The National Space Society Releases a Stirring Video to Salute the Arrival of NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft at Pluto and the Completion of the First Reconnaissance of the Planets by NASA

(Washington DC, June 16, 2015) On July 14th, NASA’s New Horizons mission will make its closest approach to the Pluto system, completing the first reconnaissance of the Solar System, begun over 50 years ago by NASA. With the completion of the Pluto flyby by New Horizons next month, NASA will have completed successful missions to every planet in the Solar System from Mercury to Pluto.

To celebrate, NSS commissioned a short video film titled “New Horizons,” which is being released today. The stirring video recognizes the historic culmination of this era of first planetary reconnaissance, for which the United States will be forever inscribed in history. New Horizons, can be watched and shared here:

National Space Society’s New Horizons Video

Pluto and Charon art for NSS New Horizons Video
Pluto, its moon Charon, and the New Horizons spacecraft (small white dot near right edge) in a scene from the NSS Video

“NSS is delighted to support the New Horizons mission by helping to share this exciting milestone in space exploration with the general public in America and around the world,” said NSS Senior Operating Officer Bruce Pittman.

The New Horizons video was funded by contributions to NSS made by New Horizons mission partners Aerojet Rocketdyne, Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, and United Launch Alliance. New Horizons was directed and produced by Erik Wernquist, whose video Wanderers, looking to the future of solar system exploration by humans, created a viral sensation last year. New Horizons principal investigator and NSS member Alan Stern served as advisor to the video.

“As both an NSS member and the Principal Investigator of New Horizons, I’m excited about this beautiful film—and very appreciative of the efforts of NSS and its sponsors to create this. It really is stirring; I hope you’ll think so too.” said Alan Stern.

The NSS 2015 International Student Art Contest

Arcturus Space Settlement
2014 Grand Prize Winner:
Arcturus Space Settlement by Bogdan Alexandru Cionca

The National Space Society is hosting the 2015 Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest for students aged 13-25. We are looking for original, photo-realistic illustrations of daily life in a space settlement located anywhere in our solar system. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to visualize their ideas of what humanity’s future in space may look like.

The contest’s Grand Prize winner will receive a number of prizes including:

  • Publication on the cover of the National Space Society magazine Ad Astra
  • An award certificate at the annual International Space Development Conference and complimentary registration to the 2015 International Space Development Conference in Toronto, Canada
  • One year complimentary membership in the National Space Society, including a subscription to Ad Astra magazine
  • Five complimentary copies of the Ad Astra magazine the art work is featured on

Additional prizes will be awarded to the First Prize and Honorable Mention winners in the contest.

Submissions are due by March 16th. For complete contest details, see 2015 Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest

Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest Winner Announced

Enterprise in Space Orbiter
Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest Winner

The results are in and the three winners of the NSS Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest have been announced. Of the three winning entries, it is the Grand Prize winning entry that will be used as the design for the NSS Enterprise Orbiter – a donor-funded project that will carry some 100 student experiments to space for approximately one week and return them to Earth. It is important to note that donations are not only funding the construction and launch of the orbiter but will also cover the flight costs of the student experiments. You can learn more by reading the Enterprise In Space project description and you can help to make this unique project a success by making a donation.

The Grand Prize entry in the contest was submitted by Stanley Von Medvey, a concept artist currently living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. The First Prize winning entry was submitted by Steven Pestana, a college senior at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. The Second Prize winning entry was submitted by John Cortes, a first-year graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering.

“The Enterprise in Space team and I want to thank all the people who sent in their wonderful and imaginative science fiction inspired ship designs from all over the world,” said EIS Founder Shawn Case. The winning designs and the press release announcing the winning entries can be seen at

Voting Is Open For The Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest

NSS Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest Vote
Enterprise In Space Project

Voting is open for the public to select their favorite entry in the National Space Society (NSS) Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest. The purpose of the Enterprise In Space (EIS) project is to build and return to Earth a satellite that will carry approximately 100 student experiments to low-Earth-orbit. Upon its return to Earth the satellite will go on a tour of museums world-wide before becoming a permanent exhibit at a museum to be named.

