National Space Society Congratulates Representative Jim Bridenstine on his Approval as NASA Administrator

The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1) on his confirmation by the Senate to be the next NASA Administrator.

“NSS looks forward to working with Administrator Bridenstine to further the development and settlement of space,” said Dale Skran, the current NSS Executive Vice President and Chair of the NSS Policy Committee. “This has been a long and difficult approval process, but with today’s Senate vote NASA can move forward, ending a long period of leadership drift.”

Representative Bridenstine brings to his new job both political and aerospace experience. A three term member of Congress, Bridenstine served as a naval aviator from 1998-2007, and in the Naval Reserve 2010-2015, mainly flying the E-2C Hawkeye. Additionally, Bridenstine was the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. Bridenstine has degrees from Rice University (triple major in Economics, Psychology, and Business), and an MBA from Cornell.

“Representative Bridenstine is one of a growing group in Congress that fully appreciates the importance of space commerce and space resources to the human future,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “We look forward with great anticipation to working with Administrator Bridenstine to lead America back to the Moon and to develop a thriving economy in space.”

Mark Hopkins, the Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, added, “Some may be concerned that Representative Bridenstine is not an astronaut or scientist. We should all recall that one of the greatest NASA administrators, Jim Webb, was a lawyer.”

Looking Forward to a Wonderful International Space Development Conference

Letter from the NSS President
By Alice M Hoffman, PE

I hope you’ll be able to join me May 24-27 to experience what promises to be, through months of work by dozens of dedicated NSS volunteers, one of the best ISDCs of all time!

Thomas Mueller of SpaceX “blasts off” the conference at Thursday morning’s plenary. As the Propulsion Chief Technology Officer at SpaceX, I’m hoping he’ll share some secrets about how they make those fabulous televised landings of first stage rockets come true!

Jeff Bezos, the Founder and CEO of Amazon, as well as the Founder of aerospace company Blue Origin, will  join us on Friday for the evening reception and dinner.

These receptions are great chances for networking, and this year we’ll have some unique items up for silent auction each evening, so leave a bit of room in your suitcase to take home a treasure.

At Saturday’s lunch, hear Dr. Frank Drake (the brilliant theoretician behind the famous Drake Equation) talk about his vision of the future of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). At dinner, the venerable Freeman J. Dyson, Professor Emeritus in Mathematical Physics and Astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study, will deliver a talk entitled “Noah’s Ark Eggs.” I’m intrigued!

Our Sheraton Gateway Hotel not only runs free shuttles to the nearby LAX airport, but also to the beach, so bring the whole family to soak up some Southern California sunshine. ISDC offers a full program of fun and interesting educational opportunities for students, with many available tours including safe skydiving at iFly’s wind tunnel followed by design sessions to apply these principals to land your spacecraft on Mars (OK, adults are welcome to fly, too!).

You’ll be able to hear and interact with 160 great speakers in 4 days of talks on 17 space topics. Even our MCs will be fabulous, including NSS Governors and TV personalities Janet Ivey and Geoff Notkin. The conference theme is “Putting People into Space,” so if you want to go to space, too, be sure to register now!

Tour of the Moon in 4K

Check out this great new 5-minute video in 4K showing lunar highlights thanks to data provided by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. As attention is being turned back to the Moon, this video is a great reminder of how much remains to be understood.

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at:

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/David Ladd. Music Provided By Killer Tracks: “Never Looking Back” by Frederick Wiedmann and “Flying over Turmoil” by Benjamin Krause & Scott Goodman.

National Space Society Honors JPL’s Voyager Team: “Humans have never before reached so far”

For 40 years, two small spacecraft launched in 1977 have sped past the planets in our solar system and beyond, carrying humanity’s messages etched on gold disks. Their journey into the depths of interstellar space will continue indefinitely.

To honor this unprecedented achievement, the National Space Society (NSS) has announced that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team that designed, built and operated the Voyager spacecraft has been named the 2018 recipient of NSS’ Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering.


