Stephen Hawking Accepts Prestigious NSS Award on Society's 25th Anniversary

The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce Dr. Stephen Hawking as the 14th recipient of NSS’s Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award. The award was presented to Dr. Hawking at a special ceremony at the Cooks Branch Conservancy in Montgomery, Texas on Wednesday, March 28 and is given in recognition of his outstanding and continuing public efforts in support of human space development and settlement.

NSS Executive Director Paul Damphousse (carrying Heinlein Award) and Dr. Stephen Hawking. Photo: Lee Ray.

See also Dr. Hawking’s 25-minute video Why We Should Go into Space (with transcript).

In the last decade, Dr. Hawking has repeatedly and publicly advocated the need to move part of humanity off the Earth in order to avoid the destruction of the human race, either through self-destructive actions such as nuclear war, or natural phenomena such as asteroid collision or, eventually, the death of our nearest star, the Sun. “I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” says Hawking. “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.”

“Dr. Hawking’s public statements are very important, not only because of the respect his fellow scientists and many others have for him and his work, but also because they give more credence to these issues among scientists, the media, politicians, and the public,” said NSS Executive Director, Paul E. Damphousse, who will present the award to Hawking in Texas, along with Board of Governors member and Heinlein literary executor, Arthur M. Dula, CEO of Excalibur Almaz, a private spaceflight company.

Damphousse added, “Speaking for all our members, chapters, and partners who actively participated in the selection process, it is a distinct honor and privilege to bestow this honor upon Dr. Hawking – one of the greatest minds of our time.”

The Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award, named after the author widely recognized as the “dean of science fiction writers,” honors those individuals who have made significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization. Those individuals whose actions have involved personal, social, or financial risk are particularly meritorious. It is one of the highest honors bestowed upon an individual by the National Space Society because the award winner is chosen by vote of all of the Society’s members and chapters.

The date on which Dr. Hawking will receive the award exactly coincides with the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the National Space Society through a merger between the National Space Institute and the L5 Society. More formal celebratory events will occur at NSS’s 31st International Space Development Conference to be held in Washington, D.C., May 24-28, 2012. A video of the award presentation to Dr. Hawking will be shown at the 25th Anniversary Governors Dinner and Gala.

Edoardo Amaldi Resuppy Mission to the ISS

ATV-3 Inside Fairing
Image Credit: ESA

Previously delayed, the European Space Agency is ready to launch the Edoardo Amaldi this evening. The mission is to provide supplies to the International Space Station, including a spare Fluids Control Pump Assembly (FCPA). This is a critical component on the ISS used to recycle urine into drinkable water and the spare is going up with ATV-3.

Following ESA’s formal Launch Readiness Review on Monday, which revealed no problems with the vessel, the launch was officially set for Friday 23 March at 0434 UTC. This is Thursday evening at 9:34 PM Phoenix time, tonight.

On Wednesday, Ariane and ATV Edoardo Amaldi were rolled out to the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. The total vehicle mass is 777 tonnes –the heaviest ever for an Ariane. This ATV is also the rocket’s heaviest payload so far.

As the launch countdown progresses, we will add updates and images from Kourou. Live video from Arianespace can be seen here.

At the moment, it is 3:34 PM in Phoenix, and we are six hours from launch.

The Ariane 5 carrying ATV-3 rolled out to the launch pad yesterday, Wednesday.

Rollout Wednesday
Image Credit: ESA TV

Rollout Wednesday
Image Credit: ESA TV

With four hours until launch, there are light rain showers. The temperature is 77° Fahrenheit. Thunderstorms are predicted for later tonight with 50% chance of rain.

One hour to launch.

At 9:16 PM Phoenix time, we are less than 20 minutes from the launch of the Edoardo Amaldi. All systems are currently green. This is the 65th Ariane 5

NASA TV is also covering the launch live.

At T-minus 7 minutes we are moving into automatic computer operations. Any operational problem would require recycling to T-minus 7.

T-minus 2 minutes, and weather is good, synchronized sequence is running.

Launch and everything looks good at the moment.

At three (3:00) minutes into the launch, the boosters have separated, and now we have fairing separation.