The public vote represents the first round in the selection process. The results of this vote will be a key consideration in the final round of judging which involves a panel of seven judges. These judges will formally select the Grand Prize, First Prize, and Second Prize winners. In addition to the results of the public vote, the judges will consider design feasibility as well as submission adherence to contest guidelines.

Voting ends at midnight UTC on December 21.
Vote now in the Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest.

Update: Close of voting has been extended from midnight UTC Fri. Dec 19 to midnight UTC Sun. Dec 21 to give people the opportunity to vote over the weekend.

NSS Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest

NSS Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest
NSS Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest

The NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise never made it to orbit. While that was the original intent, subsequent redesigns undertaken during the Enterprise testing phase made this impractical.

Most tragically, another Enterprise – Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise, crashed in the Mojave Desert on October 31, 2014 – a crash in which co-pilot Michael Alsbury lost his life. VSS Enterprise had undertaken more than thirty successful test flights and was the first of five planned suborbital spacecraft to be used to send tourists and experiments on suborbital trips to space.

Unfortunately the news media focus on the space tourism aspect of companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace while largely ignoring the fact that these spacecraft will be important platforms for conducting a wide variety of experiments in a microgravity environment.

But suborbital is not orbital. With luck and public support the first Enterprise to orbit the Earth will be the NSS Enterprise Orbiter which will carry approximately 100 competitively selected student experiments into low Earth orbit and after a week’s time return them safely to Earth.

Before the Enterprise can be built it must be designed. And this is where you can help. One feature of this program is that the Enterprise in Space team is calling on artists, engineers, science fiction fans, students, designers, space activists, and dreamers to come up with their own concept of what the NSS Enterprise Orbiter should look like. And unlike the overwhelming majority of art, graphics, and design contests that require entrants to pay a submission fee, entry in the Enterprise in Space Design Contest is free!

If designing spacecraft isn’t for you then you can support the Enterprise in Space project by:

As the newly appointed manager for the EIS Orbiter Design Contest I offer the following basic tips for those entering the contest.

My first tip is to do it. Not only are there some great prizes for the contest winner but the winner will have a place in the history of private/personal space exploration.

My second tip is that you don’t have to be a master of 3D or CAD software. I’ll remind you that such software is a very recent invention. It’s the design that counts and that can be illustrated using nothing more complex than paper, pencil, and ruler.

Third is to follow the rules. An important rule is to not design a spacecraft that looks like a spacecraft that is associated with a spacecraft from TV or film. It must be your own original design.

Fourth is to be mindful that the spacecraft you design will be housing somewhere around one hundred student experiments. That means avoiding a design that minimizes internal volume. Once manufactured, your orbiter will physically have as its maximum dimensions 8 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet so be mindful of the factors 8 x 8 x 6 in designing your craft.

So now is the time to either fire up your favorite graphics software or grab your drafting supplies and get to designing a spacecraft that is truly unique. The submission deadline is fast approaching so don’t delay. But first make sure you fully understand the contest by reading the Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.

Lastly, I would like to wish everyone entering the contest the best of luck and I look forward to seeing the designs you create.

Ad Astra, Jim Plaxco; Manager, Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest

Update on Congressional Letter to Obama for NASA Funding

In the recent post Push in Congress for Additional NASA Funding (Update), we detailed how Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas and Congressman Ken Calvert created a letter calling on the President to increase NASA’s funding. In that post we encouraged you to contact your Congressman and Senator and ask them to sign on to the Kosmas-Calvert letter. The original deadline for supporting representatives to add their signature to the letter was yesterday Tuesday Nov. 17. An extension to that deadline has been made. The new deadline for signing on to the Obama letter is noon Friday, Nov. 20th. If you haven’t contacted your representative yet, please do so ASAP!.