NSS Senior Operating Officer Bruce Pittman said, “The two Voyager spacecraft, launched over 40 years ago, sent back amazing pictures of the outer solar system, including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and the Saturnian moon Titan, bringing the majestic beauty of the outer solar system to people around the world.” Pittman continued, “The fact that the Voyager spacecraft are still operational and sending back useful data is a great testament to the talent of the hundreds of scientists and engineers who worked so hard to make this incredible mission possible.” This National Space Society award recognizes the JPL team for their amazing scientific and engineering achievements.

The prestigious award will be presented to Dr. Michael Watkins, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at the Society’s 37th annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC®), to be held at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel from May 24-27, 2018. NSS invites the public to come meet, interact and learn from Dr. Watkins and attend his award ceremony.

For more information, see:

Past recipients of the Space Pioneer Award include: Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, Apollo Astronaut Russell L. Schweickart, Dr. Michael Griffin, the Rosetta Mission Team, the Kepler-K2 Team, and the New Horizons Mission Team.

The National Space Society was formed by a merger of the National Space Institute, founded in 1974 by NASA’s Wernher von Braun, father of the Saturn V rocket, and the L5 Society, founded in 1975, inspired by the pioneering work of Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill.

The SpaceX Triple Trifecta

SpaceX Trifecta: Falcon Heavy, Falcon 9 Block 5, Dragon 2

By Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President
Copyright 2018

SpaceX has three major goals for 2018:

  • Bring the Falcon Heavy to operational status
  • Bring the Block 5 Falcon 9 to operational status
  • Bring the Dragon 2 crewed capsule to operational status

If all three of these goals are achieved, SpaceX will have catapulted itself from merely being the largest U.S. launch provider, to a global one-stop shop that has the potential to truly dominate the worldwide launch market in virtually all categories. However, a closer look at each of these goals reveals just how challenging the “Trifecta” really will be for SpaceX.

With the recent successful launch of Elon Musk’s Red Tesla roadster in the direction of Mars, SpaceX would appear to be well on its way to achieving the first goal. The only kink to be worked out relates to running out of ignition fluid while trying to land the center core of the Falcon Heavy on a drone ship, something one suspects SpaceX can readily overcome. However, two more Falcon Heavy launches are scheduled for 2018, one with the Air Force, and another with a commercial payload. Both must go well to check this box, but most importantly, both need to fully utilize “Block 5” technology, which we will now consider.

So far SpaceX has demonstrated remarkable success in landing first stages, and then re-using them in later flights. However, no first stage has been used more than once. Most of the first stages re-used so far have been the “Block 3” version of the “Full Thrust” F9, while a few have been “Block 4.” To achieve its goal of re-using each first stage up to ten times with minimal refurbishment, the more powerful and more reliable “Block 5” technology, which has not yet flown, is required. There are a number of aspects to “Block 5” including but not limited to:

  • Using new design turbine blades that minimize cracking
  • A redesigned COPV (helium tank) that is designed to be safer
  • Running the Merlin engines at higher power levels
  • Titanium grid fins for improved landing authority/control

This is a fairly tall order, but the first flight of “Block 5” is expected in late April. However, one flight is not sufficient to check off this box since NASA is requiring seven successful Block 5 flights before a crew is allowed on top of one. There is a good chance SpaceX (which has already done 5 launches in 2018, and is targeting a total of 30) can do this during 2018, but it will be a remarkable achievement.

Finally, SpaceX is planning both an uncrewed and a crewed flight to the ISS of the Dragon 2 capsule, plus a launch abort test for Dragon 2. There is a lot of new territory here for SpaceX with the Dragon 2: spacesuits, environmental control and life support system (ECLSS), a crew, docking with the ISS rather than berthing, etc., plus the crewed flight is planned for late in the year, making this milestone especially challenging. Stuck in the middle of all this is a third flight to test the crew escape system on a real launch.