T-minus 14
T-minus 14
Image Credit: NASA TV

T-minus 9
T-minus 9
Image Credit: NASA TV

Launch of ATV-3
Image Credit: NASA TV

Ariane 5 Downrange
Image Credit: NASA TV

We now have Main Engine Cutoff. Stage Separation and second stage burn.

At twelve minutes into the flight, all systems are performing nominally.

At 18 minutes into the mission, ATV-3 is at altitude of 147.4 kilometers, and a velocity of 7.56 km/sec/

18 minutes into the mission
Image Credit: NASA TV

For die hard fans of the launch sequence and flight times, here is the ESA time-line for the Edoardo Amaldi Mission:

  • –11 hr 30 mn Start of final countdown
  • –4 hr 50 mn Start of filling of main cryogenic stage with liquid oxygen and hydrogen
  • –1 hr 10 mn Check of connections between launcher and telemetry, tracking and command systems
  • –7 min 00 sec ‘All systems go’ report at Launch Control Centre, allowing start of synchronised sequence
  • –1 min 00 sec Switch to onboard power
  • –04 sec Onboard systems take over
  • –03 sec Unlocking of guidance systems to flight mode
  • H0 Ignition of the Ariane 5 main stage engine
  • +7.0 sec Ignition of solid boosters
  • +7.3 sec Liftoff
  • +17.1 sec Beginning of roll manoeuvre
  • +2 min 22 sec Booster separation
  • +3 min 26 sec Fairing jettison
  • +8 min 54 sec End of main engine firing
  • +9 min 00 sec Upper stage separation
  • +9 min 07 sec Beginning of upper stage first burn
  • +17 min 18 sec End of upper stage first burn
  • +59 min 23 sec Beginning of upper stage second burn
  • +59 min 51 sec End of upper stage second burn
  • +1 hr 3 min 50 sec ATV separation
  • +1 hr 35 min 30 sec ATV solar array deployment complete

At the moment, all systems are green and ATV-3 is set to automatically dock with the Station’s Russian Zvezda module during the night of 28–29 March.

John Glenn and Scott Carpenter Featured Guests for NSS 25th Anniversary Gala

The National Space Society is pleased to announce that Project Mercury astronauts, Senator John Glenn and Commander Scott Carpenter, will be the featured guests at the Society’s annual Governors’ Dinner and Gala being held at the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC on Friday, May 25, 2012.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Glenn’s (February 20) and Carpenter’s (May 24) historic flights in 1962 as the first two American astronauts to orbit Earth.  Further, the National Space Society is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding due to the merger between the National Space Institute and the L5 Society in 1987.

“We are extremely honored that both Senator Glenn and Commander Carpenter will be joining us in Washington for this event,” said Paul Damphousse, NSS Executive Director.  “I can’t think of a better inspiration for those of us looking to build a new future in space than by recognizing the dedication and commitment of these two American heroes and the part they played in advancing U.S. space exploration and travel.”

At the dinner, Glenn and Carpenter each will receive NSS’s Space Pioneer Award for Historic Space Achievement and they have both been asked to speak briefly after the award ceremony.

The Governors’ Dinner and Gala is the highlight of the Society’s annual International Space Development Conference, taking place in Washington from May 24th through 28th at the Grand Hyatt Washington.  The Gala honors the NSS Board of Governors, a volunteer advisory board composed of outstanding individuals in the fields of science, engineering, the arts, government, the press, business, law, medicine, and other professions and occupations, and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Society or its goals. Current members of the Board of Governors include former astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Harrison Schmitt, as well as celebrities Hugh Downs, Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.

Tickets for the 25th Anniversary Governors’ Dinner and Gala will go on sale April 1.  Please be sure to visit the ISDC 2012 web page at, as we will continue to post updates on conference and Gala information.  You may also “Like” our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or join the International Space Development Conference group on Linked In.

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.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Senate Testimony

Testimony by Neil deGrasse Tyson before the US Senate Committee on Commerce Science & Transportation, March 7, 2012:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. — Antoine St. Exupery.

Currently, NASA’s Mars science exploration budget is being decimated, we are not going back to the Moon, and plans for astronauts to visit Mars are delayed until the 2030s — on funding not yet allocated, overseen by a congress and president to be named later.