Your support is important. Since the original announcement, more representatives have signed on. The current list of congressional signers to the letter is:
Kosmas, Calvert, Barton, R. Bishop, K. Brady, C. Brown, H.Brown, Cao, Capps, Carter, Chaffetz, Chu, Connolly, Culberson, Cummings, A. Davis, M. Diaz-Balart, C. Edwards, Forbes, Fudge, Gohmert, Grayson, G. Green, Griffith, R. Hall, A. Hastings, Honda, Jackson-Lee, E.B. Johnson, Klein, Kratovil, Lungren, B. Markey, Meek, C. Miller, McCaul, McKeon, Napolitano, Nye, Olson, Perlmutter, Posey, Richardson, Rooney, Salazar, Schiff, Schock, Simpson, A. Smith, L. Smith, Van Hollen, Wasserman Schultz, Watson, Wexler, C. Wilson and Wu.

The full letter to President Obama is included in the Push in Congress for Additional NASA Funding (Update) post.
Please direct your representative and senators to contact Carrie Chess with Congresswoman Kosmas at or 5-2706 or Deena Contreras with Congressman Calvert at or 5-1986 to sign on or to have questions answered.

Ad Astra, Jim

National Space Society Position on Human Spaceflight Committee Report

The National Space Society has just released a position statement on the Human Spaceflight Committee’s Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Summary Report.

In part, the NSS position is that it:

  • agrees with the Commission that NASA needs and deserves at least $3 Billion more per year in order to accomplish the planned missions. NSS further asserts that NASA should receive this level of funding, as NASA has stimulated the economy like no other agency, stimulated American youth to seek higher education, shored up America’s edge in technology, enhanced our defense, and established American prestige around the world.
  • supports the development of a family of cargo and crew transportation options to Low Earth Orbit and beyond.
  • agrees that ISS should be extended

For complete details please read the full NSS Statement on the Summary Report of the Review of U.S. Space Flight Plans Committee

Ad Astra,
Jim Plaxco, NSS Director

Human Spaceflight Committee Summary Report Released

The Human Spaceflight Committee, chaired by Norman Augustine, has just released their Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Summary Report which will be followed by a final report to be issued at a future date. A copy of the report is available from the NSS Space Policy Library.

The first sentence of the report is not encouraging: “The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.” Of particular interest is section 3: FUTURE DESTINATIONS FOR EXPLORATION.

NSS would be interested in knowing your thoughts on the content of the report. Please download the PDF Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Summary Report, give it a read and post your comments here.

For additional info, see the NPR news story Panel Tells Obama Moon Return Is A No-Go

Ad Astra, Jim Plaxco, NSS Director

A Commentary on the Future of the American Space Program: I Get Who, What, Where & When but Why?

A commentary on the future of the american space program

by Ian Murphy

I wasn’t around for Mercury or Gemini.  I wasn’t around to see the end of the Apollo.  I wasn’t around to see the first Shuttle flight.  I’ve never witnessed the “profound” emotional effect the American space program had on the people of this country.

I was born in 1978 and that makes me Generations X or Y, I’m not sure.  I’m still waiting for some egghead sociologist/intellectual to definitively pigeon hole me so a marketing company can properly apply me to a demographic group.  Like so many born in the 70’s or early 80’s, my first recollection space travel was when I was 7 years old and my 2nd grade class was ushered into a crowded elementary school gymnasium and placed in front of the schools only television, which lived a top one of those tall A/V carts so classes could share, to watch the first teacher launch towards space.  We all know what happened: She never got there and space travel became an unnerving childhood memory for what is now the most prolific generation to ever to walk the earth.

It’s been 40 years since the end of the Apollo and 23 years since that tragic event and once again we are all wondering where do we go from here.  The Bush administration mandated the Vision for Space Exploration in 2005, which stated that by 2020 we would go back to the Moon, then on to Mars and beyond.

