Category Archives: Space Education


I’ve been to many AIAA space conferences over the decades, but this was my first attendance to the new format called ASCEND, in Las Vegas, and I have to say that it’s a huge improvement over the traditional ones. In my experience, the large AIAA conferences on space have traditionally been overwhelming in terms of the number of papers presented, and the high number of them being presented simultaneously, often with very low attendance at any particular one.

ASCEND was in comparison much more focused, with fewer, but higher-quality presentations, and much less frustration at having to miss events due to inability to be multiple places at once. There were also ample breaks from sessions to provide valuable networking opportunities, which has always been one of the more important reasons for in-person attendance.

While there were fewer presentations, there was no reduction in the scope of topics covered. As always, this was not merely a technical conference, but a conference on all aspects of what it is going to take to advance humanity into the solar system, with sessions on: space law; the economics of spaceflight; space transportation; space investment; space history; sustainability in terms of orbital debris and situation space awareness, utilization of in-situ resources for transportation, life support, and space manufacturing; space medicine; space assembly for telescopes and perhaps solar-power satellites; and even sociology for future space inhabitants.

The attendees ranged from students to seasoned industry professionals, not just from the US, but many other countries, with many opportunities for interaction between generations and nations. I applaud the AIAA for creating such an exciting and useful venue for those interested in moving humanity and life off its home planet.

Making Space Relevant To The American People

In a discussion at NASA Watch about the president’s…interesting…statements on space policy, Andrew Tubbiolo has some ideas:

Launch Vehicle Extreme Makeover:
A team of crack yet touchy feely Engineers arrive on a bus, send the NASA team to Disney World, tear everything apart, and employ John Carmak and XCOR Aerospace to rebuild everything…..It’ll all look nice, but doesn’t really need to work. Employ the typical attendees of the Space Access Conference as the mindless mob cheering the action on.

Big Brother, Space Station Edition:
Pick the hottest babes from an international set of scientists, one grumpy Russian, a cut party animal fighter jock from the US Navy and lock them in an orbital space station for one month of intense competition. Make them execute complex, obscure, yet useless tasks that employ almost none of the skills they developed thus far in their lives. Every week someone is voted out the airlock.

The Gong Panel:
A panel of three PI’s from past obscure space missions completed at least a decade ago decide the fate of proposed programs as they are presented live on stage. The proposed project with the highest score wins funding. At any time during the presentation panel members are allowed to reject the proposal by banging a gong.

I think this would go a long way towards making space more relevant to the general public. Heck, it would make me pay more attention to it.

Don’t give PAO any ideas.

[Late morning update]

Here is the full story on the president’s remarks.

He said nothing about whether he wants to continue the Bush administration’s Constellation program, intended to send astronauts to the moon by 2020. The program’s Ares I rocket is behind schedule and over budget, leading to speculation that it will miss its targeted 2015 launch date and further reduce the skilled work force at KSC.

He was also silent about the fate of the $100billion international space station. Once the shuttle is retired, NASA will depend on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for access to the station.

I’ve been trying, ever since the inauguration, to figure out if the plan is to come up with a new direction for the agency, and then find an administrator to implement it, or to find a good administrator, and direct him (or her) to come up with the plan. Or, given a lot of the other Charlie Foxtrot that’s been going on in general, if there is no plan.

Happy Anniversary

It’s been a year since Henry Cate kicked off the Carnival of Space. He’s asking for entries for the anniversary edition:

Fraser Cain, the current organizer of the Carnival of Space, has graciously asked me to host the anniversary edition of the Carnival
of Space.

Could you:

1) Consider sending in an entry to the carnival? Send the link to a post about space to: It is helpful if you include a brief summary of your post.

2) Encourage your readers to also send in an entry?

You could direct them here.

Remembering Challenger

This weekend, I met a young woman, now attending law school in Ann Arbor, who was in diapers when it happened. To her, it’s ancient unremembered history, just as the Eisenhower administration is to me (though I at least study it, unlike most of my age cohorts). It made me feel old. We have a generation, though, about ten years older than her, now in their thirties, for whom it was probably the most traumatic event of their young lives. The comments are closed on my post from six years ago, but anyone who wants to post remembrances can do it here, with the caveat that I still haven’t completely recovered from my recent MT upgrade (still hoping that someone who knows it will volunteer to help), so you can use them, but they will time out. Don’t expect to get a response after submitting the comment. Just back up after a while, and refresh the page to see it.

I’m particularly interested in how the event changed your perception of the Shuttle, and the space program in general, if at all, per my previous thoughts.

Space Journalism Prize Revised

Space Journalism Prize submissions have been light this year. It has been revamped as follows.

  • Deadline has been extended to May 31
  • 3rd party submissions now allowed
  • Author permission no longer required
  • Clark Lindsey is replacing me as judge

Note that the judging criteria are the same as last year except that there is only nine months worth of material to compete against. If you entered last year, do it again this year. Winner will be announced at Space Frontier meeting.