During the late 1950s through the early 1970s, every few weeks an article, cover story, or headline would extol the “city of tomorrow,” the “home of tomorrow,” the “transportation of tomorrow.” Despite such optimism, that period was one of the gloomiest in U.S. history, with a level of unrest not seen since the Civil War. The Cold War threatened total annihilation, a hot war killed a hundred servicemen each week, the civil rights movement played out in daily confrontations, and multiple assassinations and urban riots poisoned the landscape.

The only people doing much dreaming back then were scientists, engineers, and technologists. Their visions of tomorrow derive from their formal training as discoverers. And what inspired them was America’s bold and visible investment on the space frontier.

Exploration of the unknown might not strike everyone as a priority. Yet audacious visions have the power to alter mind-states — to change assumptions of what is possible. When a nation permits itself to dream big, those dreams pervade its citizens’ ambitions. They energize the electorate. During the Apollo era, you didn’t need government programs to convince people that doing science and engineering was good for the country. It was self-evident. And even those not formally trained in technical fields embraced what those fields meant for the collective national future.

For a while there, the United States led the world in nearly every metric of economic strength that mattered. Scientific and technological innovation is the engine of economic growth — a pattern that has been especially true since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. That’s the climate out of which the New York World’s Fair emerged, with its iconic Unisphere — displaying three rings — evoking the three orbits of John Glenn in his Mercury 7 capsule.

During this age of space exploration, any jobs that went overseas were the kind nobody wanted anyway. Those that stayed in this country were the consequence of persistent streams of innovation that could not be outsourced, because other nations could not compete at our level. In fact, most of the world’s nations stood awestruck by our accomplishments.

Let’s be honest with one anther. We went to the Moon because we were at war with the Soviet Union. To think otherwise is delusion, leading some to suppose the only reason we’re not on Mars already is the absence of visionary leaders, or of political will, or of money. No. When you perceive your security to be at risk, money flows like rivers to protect is.

But there exists another driver of great ambitions, almost as potent as war. That’s the promise of wealth. Fully funded missions to Mars and beyond, commanded by astronauts who, today, are in middle school, would reboot America’s capacity to innovate as no other force in society can. What matters here are not spin-offs (although I could list a few: Accurate affordable Lasik surgery, Scratch resistant lenses, Chordless power tools, Tempurfoam, Cochlear implants, the drive to miniaturize of electronics…) but cultural shifts in how the electorate views the role of science and technology in our daily lives.

As the 1970s drew to a close, we stopped advancing a space frontier. The “tomorrow” articles faded. And we spent the next several decades coasting on the innovations conceived by earlier dreamers. They knew that seemingly impossible things were possible — the older among them had enabled, and the younger among them had witnessed the Apollo voyages to the Moon — the greatest adventure there ever was. If all you do is coast, eventually you slow down, while others catch up and pass you by.

All these piecemeal symptoms that we see and feel — the nation is going broke, it’s mired in debt, we don’t have as many scientists, jobs are going overseas — are not isolated problems. They’re part of the absence of ambition that consumes you when you stop having dreams. Space is a multidimensional enterprise that taps the frontiers of many disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, astrophysics, geology, atmospherics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering. These classic subjects are the foundation of the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — and they are all represented in the NASA portfolio.

Epic space adventures plant seeds of economic growth, because doing what’s never been done before is intellectually seductive (whether deemed practical or not), and innovation follows, just as day follows night. When you innovate, you lead the world, you keep your jobs, and concerns over tariffs and trade imbalances evaporate. The call for this adventure would echo loudly across society and down the educational pipeline.

At what cost? The spending portfolio of the United States currently allocates fifty times as much money to social programs and education than it does to NASA. The 2008 bank bailout of $750 billion was greater than all the money NASA had received in its half-century history; two years’ U.S. military spending exceeds it as well. Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that — a penny on a dollar — we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow.

How much would you pay to “launch” our economy? How much would you pay for the universe?

Note: The views above are derived from Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, W W Norton 2012.

2012 Legislative Blitz: Broad Bi-Partisan Support for US Space Program on Capitol Hill, Yet Differing Opinions on Approach

The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce that this year’s Legislative Blitz was very successful, as we called on Congress to work with the Administration and NASA to reach consensus on a unified and comprehensive human and robotic spaceflight program.

The annual Blitz, conducted in conjunction with 12 other non-profit space advocacy organizations that collectively form the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA), is a grassroots event that unites individuals from all walks of life and with diverse political beliefs to meet with members of Congress and/or their staff to stress the importance of space exploration and development.