The “trifecta” described above, can be viewed as a “triple trifecta” since each component has at least three parts. I know that NASA is looking for seven Falcon 9 Block 5 flights, but if three could be achieved, the chances of getting to 7 are pretty good. So far, the scorecard looks like this:

1. Bring Falcon Heavy to operational status

a. (Success) 2/6/18 launch of Telsla Roadster toward Mars
b. June 2018: launch of STP-2 for the US Airforce
c. Late 2018: launch of Arabsat 6A

2. Bring Falcon 9 Block 5 to operational status

a. April 24, 2018: launch of Bangabandbhu-1 on a B5 F9
b. 2nd B5 F9 launch in 2018
c. 3rd B5 F9 launch in 2018

3. Bring Dragon 2 to operational status

a. August 2018: launch of CCtCap DM1 (no crew)
b. Sometime in 2018: CCiCap in-flight abort test
c. December 2018: launch of CCtCap DM2 (crew)

I don’t think the odds are good that SpaceX will achieve all three of these ambitious triple goals in 2018. In particular, the crewed Dragon flight is widely rumored to be slipping out of December due in large part to a lack of staff at NASA to “certify” that all the boxes have been checked. However, they are likely to achieve much of what they are aiming for, and since they are aiming so high, the “much” they achieve will be amazing.

The National Space Society Honors Jeff Bezos with the Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award

The National Space Society has named Jeff Bezos its 2018 recipient of the prestigious Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award for Space Settlement Advocacy to be awarded at the Society’s yearly conference in May 2018.

“Jeff Bezos has articulated exactly what our thousands of supporters work toward at the National Space Society,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee. “Few have done so much to advance space development and this award recognizes Bezos’ extraordinary advocacy and record of accomplishment.”

Bezos is the Founder and CEO of Amazon, as well as the Founder of aerospace company Blue Origin. Blue Origin is focused on building reusable launch systems to lower the cost of access to space. New Shepard, named after Alan Shepard, will take astronauts to the edge of space on a thrilling 11-minute flight. New Glenn, named after John Glenn, will be capable of taking people and large payloads to earth orbit and beyond. Blue Origin is also developing liquid rocket engines.

Bruce Pittman, NSS Chief Operating Officer, said, “As the founder of space development company Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos has both advanced and accelerated our progress and has been a tireless advocate for new and innovative approaches. As such, he personifies the very best in the field of space development and joins a distinguished list of previous recipients.”

The award will be presented to Jeff Bezos on Friday, May 25 at the NSS’s 37th annual International Space Development Conference® (ISDC®) in Los Angeles. The conference runs from May 24-27 and features leaders from space science, engineering, advocacy and government fields who are developing new ways to develop, live and prosper in space and on other worlds.

The Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award is given at infrequent intervals to exceptional individuals, and has in the past recognized such leaders in space exploration and development as physicist Freeman Dyson and Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt. The granting of the award to Jeff Bezos continues this tradition of recognizing exemplary achievement.

For more information, see:

The National Space Society was formed by a merger of the National Space Institute, founded in 1974 by NASA’s Wernher von Braun, father of the Saturn V rocket, and the L5 Society, founded in 1975, inspired by the pioneering work of Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill.

National Space Society to Present Space Pioneer Award to SETI Astronomer Frank Drake

Dr. Frank Drake is the winner of the National Space Society’s 2018 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering. This award honors the work he has done as a professional astronomer, especially as a radio astronomer, technical advisor for the Golden Record on the Voyager mission, and as a leader in the science-based Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) community.

NSS invites the public to come meet, interact and learn from the awardees and attend their award ceremonies. NSS will present the Space Pioneer Award to Dr. Drake at our annual conference, the 37th International Space Development Conference (ISDC®) to be held in Los Angeles, California, at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel at LAX. The Conference will run from May 24-27, 2018.

About Dr. Frank Drake

Dr. Frank Drake has a huge array of accomplishments, which includes his work at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, JPL, Cornell University, the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (Arecibo), the National Research Council, the University of California at Santa Cruz and other institutions. He was among a group that pushed for the conversion of Arecibo into one of the world’s top and most unique radio astronomy facilities, and served as its director from 1966-1968.

He is a leader in the SETI field, which has now existed for over 55 years and with the SETI institute, which has existed for over 30 years. He pioneered the Drake Equation, which provided a rational and quantifiable way of estimating the number of potential civilizations in our galaxy and elsewhere. More of the terms of that equation are now being solidified as the new exoplanet data streams in and the proven number of roughly Earth-sized planets continues to climb.

He did visionary work 40 years ago with the Voyager missions and as Technical Director of the Golden Record containing Earth’s greatest music, spoken greetings, “Sounds of Earth,” and more than 100 images encoded as audio signals. These were technological feats of their time.

