I attended the SpaceVision conference (put on by the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space – SEDS) which was held at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, Nov. 7-10, 2013. One of my roles was to represent NSS, as we were provided a display table in the lobby of the building where most of the activities occurred. The Tucson chapter (Al Anzaldua) provided a banner while Phoenix chapter member Chuck Lesher provided a nice color poster we used on the table top. Our stash of stickers, a box Ad Astra magazines from the national office, plus simple membership forms we made, were handed out at the table. About 200 color trifold membership flyers were provided to attendees in their registration bag.
NSS Regional Director Christopher Carson came and staffed the table for much of the conference. I was on one of the panels and had two other groups to represent so I could not be there continuously. He was planning to talk to the SEDS leadership about renewing the MOU between SEDS and NSS re a free first year membership in NSS. I expect a report from Chris soon. Phoenix chapter member Pat Lonchar came Saturday and staffed the table and attended the banquet (using tickets I got from Orbital Sciences).
Over 300 people attended the four day conference. I was there for parts of three days including the opening keynote presentations on Thursday evening. The event chair, John Conafay, gave a great opening speech. Jim Bell, an ASU professor who is president of the Planetary Society, introduced the keynote speaker. The keynote was given by science educator (and Planetary Society CEO) Bill Nye. He gave an entertaining, inspiring talk with a lot of emphasis on climate change and space exploration. A key message to students was to get involved (vote). The students (who probably grew up watching him on TV) treat him as somewhat of a “rock star”.
I was able to attend a number of presentations, including one by James Pura of the Space Frontier Foundation (I also attended a couple of Rick Tumlinson’s talks). Pura discussed some of the projects of the SFF. Although they are not really a membership organization, they seemed to be in a recruiting mode at the conference. They are more of a policy-making/pushing organization with a focus on space settlement and the frontier paradigm, rather than a grass-roots organization focused on near-term projects. They are decidedly “free enterprise” supporters suspicious of government directed and operated space programs.
They have a number of interesting projects. One of them picked up the old Teachers in Space effort and they are implementing that in new ways.
Pura showed the “There is Another Way” video which makes a lot of sense in some ways, but still requires a very expensive development of space infrastructure that does not currently exist. They claim to have details on the financial analysis of this concept, but on the surface it seems wildly optimistic. Personally, I would need to look at it in more detail.
If SFF can appeal to SEDS members with little to offer re local networking opportunities, why shouldn’t NSS or the Moon Society be an attractive group to join as these students leave school? I would recommend that the national level NSS leadership engage in a stronger presence at future SEDS events. But I think groups like SEDS and this sort of event demonstrates that there is a lot of passion for space amongst folks under the age of 25.