“We had 100 congressional meetings over two days, and found broad bi-partisan support for our space program, but varying opinions as to the best path forward in light of the current budget situation, and those differences of opinion are not necessarily based on party lines,” said NSS Executive Vice President Rick Zucker, the primary coordinator and scheduler for the Blitz on behalf of SEA.

The Blitz teams advocated for the six major components of a well-developed U.S. space program contained in the SEA’s Blitz Talking Points:

1. Development of the next generation of launch vehicles that are “mission-enabling and mission-enhancing, while at the same time focused on efficiency, affordability, safety, reliability and sustainability”;

2. Full support by Congress for the commercial launch industry in its efforts to restore American access to the International Space Station, with NASA focusing its resources on exploration, which would provide NASA with a higher return on its science/exploration budget;

3. Establishment of specific timelines and goals for future human space activities, including at least one intermediate destination beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), such as an asteroid or the Moon, as well as a plan to land a human on Mars;

4. Support for space science that will push the boundaries of knowledge and pave the way for human space exploration;

5. The definition and prioritization by NASA of the most promising advanced technology concepts, which will not only provide the means to explore and develop space, and a sustained human presence in space, but also to develop new applications to improve life on Earth; and

6. A sustained generational commitment to NASA’s mission that transcends partisan politics and election cycles, as well as provides incentives for private sector participation and international partnerships.

In addition to the Blitz Talking Points and other informative materials, a copy of NSS’s recently published “Call to Action for American Leadership in Civil Space” was distributed to the individual members and their staff at each of the meetings.

NSS Executive Director Paul Damphousse said, “NSS is very pleased to lead the SEA in calling on Congress and the Administration to work together in leveraging the necessary partnerships between the public and private sectors relative to space exploration and launch capabilities. We look forward to a continued strong relationship with our sister organizations in advocating for our mutual goals.”

About the Space Exploration Alliance: The Space Exploration Alliance is an unprecedented partnership of the nation’s premier non-profit space organizations with a combined membership of thousands of people throughout the United States. SEA members work together to communicate to the American public and elected officials that NASA’s bold and substantial mandate for human and robotic exploration of the solar system is a compelling national priority that is technically and fiscally achievable, will inspire the nation’s youth and the public, reinvigorate the traditional aerospace workforce and industrial base, and foster job-creating entrepreneurial activity across the entire economy.

Aligning Politics with Space – SEA 2012 Legislative Blitz

By Kelly Thomas

A high school student’s personal account of the Space Exploration Alliance Legislative Blitz

On February 26th, 27th and 28th, Blaze Sanders and I were among the people who partook in the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) Legislative Blitz. The SEA is a coalition of 13 non-profit space organizations, including the AIAA, Mars Society, and National Space Society, and it aims to promote NASA’s vision for human and robotic exploration of the universe to ensure American technological and scientific preeminence in the 21st century. Each year, the SEA organizes nearly a hundred meetings with various congressional offices, during which it aims to communicate to American policy makers the impact space endeavors have on inspiring the nation’s youth; reinvigorating the science, technology, engineering and math industrial base; and fostering job-creating entrepreneurship across the national economy.

The thirteen groups comprising the Space Exploration Alliance who contributed to the 2012 Legislative Blitz.

We attended a training session during which logistics and speaking points were established, and we were briefed by a well-placed congressional staffer. During the training session, the chairmen of the blitz, Rick Zucker and Chris Carberry, outlined specific speaking points to bring up with the congressional offices, including the emphasis on the importance of the United States having its own launch capability, the establishment of an infrastructure encouraging the private sector, and the weight of establishing specific goals and timelines that foster sustainability.

On the morning of February 27, we were brought to NASA Headquarters for a brief by Deputy Director Lori Garver, who gave us a breakdown of the current budget and the upcoming estimates for FY13 for us to use in our congressional meetings.

After the course of the Blitz, there was a multitude of lessons learned on many fronts. One of the greatest obstacles in scientific progression, especially through NASA, is the barrier in communication between the technical-skilled and the decision makers. It takes scientists and engineers with a profound understanding of big-picture impacts to translate the technical evidence into a tangible, sell-able vision to Congress — you can imagine how throwing aerospace jargon at congressional staffers will have little success beyond the achievement of glazed-over eyes and absent-minded nods, and even worse, no commitment to take action.

