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.

Monthly Meeting is Next Saturday

The next meeting of the Phoenix Chapters of the National Space Society and the Moon Society will be at our usual date and location on next Saturday (April 16, 11 am) at the Humanist Center in Mesa. Our own Mike Clark will present some of the aerospace news videos he produces for the on-line TMRO webcasts (

Mike Clark does short videos (5 to 8 minutes) called Space Pod available from several on line venues including a YouTube channel. He releases these every week or so and they focus on the latest news in space development. Mike’s style is very friendly and congenial, and he explains things in a clear, concise way. The TMRO Space Pods are crowd funded shows and they are always looking for patrons, which I’m sure Mike will tell us all about. We’ll watch some of the videos, and then have an open discussion about some of the latest developments in space exploration.

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.

Hope to see many of you there!

Don’t forget to drop by The Grid Tuesday for Yuri’s Night. See previous post on this blog.


Mike Mackowski

President, Phoenix chapters NSS & TMS

It’s time for Yuri’s Night!

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the Earth. Yuri’s Night is the World Space Party. Every April 12th the world comes together to dream about where we’re going, explore where we are, and celebrate where we’ve been. To celebrate the anniversary of this milestone in space exploration, the Phoenix aerospace community is having a Yuri’s Night (YN) event on Tuesday, April 12. See this link for more information on the global Yuri’s Night celebrations.


The local celebration will be at The Grid in Mesa! We’ll have prizes for the best space themed costumes and Legos to build spaceships. Perchdragon will be spinning all night. The Grid is Mesa’s latest neon-filled bar/arcade and blends the best craft beers with gaming culture. Admission is free!

You can RSVP for the party on Facebook (or just show up):

The Grid: Games and Growlers 525 S Gilbert Rd, Mesa, Arizona 85204

Hope to see many of you there!


Mike Mackowski

March 19 Meeting – The International Space Station

The Making of The International Space Station

Discussion led by Chuck Lesher

The International Space Station is the largest man-made structure ever built in space. From end to end, it is as long as a football field and can be seen from the ground by the unaided eye by observers who know when and where to look.


The $100 billion space station is the product of international cooperation among 15 different countries and five national space agencies representing the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan. Construction began in 1998 and the first crew, Expedition 1, took up resident in 2000. Rotating crews of between three and six astronauts/cosmonauts have kept the space station permanently manned ever since.

Along with a bunch of images gleaned from various websites (mostly NASA), Chuck has put together a presentation showing the construction of the ISS and its present configuration. He will show several short videos including a recent 28-minute tour of the station given by Sunita Williams.  He will be bringing a model of the ISS designed and released in 2000. Chuck has tried to bring the model more in line with how the ISS actually turned out. The idea is to generate a nice discussion of the Space Station and perhaps tell you something you hadn’t know before. Should be fun.

The meeting will start at 11 am at our usual location at the Humanist Center in Mesa (627 W. Rio Salado Parkway). We will also have a short preview of the upcoming Space Access Conference from the event organizer, Henry Vanderbilt. As always, everyone’s welcome.

February Meeting

The February meeting of the Phoenix Chapters of the National Space Society and Moon Society will be a week earlier than usual. It will also be a field trip, as you are invited to partake in a visit to Biosphere 2 near Oracle, AZ during the afternoon of Saturday, February 13, 2016. This is a joint activity of the Phoenix and Tucson chapters of the National Space Society and the Phoenix Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Biosphere 2 is one of the world’s most unique facilities dedicated to the research and understanding of global scientific issues. The Biosphere 2 facility serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching provider of public education. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe; to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding about Earth and its future; to be an adaptive tool for Earth education and outreach to industry, government, and the public; and to distil issues related to Earth systems planning and management for use by policymakers, students and the public.

Admission is per below and we are actually planning to partake in two tours (included in this price):

Adults $20

Military $18

Children ages 6 through 12 $13

Plan to arrive around 2:15 pm at Biosphere 2. They are located just outside of Oracle, AZ, which is on Hwy 77 north of Tucson. See their website for directions. We will start with a history tour at 2:30 followed by a guided tour of the facility. The general tours run roughly about an hour and half, are a little under a mile of walking with over 150 stairs throughout the structure, and are led by a tour guide. We should be done by 5 pm, and afterwards folks who are interested will head to Oracle for an informal dinner at a restaurant to be determined.

