NSS of North Texas and “Moon Day” on July 18, 2015

Moon Day 2015

Over the last seven years, NSS of North Texas, in conjunction with the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas has created the largest annual space exposition in the State of Texas. This year, the event features a live Uplink with the ISS, solar telescopes, three inflatable planetariums, robots, teacher workshops, three dozen exhibitors, over twenty hours of classes and lectures, Scout patches and the renowned Lunar Sample Bags — swag bags used to distribute a half ton of space informational materials to young visitors each year. Organized each year by former chapter president Ken Murphy, the event has become a showcase for space-related educational resources in North Texas with an increasing focus on STEM activities. It has also established NSS of North Texas as a credible source for high-quality space content in support of local community activities.

Details for the 2015 Moon Day event.

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NSS/SFF August 2015 Home District Legislative Blitz – Sign Up Now!

The National Space Society is organizing jointly with the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The currently expected themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for ISS extension and utilization, supporting the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (SEDS Act), and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets. Signup to the August Blitz this year will be via a Google form. Signup is open to anyone who wants to join, as this is a joint NSS/SFF activity. In other words, you do not need to be an NSS member to participate. However, you MUST fill out the Google form. A few of you filled out an earlier test form; please fill out the form again as it is somewhat different than the test version.

Please distribute this link to the Google form to anyone you know who you think might be interested. Send email to me at dale.skran@nss.org with any questions.

The link is: http://goo.gl/forms/RfTEFF9XWC

2015 Training materials and talking points will be emailed to those who fill out the Google form.

Thanks in advance,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee

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Buzz Aldrin: SpaceX Failure Shows We Need More Commercial Space Travel—Not Less

Buzz AldrinBuzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon and member of the National Space Society Board of Governors, has a fine op-ed piece for Time magazine which we recommend:


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Epic Video Takes Pluto-mania Viral

Video on NASA’s New Horizons Mission Gets a Million Views in a Week; This Extended Director’s Cut Version Dropped Today on YouTube

This extended version of a viral video detailing NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, entitled “New Horizons [Extended Version]” was released today to the public via YouTube. A shorter version of the video had gone viral just two weeks prior, amassing over a million views in less than a week.

The video, commissioned by the non-profit National Space Society, highlights the historical significance of the New Horizons mission.

The fastest spacecraft ever created, New Horizons will speed past Pluto on July 14, 2015, 50 years to the day after humans first explored Mars with NASA’s Mariner 4 on July 14, 1965. The spacecraft will beam back high resolution imagery and invaluable scientific data of the dwarf planet’s surface for the first time in human history, thus bringing a dramatic culmination to 50 years of NASA’s initial efforts in planetary reconnaissance.

“This extended version of the video, New Horizons, is amazing, showing why we explore the planets, and what an incredible and historic accomplishment human beings have achieved in the past 50 years – from the first missions to Venus and Mars to New Horizons at Pluto – in that pursuit,” said Alan Stern, NSS member and Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission.

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National Space Society Urges NASA and SpaceX to Continue Developing Innovative Rocket Reuse Technology

The loss of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission on June 28th demonstrates, in the view of the National Space Society (NSS), the wisdom of NASA’s policy of maintaining technologically different competitive CRS providers. This was the seventh of 12 contracted flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX. All 18 previous flights of the Falcon 9 (including five v1.0 flights and thirteen v1.1 flights) have been successful in meeting their primary objectives. CRS-7 was to have launched a new docking ring to the ISS for future use by NASA Commercial Crew flights and would have made another first stage recovery attempt.

NSS would like to express continued support for SpaceX and NASA as they analyze and test to understand and recover from Sunday’s launch failure.  “Spacecraft engineering is a very challenging profession and failure is always one possible outcome but we learn, implement and move forward,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Operating Officer. “NASA and the US government should continue to support the ISS, including the commercial cargo and crew programs.”

Paul Werbos, member of the NSS Board of Directors, said, “In a free market world, the government is supposed to be taking on the burden of the most advanced, highest risk challenges, in an open competitive way. NASA has been doing this by supporting SpaceX via the Commercial Resupply Services program as SpaceX develops the technology to reuse launch vehicles.”

NSS fully supports Space X’s efforts to upgrade its Falcon 9 rocket, especially its efforts to make it reusable.   As SpaceX said recently, “A jumbo jet costs about the same as one of our Falcon 9 rockets, but airlines don’t junk a plane after a one-way trip from LA to New York. Yet when it comes to space travel, rockets fly only once-even though the rocket itself represents the majority of launch cost (www.spacex.com/news/2015/06/24/why-and-how-landing-rockets).” NSS believes reusable rockets, once perfected, will be inherently more reliable than expendable vehicles, as well as less costly.

NSS Executive Vice President Dale Skran said: “After a failure like this, voices will be heard calling into question NASA’s use of commercial launch service providers. We need to recall that in spite of the best efforts of NASA and the expenditure of many billions of dollars, NASA lost two space shuttles with their entire crews. Eventual success is built on lessons learned from failures. We are confident that SpaceX will learn from the loss and rapidly return to service.”

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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.