Instead, we aim to illustrate the bridge between the government’s role in space jurisdiction and the national — and global — impact space exploration has on the economy, the public, and the scientific progression of humanity. We have to enable the congressional offices to easily see the connection between NASA and private sector activity, and the resulting effect it has on their respective states across many social and technical areas. We also must ensure they realize the return of investment; the taxpayer’s money in the space program generates not only job creation but also an inspiration in students to pursue STEM. The best way to illustrate this connection is through concrete data, such as charts and/or graphs, and a brief statistical analysis of its impact on the well-being of the state.

For instance, one of the first offices we spoke with was that of Senator Mark Begich (D-AK). We tailored our argument to the leagues of opportunity Alaska has in its Kodiak launch complex — laying out its potential use for NASA in exploration and for the private sector as a segue into a lucrative market in space. Opening up the Kodiak launch complex for commercial use would create jobs in Alaska in addition to inspiring scholars to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, tapping into a booming market and fulfilling the demand for more scientists and engineers in the state. Alaska also averages 6 times more pilots than any other state, entertains a flourishing air transportation infrastructure, and hugely depends on satellites for weather and atmospheric conditions that affect the state’s numerous fisheries and air transportation system. Through making these connections with NASA and private space, we were able make clearly visible the return of the state’s investment.

Kelly Thomas outside of Sen. Mark Begich’s office (D-AK).

Although Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) office initially (politely) brushed off the idea of significant investment in space due to the lack of either a NASA center or a space port in South Carolina, the staffers’ eyes lit up at the possibility of job creation and potential capital through encouraging Boeing, located in Charleston, to pursue the commercial space industry.

To congressmen like Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Tod Rokita (R-IN), whose spending on education in FY11 totaled nearly 60% and 95% of their entire budgets respectively, we stressed the enormous role space exploration plays in inspiring children to pursue STEM careers. NASA serves as a beacon of STEM outreach — during the Apollo era, the children who witnessed Neil Armstrong walk on the moon grew up with a dream of also enabling awe-inspiring, near-impossible achievements for mankind. These days, we no longer have landmark missions that can ignite that same passion in kids; we need another “leap for mankind” to reinvigorate children and push them towards STEM fields. For example, the reaction to a manned landing on Mars would have children nationwide zipping around with toy rockets proclaiming “I want to work for NASA when I grow up!”

For Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), investment in small business as well as education prevailed in her FY11 spending. While Wyoming is an otherwise difficult state to tie to space exploration, Lummis’ legislative aid immediately stirred at the mention of my involvement in the Google Lunar X Prize team JURBAN, a prime example of small — very small, only 21-person-small — privatized business tapping into the space market. The impact of such programs includes the creation of innovative hardware, technologies, and novel ideas that can be sold to and used by other engineering businesses — a nationwide benefit.

Once again, it is certainly a challenge to translate the significance of the technical details — something easily palpable to engineers — into broader impacts on the economy, industrial base, and national supremacy. It is true there is a shortage of people with a balance between well-polished technical skill and a comprehensive understanding of its economic and political interplay; however these are the people who came together as part of the SEA Legislative Blitz.

Having people like myself and Blaze (17 and 25 respectively) appear before the congressional staffers has an enormous bearing on the case we present to the congressional offices. We can advocate for space all we want, but it is truly the examples we are that make it easy to see the effect of the space exploration program. It is quite a staggering thing to hear a 17-year old is actively involved in GLXP, much less with aspirations to pursue aerospace engineering entrepreneurially — even taking part in events like the Blitz to help align the political environment with the career path I want to take. And Blaze is already an entrepreneurial engineer — a young mind generating innovative ideas for the advancement of our race — appearing before Congress with a well-developed understanding that the political atmosphere surrounding space exploration is key to his aspirations as well.

NSS Executive Director Gives "State Of The National Space Society" Address

The Executive Director of the National Space Society, Paul Damphousse, addresses the media during the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto, California, on February 27. He talks about the 25th anniversary of NSS this month, the organization’s two-fold mission, strategic partnerships with other space advocacy groups, and current NSS projects. 15-minute video courtesy of