Please RSVP by clicking this link (this is a Google form we use for AIAA events) or by replying to this email (send a reply to Michael Mackowski) so we can get an idea of how many people to expect. You do not have to pay in advance, as it will be simpler to just pay at the door.

We hope to see many of you there for this unique opportunity!

Mike Mackowski

President, NSS & Moon Society Phoenix

January 16 Meeting is at ASU

The January 16 meeting of the Phoenix Chapters of the National Space Society and Moon Society will be at a different time and location than the usual. We will meet at 1:15 pm at the ISTB4 building on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. We will get a tour of their planetary sciences exhibits followed by viewing a 3D planetarium show. Admission to the planetarium show is $7.50 at the door. If we get a dozen or so people, we’ll get the admission discounted to $5.

The exhibits include a Mars science mission control room, interactive displays on Earth and planetary science, labs for building space experiments, and an extensive meteorite collection. The planetarium show will be “The Search: Exploring Unknown Worlds” which explores discoveries and current research of exoplanets (worlds beyond our Solar System). This 60 minute presentation is a live 3-D exploration of known exoplanets in our neighborhood in space.

We recommend parking in the surface lot (Lot 44) immediately south of ISTB4. It is supposedly free on weekends (there is a machine you normally pay at, but it is not enforced on weekends and there is no gate). The Rural Road parking structure is directly easy of ISTB 4 but the automated fee system apparently is active even on weekends at $3 per hour. For more information on the building location and parking, please see:

As a heads up, we are planning a trip to Biosphere 2, north of Tucson, for our February meeting. We will do this as a combined trip with the NSS chapter from Tucson, so it will be a week earlier than normal, on Sat. Feb. 13.

Hope to see many of you at ASU next week!

Mike Mackowski
President, NSS & Moon Society Phoenix

A Gift List for the Space Advocate

Commentary by Mike Mackowski

Bill Nye Follow Up

I attended Bill Nye’s presentation to a full house (3000 people, mostly students) at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium on December 7. His talk hit a lot of topics, and was mostly a motivational speech to support science topics, especially space exploration and climate change research. He did promote membership in the Planetary Society, which is fine, but of course I also encourage folks to join NSS, which has an active local branch. It’s always more enjoyable to do grass-roots advocacy when you have other like-minded people around you.

Nye did not make a big deal out of his book, so the talk wasn’t what you might expect from a book tour. Nor was he trying to shame the audience into taking a more active role in promoting science, instead, he was primarily telling the story of his own personal journey in engineering and the media and science in our culture. Overall I think he did a great job of inspiring the students in the audience to keep working hard towards their goals in the sciences, and there was nothing wrong with that.

An Early Christmas Present for NASA

In the news today (Dec. 16) was word that Congress’ omnibus budget bill, which is expected to pass both houses and be signed by President Obama, has a nearly 7.5% increase in funding for NASA for FY2016 versus the prior year. Apparently this was largely the result of the October budget compromise where some of the sequestration limits were lifted which resulted in additional funding available for agencies like NASA. This enabled all their big programs to get the funds NASA requested to maintain planned programs, and sometimes more. This included SLS, Commercial Crew, and planetary exploration. In other words, everybody won. In past years, it seemed that one or more of those three pieces had to be cut to feed one of the others. This is good news all around as it will keep some programs on track (Commercial Crew) and enhance others (like adding a lander to a Europa mission).

My understanding is the main reason for this increase was that more money was available overall. I don’t know what effect, if any, lobbying or citizen advocacy had on this increase. It would be nice to think that groups like NSS or the Planetary Society could take some credit for this, but I think bigger forces were the main driver. It’s good news no matter what the reason. See this article and this article for more details.

Speaking of Like Minded People

Don’t forget that my wife (Maura) and I are hosting a Christmas party this Saturday, December 19, at our house in Gilbert. The spaced-out holiday fun starts at 7:30 pm so send me an RSVP if you can attend. Feel free to bring a drink or snack to share.