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National Space Society Opposes Senate Gutting of Commercial Crew Program

The National Space Society (NSS) strongly opposes the Senate Appropriations Committee’s $344 million (27%) cut of the 2015 Commercial Crew budget requested by the Administration. The Senate cuts were $100 million more than those recently passed by the House.

NSS stands with NASA administrator Charles Bolden when he said “By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts into space – and to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.”  The two winners of the Commercial Crew competition, Boeing and SpaceX, have been making excellent progress, exemplified by the May 6th successful pad abort test of the SpaceX Dragon 2 crew escape system. Both are on track to fly astronauts in 2017 assuming funding is provided.

Until Commercial Crew vehicles are flying, the only way for anyone to get to the ISS is the Russian Soyuz. Unfortunately, the Russian space program has recently displayed a worrisome lack of reliability. On May 16th the failure of the third stage of the Russian Proton resulted in the loss of the MexSat-1 communications satellite. During April, a Russian Progress M-27M carrying cargo to the ISS went out of control and was lost with all its contents. More recently, the unexpected firing of the engine of a Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS shifted its orbital position. Congress, which has underfunded and thus delayed Commercial Crew consistently, will bear a significant share of the responsibility if the next Russian accident results in injuries to astronauts or the abandonment of the ISS.

Some have advocated reducing the Commercial Crew program to a single vehicle, reducing current costs and eliminating competition. NSS has long supported competition in the Commercial Crew program (see the 2014 NSS position paper on the NASA Commercial Crew Program). The failure of the Orbital ATK Antares cargo rocket during a launch attempt to the ISS last year demonstrated the value of redundant systems, underscoring the vital importance of having multiple Commercial Crew providers.

It is imperative that Congress provide full funding to Commercial Crew so that both Boeing and SpaceX reach operational status. The Commercial Crew program has been one of NASA’s biggest success stories, generating large amounts of real product innovation while reducing costs to the government. Any expansive future in space, such as that envisioned in the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap) requires lower cost specialized systems such as those being created by Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Services (CRS).

“NSS urges the Senate to pass a clean amendment restoring full funding of $1.244 billion to Commercial Crew when this Bill comes to the Senate floor for final passage,” said NSS Executive VP Dale Skran. “We are extremely concerned with the increasing difficulties in the Russian space program and suggest NASA immediately develop a contingency plan for Russian withdrawal other than evacuating the ISS.”

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NASA Administrator Statement on Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Vote on Commercial Crew Budget

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee vote Wednesday on NASA’s Fiscal Year 2016 commercial crew budget:

Charles F. Bolden

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA’s plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia.

“Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget.

“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.

“I support investing in America so that we can once again launch our astronauts on American vehicles.”

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National Space Society Political Action Network Alert, June 9, 2015: Full Funding for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Last week the House passed an Appropriations bill that cut the funding for NASA’s commercial crew program to restore U.S. independent crew access to the International Space Station by $243 million dollars. This sets Commercial Crew at 20% below NASA’s request.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will be marking up the House-passed Appropriations bill containing Commercial Crew funding this Wednesday (10:30 AM Eastern, Subcommittee) and Thursday (full Committee).

Please contact both of your Senators and ask them to support full funding and continued competition for NASA Commercial Crew at the level requested by the Administration – $1.243 billion.

Contacting them by Close of Business (COB) Tuesday June 9th will have the most impact if they are on the subcommittee (see the member list at: www.appropriations.senate.gov/subcommittee/commerce-justice-science-and-related-agencies ).

Contacting them by COB Wednesday June 10th will have the most impact if they are on the full committee (see the full committee list at www.appropriations.senate.gov/about-committee/committee-members ).

In any case, after these two committee meetings the full Senate will vote, so please contact your Senators by COB Friday June 12th at the latest.

If this is your first Political Action Network (PAN) alert or if you are uncertain who your Senator is or how to contact them, please look at this PAN alert instruction guide: www.nss.org/legislative/congress.htm. This guide tells you exactly how to find your Senator and how to contact them. For this alert, please either send email or call as it is critical that the Senator’s office be contacted by COB Friday June 12th, 2015.

Once you’ve contacted your Senators please let us know so we can follow up with them.  You can do so by emailing dale.skran@nss.org. You can also email any questions you may have at the same address

Thank you,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee
NSS Executive Vice President

Suggested Message Content:

The heart of the message: “I’m [your name] from [your town in that Senator’s state.] I’m calling/writing to ask Senator [their last name] to support full funding and continued competition for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.”

Your talking points might mention that the Commercial Crew cuts will:

  • Cause program delay and disruption
  • Prolong dependence on (increasingly unreliable) Russian launches. There have been a number of Russian launch failures recently, including of a Russian Progress cargo flight to the ISS.
  • Force NASA to spend more on additional Russian launches than the cuts save
  • Potentially end two providers for Commercial Crew. This is important since two competing different providers will:
    • Keep prices down.
    • Provide assured Station access even if one system has problems.
  • You can look at these NSS position papers for more ideas:
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Interview of Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, was interviewed on the subject of interstellar space settlement on the program “Contours” on FM radio station WNTI on May 28. WNTI  is a member supported public radio station providing non-commercial FM broadcast service for northern New Jersey and northeast Pennsylvania, operated by Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ. The 21-minute interview was conducted by Dr. Karl Hricko and is posted here with permission.


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