The Role of Chapters and Grass Roots Space Advocacy

Commentary by Mike Mackowski, 10/25/13

I’ve been a little quiet recently on this blog. There has been activity in the way of space news (the successful Antares/Cygnus flight to ISS, an upgraded Falcon 9 launch, the successful LADEE lasercom experiment, etc.) but nothing that inspired me to write any new commentary.

I’ve been busy with a number of activities involving outreach to schools and related STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects. In fact, I could use some additional volunteers to meet the various requests we get for mentors and speakers. There are several K-12 schools looking for help, so contact me if you are interested. Coming up in early November is the SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space – sort of a campus-based version of NSS) annual SpaceVision conference which will be held at ASU in Tempe.

The NSS leadership recently held their board of directors meeting, which triggered some discussions among chapter leaders across the country. The issue was the relative balance (within NSS) between chapter activities and broader national-level efforts. From my perspective, and my long history with this organization, you really need both. The national organization provides a highly visible public image and a voice in Washington, DC, while local chapters provide a venue for personal involvement and opportunities for grass roots activism.

Focusing on local activities, and considering that most space policy decisions are made in Washington, what is the role of chapters in an organization like NSS? Consider the list of “E”s below.

Energize Membership
• A compelling local group can motivate members to stay involved, renew their membership, and recruit new members. If a chapter can grow and have a larger active membership base, they can take on more projects.

Educate members about what is going on in the space business
• You can get info on line but you usually have to look for it.
• Info acquired via an in-person presentation is often serendipitous and surprising. You could learn something you never expected. You could find something you weren’t looking for. You get to have a personal exchange with the presenter. It is much harder to do that on the internet.

Entertainment
• There is a social aspect to any avocational pursuit. Space exploration is no different. Having a local chapter with interesting activities builds membership by keeping people involved, having fun, coming back, and encouraging new members.

Engaging Others
• The general public is under-educated about technology in general and space in particular. Most folks think the US has no space program. A chapter can perform public outreach and serve as a source of information for local media. This also creates opportunities to enhance membership.

What this says to me is that being an effective space advocate is a lot more fun when you are doing it in concert with other like minded people. Being active in a chapter is a great way to make that happen, so please get involved and visit a chapter meeting or say hi on this blog or our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Moonsociety/).

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