Mr. Orlando Figueroa to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Non-Legislative Government Service

Orlando FigueroaMr. Orlando Figueroa is a winner of the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for non-Legislative Government Service. This award recognizes the work he has done at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA Headquarters, including serving as the NASA Deputy Chief Engineer, Director for Mars Exploration, and other important positions at Goddard in engineering, management and as a Deputy Center Director for Science and Technology.

“It is an honor to be recognized for whatever contribution I and the NASA teams I was privileged to lead made to the exploration of space and to science, and to be able to enjoy as much,” said Mr. Figueroa.

Mr. Figueroa will accept the award on May 19 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016.

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, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s 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, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Mr. Orlando Figueroa 

After starting work at the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1978, Mr. Figueroa served as manager and director of a very wide variety of Programs and organizations at NASA Goddard and at NASA Headquarters. His work on cryogenics may assist future development for storage and the transfer in space of such liquids as rocket propellants. Cryogenic storage and transfer technology is an enabler for reusable in-space vehicles and routine space operations.

NSS especially appreciates his many accomplishments during his years as Director for Mars Exploration. After the double failures of the 1998-9 Mars missions, just five years later Dr. Figueroa led NASA’s achievement of the double successes of Spirit and Opportunity. These were dramatic comebacks for NASA and the planetary program. These programs are vital for both basic planetary science and to provide climate and geological information about Mars for future human exploration. The confidence building successes of the Mars Exploration Rovers led directly to the development of the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, while the Opportunity rover is still collecting vital geological information 12 years later.

Winners of 2016 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest Announced

NSS has opened a new website gallery for the 2016 NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest.

The Grand Prize winning entry, entitled “Pioneers of the Cosmos,” paints a picture of hope for the future of humanity. Successful habitation of an orbital space settlement and propagation of the human species in space has been accomplished. The foreground of this image reveals an intimate family setting after the birth of a new baby. Neptune, reflected in a light sail, and its moon Triton are visible in the background through the large window of the birthing room.

Pioneers of the Cosmos

“Pioneers of the Cosmos” is a digital painting by Adrianna Allen, a student from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI, where she is working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Medical Illustration. She has a website at photonillustration.com.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Non-Legislative Government Service

Ellen OchoaDr. Ellen Ochoa is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Non-Legislative Government Service. This award recognizes Ochoa’s career serving as a professional engineer, a shuttle astronaut, the first hispanic woman in space, and subsequently in very important management positions in NASA, including her current position as the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Ellen will accept the award on May 19 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016. The public is invited to attend ISDC in order to view the award presentation.

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, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s 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, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Dr. Ellen Ochoa 

After receiving a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1985, Dr. Ochoa did research at both Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center. Her achievements include significant engineering work in optics, in information (signal-to-noise) in images, and as Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA Ames. She also served as a shuttle astronaut for over a decade, making four flights, from 1993 to 2002. Ochoa then served as Deputy Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson Space Center, focusing on the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations, and later as Deputy Center Director. Then, on the first day of 2013, Dr. Ochoa became the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, a position she currently holds. Johnson has been the focus for human spacecraft operations for most of NASA’s history. Dr. Ochoa’s directorship of JSC will have a significant impact on the future of human spaceflight.

Blue Origin to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard's West Texas launch facility before the rocket's maiden voyage. Credit: Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility before the rocket’s maiden voyage. Credit: Blue Origin

The entrepreneurial company Blue Origin is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering. This award recognizes the company’s two recent major achievements: (1) The first successful vertical landing by a large rocket which has reached space and carried a payload (an empty passenger capsule which descended separately by parachute). This flight by the New Shepard vehicle occurred on Nov. 23, 2015 at the company’s test range near the remote West Texas town of Van Horn. (2) Subsequently, the same rocket was flown again and performed a second perfect landing in January 2016, which constitutes the first re-use of a large rocket which has reached space. Creating reusable rockets has been the “holy grail” for many in the space industry for decades, and is a fundamental requirement for spaceflight to be inexpensive enough for general and large scale use.

Mr. Rob Meyerson, the company’s President, will accept the award in the name of Blue Origin on May 22 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016. NSS invites the public to attend ISDC and witness this award presentation.

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, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s 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, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Blue Origin and Its Reusable Rocket Development Program

Blue Origin is a privately funded company set up by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos. It designed and built the single stage New Shepard rocket as a means of developing a reusable vehicle and to provide sub-orbital launch services for passengers. The company has about 400 employees at several locations. It intends to build a rocket manufacturing plant near Cape Canaveral in Florida and is developing a new methane and liquid oxygen fueled rocket engine, the BE-4, which will be used to power orbital rockets, including ones of its own design. The company’s name refers to the Blue Planet: Earth, the origin of humanity. It has a headquarters in Kent, Washington, near Seattle.