This ‘message’ from Earth was designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials should they encounter the spacecraft which have now traveled beyond our Sun’s heliopause into interstellar space. The newer emphasis on using optical frequencies to look for evidence of artificial signals is opening up a whole new area in radio astronomy and SETI.

He was also one of the creators of the Arecibo Message, a binary encoded image 210 bytes long, which was sent to the globular star cluster M13 in November, 1974 by the Arecibo telescope itself. The message included common scientific information, and some information about Earth and the solar system

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque as shown at right. The support and base are created by renowned sculptor Michael Hall of the Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, Apollo Astronaut Russell L. Schweickart, Dr. Michael Griffin, the Rosetta Mission Team, the Kepler-K2 Team, and the New Horizons Mission Team.

Freeman Dyson, Famed Physicist, Wins the National Space Society’s Prestigious Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award

National Space Society members have voted to give Freeman Dyson the prestigious Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award. This award honors the work he has done as a ground-breaking physicist and mathematician, and as a major thought leader in the science and space communities for over half a century.

NSS invites the public to come meet, interact and learn from our awardees and attend their award ceremonies. NSS will present Freeman with the Heinlein Award at their 37th annual International Space Development Conference® (ISDC)® to be held in Los Angeles, California, at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel at LAX. The Conference will run from May 24-27, 2018.

About Freeman Dyson

The Heinlein award recognizes Dyson’s many years of work, both in science and in the public arena, advancing fundamental physics and math, and promoting and explaining the future role of humans in space which NSS hopes will lead to a free spacefaring civilization. This includes his position for many years as President of the Space Studies Institute, founded by space visionary Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill.

Dyson was a leader of the early space age in the 1950s and 60s through his work with Project Orion, a revolutionary space propulsion concept. His numerous ideas and detailed technical work have contributed enormously to space transport, development and settlement. The vision of self-sustaining human settlements in space and on planetary surfaces as part of a free, spacefaring civilization, is at the very heart of the space movement.

Dyson received a BA in mathematics from Trinity College, Cambridge after World War II. He had a post at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1953 to 1994, where he still resides as a professor emeritus. He is best known for his numerous and significant contributions in the fields of physics and mathematics, including support for and practical use of Feynman Diagrams and creating a better understanding of quantum electrodynamics by unifying the three previously existing versions of that theory.

He is also well known for his concept of the so-called “Dyson Sphere” in which an advanced civilization would build many structures around its star to capture most or all of its energy. This concept has been misinterpreted by many to incorrectly imply a solid sphere around a star. He is the author of many popular books on science and ethics including Disturbing the Universe, Imagined Worlds, and The Scientist as Rebel.

His work has helped in understanding the space environment and even the very nature of space-time and matter itself. His life-long rationally-based poking at scientific sacred cows has helped to keep alive the spirit of open discussion within the scientific community. Few have made such rich contributions to these fields.

About the Robert A. Heinlein Award

The Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award honors those individuals who have made significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free spacefaring civilization. The Award is named after author Robert A. Heinlein, widely recognized as the dean of science fiction writers, in memory of him and of his many contributions to the pro-space movement. Heinlein served for about a decade as a director of the L5 Society, predecessor of NSS, and attended ISDC in 1983. NSS members vote to choose who will win this prestigious award which is given every two years.

The award consists of a miniature brass naval cannon mounted on a solid mahogany base with a brass plaque and an inlay of Italian black granite. The barrel is inscribed with one of Heinlein’s favorite acronyms “TANSTAAFL” (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). The award concept came from one of Heinlein’s classic novels, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The cannon represents defiance of conventional wisdom when necessary. In modern terms, this means being able to “think outside of the box.” Previous Heinlein Award Winners are Jerry Pournelle, Elon Musk, Dr. Stephen Hawking, Dr. Peter Diamandis, Burt Rutan, General Chuck Yeager, Capt. James Lovell, Robert Zubrin, Neil Armstrong, Carl Sagan, Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Dr. Robert H. Goddard, Gene Roddenberry, Dr. Wernher von Braun, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill.

NSS Heinlein Award