SpaceFest V

Autograph seekers line up for famous astronauts at the 2013 Spacefest in Tucson.

Autograph seekers line up for famous astronauts at the 2013 Spacefest in Tucson.

With the work being a bit less hectic, I’ve been able to take some time off to attend a couple of space-related events in Arizona. I recently commented on the Space Access Conference. Over the Memorial Day weekend I was on a panel at Spacefest V in Tucson.
Spacefest is a unique event, combining space science, astronaut autographs, space art, and collectibles. It offers a gathering of Apollo astronauts where (for a fee) you can get an autograph of a Moon walker (Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Dave Scott, etc.). There are two tracks of presentations, most focusing on recent developments in planetary exploration (Carolyn Porco, Richard Cook [Curiosity], Marc Rayman, Dan Durda, etc.) as well as an assortment of journalists and writers (Brian, Cox, Andrew Chaikin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Colin Burgess, Leonard David, Phil Plait, Emily Lackdawalla, etc.). Vendors offer art prints (and some originals), books, meteorites, minerals, and spacecraft models.

The event started with a reception Thursday evening and the programming ran all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and part of Monday. There were some meal functions, where for varying prices, you could share a table with an artist, scientist, or astronaut. I was there for a good portion of the show and had a participant badge, but I passed on the extra-cost functions.
Admission prices vary. For $20 per day you can attend the autograph area, art display, and vendor booths as well as sit in on one of the two tracks of presentations. The second track is available at $10 per talk, or you can upgrade your pass to cover more. At the top level, $1150 will get you access to everything including all the meal functions. These meal functions are not inexpensive. The Saturday evening “gala”, which includes sitting with an astronaut, is a cool $270 when purchased on its own. I find this to be a rather unique pricing structure, but it does offer reasonable access at a fair price, and if you have the money to spend, you can go all out.
The event is run by Novaspace art gallery, headed by artist Kim Poor of Tucson. One of the folks who has been volunteering at these shows is a model building friend of mine, Jay Chladek, and he convinced Kim to add a panel on spacecraft models at this year’s event. I had a great time, sitting in on a number of space science talks, and visiting with folks I knew from my days as a space activist in St. Louis (Charlie Walker, Leonard David). I spent a lot of time hanging out with Nick Proach, who is a professional model builder. Of note is his current position as the licensed supplier of SpaceX’s Dragon and Falcon 9 desktop models. Those were very detailed and solidly built. Besides myself, our space modeling panel included Jay, Nick, and Rob Pearlman who runs CollectSpace.com. The panel was fun and I thought we had some excellent content, but it was only lightly attended.
Spacefest is a great opportunity to hear from major participants in space exploration, and even get a chance to talk to many of them one on one. I even got to chat with Rick Tumlinson. The vendors offer goods at reasonable prices, and where else could you get an actual chunk of the meteorite that exploded over Russia a few months ago? It would also be difficult to find a nicer venue, as it was held at the beautiful Marriott Starr Pass Resort. From my perspective, one of the most refreshing aspects was that there was only a minimal discussion of politics and policy. That can get nasty and negative, while this event emphasized a more personal involvement via via collectibles, education, and art.

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