The Gravity of the National Space Society’s Vision

Thorne award
NSS Executive Committee Chairman Mark Hopkins Presents Space Pioneer Award to Dr. Kip Thorne

We, the members of the National Space Society, believe exploring the unknown is one of the things that drives our vision of “people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.” The recent discovery of gravitational waves by NSS Space Pioneer award recipient Dr. Kip Thorne is another giant leap forward.

We are very proud and honored to congratulate the amazing achievement of our NSS member Dr. Kip Thorne for his leading involvement in the creation of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) project. LIGO’s recent world-changing detection of the existence of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein a century ago in his General Relativity Theory is opening new eyes on the cosmos and the doors that will bring humanity closer to the NSS vision!

Regarding the grand NSS vision, Dr. Thorne remarked, “I think that it’s clear that it is attainable to colonize the solar system. Getting beyond the solar system is going to be exceedingly difficult. We are going to either require a lot of brute force over a period of several centuries or else a brilliant idea that none of us has grasped yet. The first thing is the solar system, but we have not been moving at anything like the pace that we could or we should.”

Thorne at ISDC

Dr. Thorne was honored at the National Space Society’s 2015 International Space Development Conference® (ISDC) in Toronto, Canada for his work with the movie Interstellar and spoke not only to the conference participants, but also to more than 400 Space Settlement Design Contest winning students from around the world.

Thorn at ISDC
At the Toronto ISDC, Dr. Thorne visited with the students, viewing their Space Settlement Design Contest poster presentations, and posing for group photos with the winners. Here is Dr. Thorne with a winning team from Romania.

The ISDC, which brings together and engages students, scientists, business leaders, space industry stakeholders, families, policy makers and people from all walks of life, is held annually at different locations. This year it will be held at the surprisingly inexpensive location of San Juan, Puerto Rico! By attending ISDC Puerto Rico, you’ll be able to meet a whole new batch of winning space settlement students, the latest Space Pioneer Award winners like Pluto New Horizon’s Alan Stern, NASA center director Elen Ochoa, and Blue Origin’s president Rob Meyerson.

Here’s a quick look of what the ISDC 2016 holds for its attendees:
https://youtu.be/aYC3G-6hzFQ

When asked during an interview at the ISDC how pleased Dr. Thorne was to see that this type of conference, exists, he replied, “Well I think it’s very wonderful, particularly getting the young people involved around the world and being an inspiration for them. It’s very important for the future of science and the future of space.”

About the Gravity Wave Discovery

On February 11, 2016, a team of four physicists using LIGO announced that they had heard and recorded in September 2015 the gravitational wave motion of two black holes colliding 1.3 billion light-years away. The announcement team included Kip Thorne, David Reitze, Gabriela González, and Rainer Weiss.

Gravity waves

This is the first time scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime, called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. Dr. Thorne’s work has dealt with the prediction of gravity-wave strengths and their temporal signatures as observed on Earth. Dr. Thorne cofounded the LIGO Project in 1984 to discern and measure any fluctuations between two or more ‘static’ points on Earth. Such fluctuations would be evidence of gravitational waves. The specter of gravitational waves will show us the universe in a brand new light.

“With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe — objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime. Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples,” says Dr. Thorne.

NSS congratulates Professor Kip Thorne and the entire LIGO team for the confirmed detection of Gravitational Waves and his support of the National Space Society, it’s ISDCs, and projects like Enterprise In Space!

NSS Pays Tribute to Late NSS Governor Dr. Marvin Minsky, A Pioneer in Artificial Intelligence

Marvin MinskyThe National Space Society pays tribute to Dr. Marvin Minsky, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, who served as a long-time member of the NSS Board of Governors, and was involved in the original merger of the L5 Society and the National Space Institute to create the National Space Society.  Dr. Minsky was very involved in early NSS activities and was part of many NSS space policy projects such as the 1981 “Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy.” He attended Board of Governors meetings and participated in NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference®. He died on January 14 in Boston from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 88 years old.

Marvin was also the thesis advisor for current NSS Governor K. Eric Drexler, a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology and an early activist who helped start NSS.

Hugh Downs, Chair of the NSS Board of Governors, said, “Marvin Minsky was a bright light in the arena of accelerating knowledge in modern physics. Where many of us plodded along to keep up with these changes, he seemed to always manage to be even with them. He will be sorely missed by those who worked with him and knew him well.”

Marvin Minsky was Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research led to both theoretical and practical advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, neural networks, the theory of Turing Machines and recursive functions. He made other contributions in the domains of graphics, symbolic mathematical computation, knowledge representation, computational semantics, machine perception, and both symbolic and connectionist learning. He was also involved with advanced technologies for exploring space.

