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.

• 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 (


International Space Development Conference

May 23-27, 2013


The 32nd International Space Development Conference, to be held at the La Jolla Hyatt Regency, San Diego, California, May 23-27, 2013. Speakers at the ISDC will discuss many breakthroughs happening in space development. ISDC 2013 will showcase the latest developments, promote new ideas, and prove fertile ground for collaboration and innovation.

The conference theme is “Global Collaboration in 21st Century Space.” This is the century we break free of the gravity that has limited our ability to colonize space. We will learn how to collaborate effectively in a global, soon to be multi-planetary community. ISDC promises to be the place where 21st century skills are developed for 21st century space.
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Paul Damphousse, NSS Executive Director, on The Space Show

This Sunday, January 6, 2013, 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST) Paul Damphousse, Executive Director of NSS, will be interviewed live on The Space Show. Listeners can talk with Lt. Col. Paul Damphouse or the host and express their views using toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, and by sending e-mail during the program using,, You can also use Skype from your computer with a headset. The I. D. is thespaceshow. Please note that Skype is only available when announced as such at the beginning of each program. Please note the toll free number is only available during a live Space Show program. At all other times, it is disconnected.

Meet Paul Damphouse at the Florida Space Coast Chapter of the NSS

Edit: Unfortunately “Frankenstorm” has canceled Monday travel for half the world and Paul Damphouse is no exception. He plans to reschedule for early next year.

Our friends at the Florida Space Coast Chapter of the NSS are hosting Paul Damphouse, Executive Director of the National Space Society tomorrow evening:

Who: Lt. Col. Paul Damphousse, Executive Director, National Space Society
When: Monday, October 29, 7:00 PM
Where: Applebee’s, 12103 Collegiate Way, Orlando
RSVP is required! Space is limited.

Laura Seward notes: “Want to learn more about the National Space Society, straight from the source at the top? Join us tomorrow evening for this special event! RSVP today! Perfect for those who can’t join us on our usual Saturday Space Local events and for those who live in the Orlando metro area.”

Transit of Venus – Party at HCC

The Meade Telescope Safely Projecting an Image of the Sun and Venus
Image Credit: Dave Fischer

The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix (HSGP) held a party to celebrate the Transit of Venus across the disc of the Sun. I won’t happen again for another 105 years. The Humanist Community Center is located at 627 W Eighth Street, Mesa Arizona.

Below is the black disk of Venus crossing the Sun.

The Transit of Venus Projected on our Screen
Image Credit: Dave Fischer

NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items

The National Space Society (NSS) calls on Congress to ease export control regulations on spacecraft and related items, as urged by the Departments of Defense and State in their recent, joint “Section 1248” report, “Risk Assessment of the United States Space Export Control Policy.”

This report concluded that spacecraft and their components, designated as dual-use items, can safely be removed from the U.S. Munitions List (USML), which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by the Department of State.

Once off the USML, the report recommends that these items be placed on the Commerce Control List (CCL) managed by the Department of Commerce. Experts maintain that a failure to implement this change not only would continue to cause harm to the American space industrial base, but could actually pose a threat to national security and potentially impede current and future space exploration efforts.

“For many years, the U.S. space industrial base has been at a competitive disadvantage with other countries due to outdated and overly burdensome licensing processes under ITAR,” said NSS Executive Director, Paul E. Damphousse. “The U.S space export control system has created delays, driven up costs, and severely hampered the ability of the American space industry to compete in an increasingly global market, and this situation must not be allowed to continue.”

A distinguished panel of export control policy experts will discuss the recommendations outlined in the Section 1248 report at NSS’s upcoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Washington, DC May 24-28, 2012. Patricia Cooper of the Satellite Industry Association will moderate the panel, which will include representatives from the Defense Department, Tauri Group, Bigelow Aerospace and the Universities Space Research Association. For more information about media access to the panel, please visit or email

NSS believes that implementation of these recommendations will serve to bolster critical American space industries vital to space development and lead to increased cooperation in space exploration initiatives with our international partners. NSS agrees with the report’s goal, which is to urge Congress to enact legislation to “create higher walls around fewer items” and support the health and leadership of the U.S. space industrial base.

ISDC 2012 Features NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

(Washington, DC – April 23, 2012) The National Space Society is pleased to announce NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as the Keynote speaker for the Opening Plenary Session at this year’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC), being held at the Grand Hyatt Washington (DC) hotel May 25th. In addition, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is confirmed as the Keynote speaker for NSS’s Annual Awards Dinner on Sunday evening, May 27th.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., began his duties as the twelfth Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on July 17, 2009. Gen. Bolden’s 34-year career with the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. He traveled to orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions. His flights included deployment of the Hubble SpaceTelescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew.

As Deputy Administrator, Ms. Garver is NASA’s second in command and this is the second time she has worked for the agency. During her first period of service (1996 to 2001), she served as a special assistant to the NASA Administrator and senior policy analyst for the Office of Policy and Plans, where she was later named Associate Administrator. Reporting to the NASA Administrator in the latter position, she oversaw the analysis, development and integration of policies and long-range plans, the NASA Strategic Management System, and the NASA Advisory Council.

Ms. Garver, who also worked for NSS from 1984 through 1996 and served as the Society’s Executive Director for a number of years, will also participate in a panel exploring NSS’s heritage during a plenary session the same morning, as part of the Society’s celebration of its 25th Anniversary year.

About ISDC: The International Space Development Conference is the annual conference of the National Space Society. ISDC 2012 will take place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC from May 24 through 28, 2012. ISDC brings together a diverse group of NASA officials, aerospace industry leaders and interested private citizens to engage in discussions about today’s prevalent space issues in order to stimulate innovation and overcome the obstacles that hinder human advancement off the Earth.

About The National Space Society (NSS)
: NSS is an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded when the National Space Institute and the L5 Society merged in 1987, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS has over 12,000 members and supporters, and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. For more information about NSS, please visit