by Brian Cleaver
“I am definitely in.”
It was these four words that I had said to Rick Zucker, Executive Vice President of the National Space Society, on February 24, 2011, that gave me a very unique opportunity to directly impact the future of our country’s human space exploration program by bringing my thoughts and ideas on human space exploration directly to the heart of our country in Washington DC. The National Space Society, in the grassroots event known as the Legislative Blitz, visited Capitol Hill for a series of congressional meetings on Monday, February 28, 2011 and Tuesday, March 1, 2011. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a series of congressional meetings on that Monday.
With the National Space Society having the support of a group of organizations known as the Space Exploration Alliance, which includes Explore Mars, the Mars Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Federation of Galaxy Explorers, Space Generation Foundation, and numerous other notable organizations, the National Space Society had a very powerful message to deliver to our members of Congress which I was able to participate in sending. As a student studying International Relations at American University in Washington DC and as someone who has experience interning in the government, I can appreciate the uniqueness of this opportunity. I highly recommend that any student or other person get involved in participating in doing something they are passionate about – ensuring the success of our country’s space exploration program.
As a member and vice president of another space-related organization, Save NASA, I have a great deal of experience working on promoting the importance of human space exploration to our members of Congress by various means. Our organization was created shortly after President Obama announced changes to our country’s human space exploration program in February of 2010.
As a former student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, I and other students who were a part of Save NASA at Embry-Riddle worked on promoting the importance of human space exploration to our members of Congress by organizing students at a Campus-Wide Presentation and by organizing what we named a Roadside Awareness Rally. We also created a petition that received 823 signatures from people across the United States and the world. Eventually, another student and I visited Capitol Hill on two occasions. We had a series of meetings with staffers from a variety of congressional offices to discuss how we feel that human space exploration can change our world like nothing else can and to discuss why we feel that human space exploration should be among the United States’ top priorities.
Nine months later, in February of 2011, as I was surfing the Internet, I coincidentally found out about the upcoming Legislative Blitz only five days before the first scheduled congressional meeting. While surprised at the convenient timing, at that point, I was really excited to hear that I would be able to get back to working on promoting the importance of space exploration to our members of Congress. I attended a meeting with my fellow “Blitzers” on Sunday, February 27, 2011. While there, I realized that I was in a room with very dedicated space enthusiasts who had flown across the United States to come to Washington DC to ensure the success of our country’s space exploration program.
The following day, we began the Legislative Blitz. The series of meetings I attended included meetings with the offices of well-known and very influential members of the House and Senate. In these meetings, I and other participants discussed the primary talking points outlined in the Space Exploration Alliance talking points document. These talking points emphasized the importance of launch capacity, utilizing the private sector, setting timelines and destinations, ensuring the continuation of researching and developing new technology, and ensuring that NASA’s long term mission of space exploration is sustained.
Coming from a group of students at Embry-Riddle who believe that going to the Moon and then onward to Mars is more beneficial than going to an asteroid and then Mars, I was given the opportunity to voice these personal views in these congressional meetings to people who have direct influence over our country’s space exploration program. I discussed my opinions by stating, among other things, how I believe that there are greater opportunities on the Moon due to it being closer to the Earth. I mentioned that going to the Moon opens up the opportunity for the establishment of a near Earth permanent lunar colony for scientific, economic and national security purposes. Furthermore, I was able to discuss how the Moon could lead the United States to utilizing an experimental energy source on the Moon known as Helium-3 that could potentially replace oil. I also was able to discuss our organization’s work and how students at Embry-Riddle, including myself, have played a role in ensuring the success of our country’s space exploration by influencing members of Congress.
Doubtlessly, by participating in the Blitz, I took part in an event that had an impact on our country’s space exploration program. A few weeks after the Legislative Blitz, I attended a NASA-related hearing and saw congressional staffers working at the hearing that I recognized from our meetings on the Hill during the Blitz. It is obvious that I had been a part of a series of very important meetings. Attending these meetings knowing that we can influence the direction of our country and our world was very unique and, overall, it was a lot of fun. The opportunity to attend congressional meetings is a great opportunity, and the opportunity to attend congressional meetings regarding something that a person is passionate about is an even greater opportunity. Without a doubt, joining the National Space Society for the 2011 Legislative Blitz was a tremendous opportunity which I recommend anyone who is passionate about space exploration take part in, and as the National Space Society has done in previous trips, I look forward to seeing our talking points play a tremendous influence in the direction of our country and our world.