In October 2015, the MIT Media Lab presented Marvin with a gift in honor of his lifetime commitment to MIT students. “What a beautiful thing. What does it do?” he asked, when studying the world’s first 3D-printed clear glass object. View the presentation here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tIIe3NnodU.

The report from the Citizens Advisory Council, in which Marvin participated, was titled Space: The Crucial Frontier and includes this preamble:

“Space is potentially our most valuable national resource. A properly developed space program can go far toward restoring national pride while developing significant and possibly decisive military and economic advantages. In exploring space we will rediscover frontiers and more than frontiers; we can rediscover progress. The exploitation of space will have far reaching historical significance. The statesmen who lead mankind permanently to space will be remembered when Isabella the Great and Columbus are long forgotten.” (www.nss.org/settlement/L5news/1981-council.htm)

Today, NSS is vigorously promoting our expansion into space.  We are engaging with the international community via collaborations, tracks at our annual International Space Development Conference, and articles in Ad Astra and in major international publications. NSS volunteers today maintain the Space Settlement Nexus (www.nss.org/settlement) in carrying forward Marvin Minsky’s vision.

International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2016

The National Space Society invites you to come to ISDC 2016, where you’ll be immersed in bleeding-edge technologies and bold business models, rub shoulders with astronauts, and meet those able to help accelerate your own efforts to reach beyond borders…and beyond Earth.

isdc.nss.org/2016

The International Space Development Conference (ISDC) is the preeminent gathering place for people all around the world who seek to accelerate our pursuits beyond Earth. The conference brings together aerospace-industry leaders and startups, space exploration pioneers, academic thought leaders, and space supporters young and old – all united by a common goal to explore and develop space for the benefit of humankind.

With a theme of “Space Beyond Borders,” ISDC 2016 will be held in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. International attendees will engage with a young, bilingual, educated, local workforce eager to increase its engagement in global space development efforts. Our theme also celebrates the increasingly collaborative, multidisciplinary, and interconnected nature of space development in the twenty-first century. Furthermore, “Space Beyond Borders” presents current space programs, cutting-edge aerospace technology and innovative projects and features astronauts and other pioneers.

ISDC16logo

New Horizons Team Wins the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering

Ten years ago today, a bold mission launched on humankind’s first journey to Pluto. The New Horizons Team, which conducted the stunningly successful mission to and flyby of Pluto, is the winner of the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering. The team is led by the Southwest Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. This award will be presented at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc2016.nss.org). It will be accepted by Dr. Alan Stern, the Team’s Principal Investigator and two other member of the mission team, Mission Systems Engineer Chris Hersman, and Deputy Project Scientist Dr. Leslie Young, on May 20, 2016. This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016.

Pluto senset
Pluto sunset

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, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988.

About the New Horizons Team and its Mission to Pluto

This Award recognizes the team’s success in conducting a mission that has lasted now over a decade, starting with the launch on Jan 19, 2006. Humanity went from seeing just a tiny dot of light to seeing a complex, geologically active world in just a few days during the flyby on July 14, 2015. Maintaining the spacecraft as it continues to send back more images is still a critically important task. Displaying a wide range of terrains, Pluto has been revealed to have multiple active processes on its surface, with huge ice mountains possibly floating in a probably deep sea of soft, deformable nitrogen ice. There may be liquid nitrogen deeper beneath the surface. The ice has formed large arctic polygon-like convection cells covering wide areas of icy plains, which are very young and totally free of impact craters. In some areas, nitrogen glaciers flow out of the mountains into the icy plains. Real water ice volcanoes may also have finally been found. Pluto’s thin but compact atmosphere sports amazingly high haze layers and the rate of atmosphere loss is much lower than expected. Many other types of spectacularly patterned terrains are still unexplained, and as more images are returned from the spacecraft, Pluto and Charon’s very different forms of “geology” will continue to be a major scientific topic for years to come. This mission has generated the largest public interest of any NASA mission in recent years, has completed NASA’s 50 year long quest to reconnoiter all of the planets known at the start of the Space Age, and represents the furthest exploration of a world by humanity.

About the NSS Video New Horizons

On July 14th, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons mission made its closest approach to the Pluto system, completing the first reconnaissance of the Solar System, begun over 50 years ago by NASA.

Interviews of NSS Chairman Mark Hopkins

Mark HopkinsMark Hopkins, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee, was interviewed on The Space Show on January 4 on the subject of space settlement in general and interstellar space settlement in particular. You can download the 90-minute program here:

You can hear other interviews of Mark conducted by Dr. Karl Hricko on the show “Contours” on member-supported public radio station WNTI operated by Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ.:

Mark was also on a special edition of The Space Show in March 2007: