meet many other NSS chapter activists. We were able to swap some ideas and propose new ones. This, more than anything,made attending this conference worth the effort and expense.

NSS Congratulates SpaceX Team — Calls on Congress to Fully Fund Commercial Crew & Space Technology

Washington, DC-June 1 – The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team on the Dragon spacecraft’s historic mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and its safe return to Earth yesterday.

“The mission was truly spectacular and marks a watershed moment in space history – proving that the commercial sector can successfully service the ISS,” said NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse. “We were especially fortunate to celebrate the Dragon’s grappling at ISS on Friday morning with NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr., who was at that very moment addressing an audience of nearly one thousand at NSS’s recent International Space Development Conference (ISDC).”

ISDC, the National Space Society’s annual conference, wrapped up in Washington, DC earlier this week. Administrator Bolden was delivering the opening keynote speech just as Dragon approached and then berthed at the ISS.

The safe return of Dragon and the advancement of commercial cargo and crew programs mark true milestones on the path to enabling a space-faring civilization. NASA’s efforts to advance space technology will also have a significant impact: technologies such as cryogenic propellant storage and transfer (CPST), solar electric propulsion (SEP), and advanced robotics are “mission-multipliers,” and are but a few examples being advanced by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. These efforts will help to enable robust space operations while providing dramatic reductions in overall costs.

The National Space Society recognizes that there is still much to be done, and maintains that strong leadership in government will be critical going forward. In this context, NSS calls on the Senate to fully fund the commercial crew development program and space technology lines of the NASA budget as proposed in the President’s budget request earlier this year, removing the proposed cuts made by the House in May. While NSS acknowledges the difficult budgetary parameters under which Congress must work, we strongly encourage both the Senate and the House to accede to the President’s FY2013 budget request for both commercial crew and space technology during conference later this year.

“The successful conclusion of SpaceX’s COTS-2/3 missions has demonstrated that the commercial sector is now ready to move forward with increased responsibility for servicing ISS, including the development of crew transport capability,” Damphousse said. “If funded and executed correctly, the commercial crew program will end our sole reliance on foreign providers and bring that capability – and the jobs associated with it – back home. We should be preserving funding for these commercial and space technology programs – which are producing tangible successes today, and will continue to do so in the near-term and beyond – rather than shifting it to already well-funded programs that may be years away from providing results.”

About the National Space Society: NSS is an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded when the National Space Institute and the L5 Society merged in 1987, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS has over 10,000 members and supporters, and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. To learn more, visit www.nss.org.

ISDC 2012 – Jeff Greason and the Implications for Space Policy Advocacy

Last year at ISDC in Huntsville, Jeff Greason gave a rabble-rousing address wherein he maintained that the obvious, but unspoken word in current space policy was “settlement”. Not any specific program, but settlement.

This year in Washington D. C., Jeff made a much more important statement; this time concerning commercial space and how to create a viable settlement.

Thinking about his observations of the scary paradigm shift down which NASA has begun to be dragged kicking and screaming, I am reminded of the politics in Colorado in the 2004 -2006 congressional campaign. There were six or so special interest groups working to select a candidate. But the environmentalists would not support the labor union candidate because his constituents favored mining and harvesting forests. The women’s rights group would not support the environmental candidate because he was anti-abortion. And so it went.

A politically astute gentleman, with considerable means, arrived to discuss the issue with the groups. He pointed out that if any one group withdrew from the coalition, they would lose the election, and the opposing party would elect a representative who was going to vote against each and every program that the respective groups wanted.

He also pointed out that if this program oriented withdrawal of support were repeated state by state, then congress would be controlled by people who would roll back gains that each group had achieved over the years.

On the other hand, if the groups agreed to compromise, to be willing to accept that in Colorado their candidate had to stand for mining and foresting in order to be elected, and they could show other coalitions in other states the same need to compromise and support an underlying need to elect people who supported most of their positions most of the time, then they would control congress and each of their issues stood a good chance of advancing. Although any individual congress critter might vote against an issue to satisfy their local situation, the majority would vote in favor. And finally, if a compromise candidate were truly supported by all, he would contribute a million dollars to the campaign.

Now, in space policy, we have the Moon Society advocating for a Moon program. And we have the Mars Society advocating for a Mars program. We have the Planetary Society. We have the National Space Society. We have the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. We have many groups advocating for their program. And it is easy for the congress critters to ignore us. No one has a very big voice.

What is needed is for all to advocate for the paradigm shift that Jeff discussed. Settlement, no matter where it will be or when it will be, will only be successful if we can migrate each step along the way (to wherever we go) off of the NASA budget and into the commercial sector. And we can only do that if we create the conditions that allow individuals, free people, to own the assets (labor and capital) that not only allow for subsistence, but for excess capacity, for success and failure. It is the excess capacity that will eventually result in wealth and trade.

It is past time for the central planning of all space exploration efforts. We must all be advocating for the chaotic market within which commercial space can succeed. The combined voice will be strong enough to make a difference in the space policy debate.

Dr. C. David Fischer, Jr
Phoenix, Arizona

[Ed. Note: The thoughts expressed here are the author's, and do not reflect the thoughts or policy of the Phoenix Chapter of the National Space Society nor the National Space Society.]

NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items

The National Space Society (NSS) calls on Congress to ease export control regulations on spacecraft and related items, as urged by the Departments of Defense and State in their recent, joint “Section 1248″ report, “Risk Assessment of the United States Space Export Control Policy.”

This report concluded that spacecraft and their components, designated as dual-use items, can safely be removed from the U.S. Munitions List (USML), which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by the Department of State.