Imagine you need to describe our progression in human spaceflight to a 2nd grader today:

“Well Junior, first we built a rocket and launched it into space.  Then we put an animal in the rocket and launched it into space.  Then we launched a rocket with a person in it into space and they went around the Earth once before coming home.  Then we put a few people in a rocket, launched them into space and they traveled around the world several times before coming home.  Then we launched a few people into space, they flew to the Moon, went around it a few times and then came home.  Then we launched a few people into space, they flew to the Moon, landed on the moon and then came home.  Then we built a new spaceship with wings so it could carry more people and do more things.  We used this new spaceship to build a house in space.  Then we made the house bigger and bigger until more people could live in it.  Now that the house is built, we are going to build a rocket just like the one we used to have that will launch a few people into space so they can fly to the Moon, land on the Moon and then come home.”

Notice the confused look on the face of the child when they say, “you already said that last part.”

I’m not a child but I get just as confused when I hear this same story told to me using bigger words and then justified with convoluted reasoning.  Maybe it’s because I come from the X PRIZE school of thought so eloquently framed by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis when he states “It is the purpose of NASA to push the limits of what humans can do in space and it is the duty of the private sector to industrialize in their wake.”

Is the current strategy pushing any limits?

I’m not a rocket scientist, NASA program manager or ‘big 3′ corporate executive.  I am not an accomplished professor of aerospace studies nor did I receive a degree in the field.  But I’m also no dummy and when I speak to Apollo astronauts I wonder why none of them has told me that going back to Earth’s Moon makes sense.  In the words of an Apollo astronaut I spoke to last week, “why are we bankrupting ourselves by building an extraneous lunar colony on the Moon for indulgent astronauts when we can instead go to Mars’ Moon, Phobos, with similar technology?”

I have high hopes for the Augustine Commission.  The Book of Laws is an amazing read and it would be difficult to find a more qualified person to head such a panel than Norm Augustine but after the members of the commission were announced, I have to wonder out loud why a “blue ribbon” panel put together to decide whether going back to the Moon is a good idea does not include one person that has either been to the Moon or worked on any previous lunar mission.

There is nothing wrong with changing our collective national mission in space.  The American people will not give up and neither Lockheed, Boeing, Aerojet nor ATK will go the way of GM.  I sincerely hope the members of the Augustine Commission put aside their preconceived notions and business relationships and try and think less like a know-it-all rocket scientist or politician and more like an insightful 2nd grader.

Ian Murphy was the head of communications for the X PRIZE Foundation from 2001-06 and is responsible for publicizing the winning Ansari X PRIZE flights of SpaceShipOne, as well as, the X PRIZE Cup and the Archon X PRIZE of Genomics.  He has consulted for SpaceX, Zero-G Corp, Personal Spaceflight Federation, Army Times Publishing Company, Lockheed Martin, Rocket Racing and Anousheh Ansari’s flight to the ISS.  He is a contributor to SpaceTaskForce, Chairman of the National Space Society’s public affairs committee and a public relations and marketing consultant based out of Cape Canaveral, FL.

National but International

We may be called the “National” Space Society but NSS has chapters and members around the world, especially in Australia and Europe. After all, space is a frontier for all of humankind.

The latest international news is out of India where The Times of India features the story National Space Society comes calling to city
and describes the “inaugration” of a new NSS chapter there.

The article quotes chapter founder and president Suresh Naik, formerly Group Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) “Following the recent launch of the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-I mission, the public at large, and the student community in particular, is curious about the subject of space. Thus, the Pune chapter of the NSS will serve as a forum to spread knowledge and information about the same.”

Well said Suresh. Personally I am a firm believer that if people have a better understanding of what space exploration is all about, they will be stronger supporters of space exploration. In fact earlier today I had the opportunity to give two presentations to the geology classes at South Elgin (IL) High School. While the focus was on astronomy and cosmology, aspects of the need for humanity to become a spacefaring civilization were present in my talks. I must say that I was quite pleased with the interest shown by the students and the number and variety of questions they asked. It was time well spent.

For information about NSS’ international chapters see the list of Chapters outside the United States.

And while you’re at it, why not check out my chapter’s web: Chicago Society for Space Studies

Ad Astra,

Jim Plaxco, NSS Director