It’s nice to see Blue Origin’s successful test flight of their New Shepard vehicle on Nov. 23. This is an important milestone for that company but space enthusiasts need to temper their excitement.

First, the McDonnell Douglas DC-X flew a similar profile in the early 1990s. The difference was that New Shepard is bigger and is flying much higher with a separate payload (crew) module. Some folks are commenting that this is a sign that SpaceX has some real competition now. They need to realize that SpaceX is trying to land a larger rocket coming back from a much higher velocity. So what Blue Origin did this week is more ambitious than the DC-X but not quite as difficult as what SpaceX is trying to do with the Falcon 9 rocket.

What I don’t get is all the fan competitiveness. Why would someone interested in space exploration be a “fan” of one private company to the detriment of another? Friendly competition is fine but aren’t we all interested in the same outcome, which is reduced cost to orbit? I don’t care who gets us there: NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin. We should cheer them all on.

While an individual team may have scored this latest touchdown, the points count for all of us.

Michael Mackowski


Nov. 21 Meeting will Feature Al Anzaldua

Our next meeting will be at the usual place and time (11 am at the Humanist Center in Tempe) and will feature Al Anzaldua. Al is very active in the Tucson club and is currently the regional director for NSS for the southwest region that includes Arizona. Al will talk about the challenge of orbital debris and how it threatens not only today’s valuable space resources, but how it could affect mega-structures like solar power satellites and space settlements. He will also bring us up to speed on the latest buzz from the national offices of NSS.

See you Saturday!

Mike Mackowski

NSS Phoenix chapter president

NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge

We had an interesting presentation at the October meeting from Dennis Bonilla on the Asteroid Grand Challenge. Here are some follow-up links.

NASA announces $20,000 in prizes to develop videos to engage and excite the public about asteroid detection. In the first phase of the video challenge the public has 4 chances to win $250 for submitting ideas for videos:

Asteroid Grand Challenge Website:

Asteroid Grand Challenge Emailer Sign-Up:

Adventures in Space Advocacy

Phoenix chapter president Michael Mackowski will be presenter at the Chandler Science Cafe, next Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 7pm, at Gangplank, 260 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, AZ 85225.

The Science Café celebrates the new book, Adventures in Space Advocacy, a memoir by Michael Mackowski that tells the story of his involvement in grass roots advocacy for a more robust American space program.

13. 1992 Home Show

Mike at a 1992 outreach event in St. Louis

Mike is an aerospace engineer and a longtime member of the National Space Society (NSS), the Planetary Society, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has worked to establish collaborative efforts among the local NSS, AIAA, etc. chapters on activities such as Yuri’s Night and SpaceUp Phoenix. He has received several awards from AIAA for public policy and STEM outreach activities.

“I hope is that historians of the space movement will find this to be an interesting first-hand account of grass-roots efforts to promote space exploration to the public,” Mackowski said. “Similarly, current space activists can learn from these examples of how to execute large pro-space events.”

The book is now available via Amazon in print and digital and will be available at science cafe:


Science Cafés are live—and lively—events that take place in casual settings, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Chandler Science Cafe, first Wednesday of the month, 7pm, at Gangplank Chandler is presented in association with the Arizona SciTech Festival and Gangplank Labs Initiative.


Event website:

November 21 Meeting Plans

Here’s an idea for our next meeting.

Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) has a planetarium show on Saturday afternoons. These are space science presentations with very cool 3-D effects in the Marsten Theater in building ISTB4. They also offer a tour of the building, which has labs, a full size Curiosity Mars rover mock-up, and a large meteorite collection.

The planetarium show is at 2:30 pm, and we could probably do the tour prior to that, say 1 pm. They charge $7.50 for the show. There is a group rate, but we’d need about a dozen people.

I think this might be a fun change of pace even if it costs a few bucks. Any comments?

Mike Mackowski

President, Phoenix NSS Chapter

NASA Funds Cubesat Launchers

The tiny cubesat industry has been getting a lot of press lately. These small satellites are popular with universities, government labs, and NewSpace startups like Planetary Resources (with their Arkyd asteroid-hunting satellite). While new technology has allowed spacecraft housekeeping functions to be shrunk to fit these diminutive cubesats, launch vehicle technology has not progressed the same way. Getting these payloads into orbit has generally been a matter of waiting to hitch a ride with a larger expensive spacecraft. This means that cubesat developers may have a satellite ready to fly, but they have to wait a long time to get a ride to orbit. The problem has been the lack of a low-cost, dedicated cubesat rocket.

That is about to change as NASA’s Launch Services Program just issued contracts to three new launch vehicle developers for demonstration missions for boosters designed specifically for small payloads. The “Venture Class Launch Services” (VCLS) contract awards totaled over $17M and went to RocketLab USA, Firefly Space Systems, and Virgin Galactic. Each needs to fly a demo mission by April of 2018.

This is a great development for both the cubesat community and for the commercial space industry. It will make access to orbit much easier for the smallsat folks, which should only encourage more missions of that class. It will also help newcomers like Firefly and RocketLab establish themselves as new players in the commercial launch arena.

October 17 Meeting – Asteroid Grand Challenge

The October meeting of the Phoenix Chapters of the National Space Society and the Moon Society will be next Saturday, Oct. 17 at 11 am. It will at our usual location at the Humanist Center in Mesa. Please come to hear Dennis Bonilla, who will be discussing his work with the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA Open Innovation Team, and NASA Office of Human Capital.

Dennis currently supports the Asteroid Grand Challenge in the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist. The Asteroid Grand Challenge is focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. Estimates suggest less than 10% of objects smaller than 300 meters in diameter and less than 1% of objects smaller than 100 meters in diameter have been discovered, and it will take a global effort with innovative solutions to accelerate the completion of the survey of potentially hazardous asteroids.

Mr. Bonilla is employed by Valador, Inc., and is a Digital Strategist doing work for the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist. He has a decade of experience communicating complex concepts using video games, infographics, and interactive platforms to inform and empower communities. Dennis has created federal websites, designed visualization software for NASA, and worked on documents presented to the U.S. President.

Date: Saturday October 17

Time: 11:00 am

Location: Humanist Community Center

Address: 627 W. Rio Salado Blvd (formerly 8th St.), Mesa, AZ, 85201.

Meanwhile, our recent events included a fun group outing to see “The Martian” in Tempe and a display at the Southeast Regional Library Science Fiction “LibraryCon”. We had not done a display in a while and, with member Glen Gassaway’s help, this went very well. See a couple photos at this link.