Once off the USML, the report recommends that these items be placed on the Commerce Control List (CCL) managed by the Department of Commerce. Experts maintain that a failure to implement this change not only would continue to cause harm to the American space industrial base, but could actually pose a threat to national security and potentially impede current and future space exploration efforts.

“For many years, the U.S. space industrial base has been at a competitive disadvantage with other countries due to outdated and overly burdensome licensing processes under ITAR,” said NSS Executive Director, Paul E. Damphousse. “The U.S space export control system has created delays, driven up costs, and severely hampered the ability of the American space industry to compete in an increasingly global market, and this situation must not be allowed to continue.”

A distinguished panel of export control policy experts will discuss the recommendations outlined in the Section 1248 report at NSS’s upcoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Washington, DC May 24-28, 2012. Patricia Cooper of the Satellite Industry Association will moderate the panel, which will include representatives from the Defense Department, Tauri Group, Bigelow Aerospace and the Universities Space Research Association. For more information about media access to the panel, please visit isdc.nss.org/2012 or email ISDC2012.Media@nss.org.

NSS believes that implementation of these recommendations will serve to bolster critical American space industries vital to space development and lead to increased cooperation in space exploration initiatives with our international partners. NSS agrees with the report’s goal, which is to urge Congress to enact legislation to “create higher walls around fewer items” and support the health and leadership of the U.S. space industrial base.

ISDC 2012 Features NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

(Washington, DC – April 23, 2012) The National Space Society is pleased to announce NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as the Keynote speaker for the Opening Plenary Session at this year’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC), being held at the Grand Hyatt Washington (DC) hotel May 25th. In addition, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is confirmed as the Keynote speaker for NSS’s Annual Awards Dinner on Sunday evening, May 27th.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., began his duties as the twelfth Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on July 17, 2009. Gen. Bolden’s 34-year career with the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. He traveled to orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions. His flights included deployment of the Hubble SpaceTelescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew.

As Deputy Administrator, Ms. Garver is NASA’s second in command and this is the second time she has worked for the agency. During her first period of service (1996 to 2001), she served as a special assistant to the NASA Administrator and senior policy analyst for the Office of Policy and Plans, where she was later named Associate Administrator. Reporting to the NASA Administrator in the latter position, she oversaw the analysis, development and integration of policies and long-range plans, the NASA Strategic Management System, and the NASA Advisory Council.

Ms. Garver, who also worked for NSS from 1984 through 1996 and served as the Society’s Executive Director for a number of years, will also participate in a panel exploring NSS’s heritage during a plenary session the same morning, as part of the Society’s celebration of its 25th Anniversary year.

About ISDC: The International Space Development Conference is the annual conference of the National Space Society. ISDC 2012 will take place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC from May 24 through 28, 2012. ISDC brings together a diverse group of NASA officials, aerospace industry leaders and interested private citizens to engage in discussions about today’s prevalent space issues in order to stimulate innovation and overcome the obstacles that hinder human advancement off the Earth.

About The National Space Society (NSS)
: NSS is an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded when the National Space Institute and the L5 Society merged in 1987, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS has over 12,000 members and supporters, and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. For more information about NSS, please visit http://www.nss.org.

Stephen Hawking Awarded NSS Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award.

The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce Dr. Stephen Hawking as the 14th recipient of NSS’s Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award. The award will be presented to Dr. Hawking at a special ceremony at the Cooks Branch Conservancy in Montgomery, Texas on Wednesday, March 28 and is given in recognition of his outstanding and continuing public efforts in support of human space development and settlement.

In the last decade, Dr. Hawking has repeatedly and publicly advocated the need to move part of humanity off the Earth in order to avoid the destruction of the human race, either through self-destructive actions such as nuclear war, or natural phenomena such as asteroid collision or, eventually, the death of our nearest star, the Sun. “I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” says Hawking. “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.”

“Dr. Hawking’s public statements are very important, not only because of the respect his fellow scientists and many others have for him and his work, but also because they give more credence to these issues among scientists, the media, politicians, and the public,” said NSS Executive Director, Paul E. Damphousse, who will present the award to Hawking in Texas, along with Board of Governors member and Heinlein literary executor, Arthur M. Dula, CEO of Excalibur Almaz, a private spaceflight company.

Damphousse added, “Speaking for all our members, chapters, and partners who actively participated in the selection process, it is a distinct honor and privilege to bestow this honor upon Dr. Hawking – one of the greatest minds of our time.”

The Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award, named after the author widely recognized as the “dean of science fiction writers,” honors those individuals who have made significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization. Those individuals whose actions have involved personal, social, or financial risk are particularly meritorious. It is one of the highest honors bestowed upon an individual by the National Space Society because the award winner is chosen by vote of all of the Society’s members and chapters.

The date on which Dr. Hawking will receive the award exactly coincides with the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the National Space Society through a merger between the National Space Institute and the L5 Society. More formal celebratory events will occur at NSS’s 31st International Space Development Conference to be held in Washington, D.C., May 24-28, 2012. A video of the award presentation to Dr. Hawking will be shown at the 25th Anniversary Governors Dinner and Gala.

Michael Clark from NSS Phoenix Wins ISDC 2011 Public Outreach Award

Michael Clark, a member of the Phoenix chapter of the National Space Society, was cited during the Chapter Awards presentations for his You Tube commentaries on space programs and space policies. He was interviewed by Alvin Remmers (MoonAndBack) at the Space Access 2011 conference in Phoenix Arizona.