January Meeting

We have a meeting planned for Sat. Jan. 21 at the Humanist Center in Tempe at 11 am. Our speaker will be space artist Simon Kregar. He will talk about space art in general and his work in particular. Should be interesting. We will also have elections for the chapter to select officers for the next two years.

December Holiday Party

We had a great turnout at the November meeting where we had a very cool demo of virtual reality technology. We also identified a slate of officers for the election coming up in January. Thanks to folks who offered to give this a shot.

Our next get together will be a Christmas Party at the home of Mike and Maura Mackowski on Friday evening, Dec. 16. The festivities will begin around 7:30 pm, and please let Mike know you are planning to attend by sending  him a note at michael dot mackowski at gmail (figure that out…).

More details to follow in an email. If you are not getting the meeting announcments via email, please let Mike know.

November 19 Meeting

The November 19 meeting of the Phoenix Chapters of the National Space Society and the Moon Society will be at our usual time (11 am) and location this Saturday at the Humanist Community Center in Mesa (627 W. Rio Salado Blvd (formerly 8th St.), Mesa, AZ, 85201). Our guest will be Dennis Bonilla (CTO, Variable Labs) and Jorge Calderon (Chief Software Architect, Variable Labs) will present Mars in Virtual Reality. Using images taken by the Mars Curiosity Rover, game developers were able to generate a 3D model of Mars which Dennis and Jorge share using the latest VR headsets. Experience the future of space data visualization this Saturday!

For more information on how 3D models can be generated from photographs taken on Mars, check out Dennis’ photogrammetry tutorial:

Variable Labs creates immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences to foster empathy, develop soft skills, and change behavior. Using interactive and cinematic technologies, Variable Labs deliver personalized education and training to individuals and organizations.

We also have an election coming up, and we need to select four officers for two year terms. Our by laws state that we need to have a slate by December 15 with the voting at the January meeting. So far we have candidates for President (Phyllis Bush) and Treasurer (Athena Roberts) and Greg Rucker has offered to serve as either Vice President or Secretary. So we are looking for one more person who wants to help shape the direction of this group.

As always, see the blog at https://nssphoenix.wordpress.com for more information as well as interesting commentary.

See you Saturday!

Mike M.

Upcoming Events

We had a nice turnout and discussion at the September 17 meeting. Thanks to all who attended.
It appears that we will try a mix of traditional meetings at our usual location and visits to other groups’ events, particularly the many space-related lectures offered by ASU.

Next month we have been invited to participate in “LibraryCon”, a one-day sci fi event at the  Southeast Regional Library branch at the southeast corner of Greenfield and Guadalupe in Gilbert (http://mcldaz.org/custom/branches/southeast.aspx).

This will take the place of our monthly meeting, so drop by between noon and 4 pm for some public outreach. Mike will bring the astronaut cut out and some info displays and hands-on demos. See https://www.facebook.com/librarycon for details.

Additionally, there are these upcoming events:

  • Tue. Sept 20, 7 pm, Eugene Shoemaker lecture at ASU with Dr. Pete Worden (former head of NASA Ames)
  • Thur. Sept. 29, Discovery lecture at ASU, topic is deserts and climate change
  • Oct. 4 – 10 is World Space Week. We’ll be checking to see if Challenger Center or ASU is doing anything.
  • Fri. Oct. 14, iMAX space film at Deer Valley AMC theater. They are doing a space week promotion, so stay tuned for that
  • Thur. Oct. 20, Discovery lecture at ASU, Kipp Hodges, science as exploration
  • Thur. Nov. 17, Discovery lecture at ASU, geoscience research

For details on ASU’s New Discovery lectures, see:


ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination sponsors a “Sci Fi TV Dinner” every month or so, featuring a film or TV episode, a free sack lunch, followed by a panel discussion on the showing by faculty members. See this link for dates (none announced at this time):  http://csi.asu.edu/calendar/

Stay tuned for more updates.

Mike Mackowski


September 17 Meeting

The 50th Anniversary of Project Gemini: Paving the Way to the Moon

A presentation by Mike Mackowski

2016 is the 50th anniversary of the manned Gemini missions, NASA’s two-man spacecraft that led to Apollo. Gemini paved the way to the Moon, proving out rendezvous techniques, extra-vehicular activities, and extended duration manned space missions. After a summer break, we will start up monthly meetings this month on September 17, when Mike will give a talk on the history of this program as well as several concepts for follow-on Gemini adaptations that never got off the drawing board.


Additionally, it’s time to get serious about the future direction of the Phoenix chapter of the National Space Society. It is becoming clear to me that the old model of chapters having meetings with speakers is dead and we should just acknowledge it. Social media and the Internet are changing the way people network and learn about special interest topics, like space exploration and development. This is a problem not just for NSS, but many other hobby-type clubs and fraternal organizations. These groups are getting smaller and older, but I still see a need for person-to-person interaction regarding focused areas like space. We may have to wait a while for the younger folks to figure out how they want to fill that void, besides via on-line social media. We will also select new officers at the end of this year, and I have yet to hear from anyone volunteering to pick up the reigns.

So I’d like to reserve some time to talk about how we, as a local chapter of NSS, want to move forward. Maybe we have fewer meetings and take advantage of the many space-oriented lectures offered by ASU and add a few social functions and call that a plan. Some chapters have projects (STEM outreach, conferences, contests, rocketry, etc.) to bring people together. I am open to new ideas and a new model for this group.

The meeting will start at 11 am at our usual location at the Humanist Center in Mesa (627 W. Rio Salado Parkway). As always, everyone’s welcome.

Mike Mackowski, NSS Phoenix Chapter President

Late Summer Update 2016

As noted previously, since yours truly was running out of programming ideas, and no one else came up with any, it was decided to take a break from meetings over the summer. We plan to return to the Saturday sessions on September 17. We need ideas for presentations and outings.

Meanwhile, we will look for opportunities to get together socially or for special events. I’d recommend the ASU New Discovery series lecture set for Thursday, August 25, at 7:30 pm. Our buddy, Dr. David Williams, will give a talk on “Asteroids, Ion Propulsion, and NASA’s Dawn Mission to Vesta and Ceres”. It will be at building ISTB4 on the ASU Tempe campus.

Another such idea was a screening of the new space documentary, “The Wonder of it All”. It is a new IMAX film looking at Earth from the space station, and had a very short run here recently. If it comes back to Phoenix, we hope to make it an outing.

Other similar suggestions are welcome. Another topic to remember is new leadership for the Phoenix NSS chapter. The current officers two-year terms expires at the end of this year, and we need to seriously start finding candidates. I do not intend to run again. Have a great summer!

Mike Mackowski


May 21 Meeting

The speaker for the May meeting will be Mike Mackowski. He will give a talk on “Whatever Happened to Reusable Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) Rockets?”. With all the progress that SpaceX and Blue Origin are making on reusable boosters, this is not a new concept. There have been studies galore of fully reusable SSTO rockets but none have been built. We’ll explore why that is and if reusable SSTO is even possible.