California Aerospace Days 2016 in Sacramento

On Tuesday, March 1, 12 noon to 5 pm, a number of Aerospace companies will have corporate exhibits and information about their STEM programs on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento as a part of California Aerospace Days. The Sacramento Chapter of NSS is supporting this event.

Participating exhibitors including Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be present as well, highlighting their 20 years of seeking “Exoplanets” and the Juno mission’s arrival at Jupiter. There will also be a flight simulator.


  • 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Public viewing of Aerospace Exhibition on West Steps
  • 1:00 – 1:45 PM: Importance and Promotion of Advanced Technology Start-ups and Small Businesses
  • 2:00 – 2:45 PM: Comprehensive Briefing on Aerospace Economic Study – Los Angeles EDC & San Diego EDC
  • 3:00 – 3:45 PM: Issues and Challenges Facing Aerospace Suppliers
  • 4:00 – 4:45 PM: FAA & NASA Briefing on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drone) integration into the National Airspace System
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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.

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.


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Luxembourg to launch framework to support the future use of space resources

The Luxembourg Government has announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.

Luxembourg is the first European country to announce its intention to set out a formal legal framework which ensures that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract, i.e. rare minerals from asteroids. Such a legal framework will be worked out in full consideration of international law. Luxembourg is eager to engage with other countries on this matter within a multilateral framework.

Luxembourg will also invest in relevant R&D projects and consider direct capital investment in companies active in this field.

The initiative will nurture an exciting and entirely new space industry. This industry will offer unprecedented access to mineral resources to be used essentially in Earth-orbit and beyond. The aim is to stimulate economic growth on Earth and offer new horizons in space exploration.

Luxembourg already has a strong track record in related sectors, with satellite operator SES, established in Luxembourg 30 years ago and now a major global player in its field.

The budget allocated to will be part of the national space budget that will be defined in the frame of the preparation of the Luxembourg contribution to the next multiannual budget of the European Space Agency to be decided in December 2016. The government will decide on new means for a wide range of new activities and initiatives, including this one.

Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Étienne Schneider, announced the initiative today:”Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats. We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg. At first, our aim is to carry out research in this area, which at a later stage can lead to more concrete activities in space.”

Jean-Jacques Dordain, the former Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) and advisor to Luxembourg Government on, said:”This initiative is a clear demonstration that Europeans are innovative and able to take risks when the stakes are high. While futuristic, the project is based on solid grounds, i.e. technical prowess that already exists in Europe and around the world.”

Simon P. Worden, Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation said:”Humanity is on the verge of expansion into the solar system – and then beyond. Using the resources we find there is essential – not only for our expansion into space but also to ensure continued prosperity here on Earth.”

Rick Tumlinson, Co-founder and Chair of the Board of Deep Space Industries stated:”By opening up the resources of space, Luxembourg will help take the pressure off the Earth.”

Chris Lewicki, President and CEO of Planetary Resources stated:”We commend the Government of Luxembourg in leading the world by establishing this new resource industry, thereby enabling the economic development of near-Earth asteroid resources. Planetary Resources looks forward to working with Luxembourg.”

Karim Michel Sabbagh, President and CEO of SES stated:”We welcome Luxembourg’s visionary initiative to take, once again, a pioneering step in space technology and further leverage our shared knowledge and experience. We look forward to contributing with our unique capabilities to these future activities.”

Yves Elsen, Chairperson of the Luxembourg Space Cluster stated:”Over the past three decades, Luxembourg has built up extensive know-how in world-class space related activities. Luxembourg can write history once again by further sustaining the attractiveness of the country for a host of next generation space activities.”


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Settling Space Is the Only Sustainable Reason for Humans to Be in Space

OPINION by Dale Skran, National Space Society Executive Vice President
This article appeared in The Space Review, February 1, 2016

As robotic and artificial intelligence technologies improve and enable increasingly robust exploration without a human presence, eventually there will be only one sustainable reason for humans to be in space: settlement. Research into the recycling technology required for long-term off-Earth settlements will directly benefit terrestrial sustainability. Actively working toward developing and settling space will make available mineral and energy resources for use on Earth on a vast scale. Finally, space settlement offers the hope of long-term species survival that remaining on Earth does not.

Orbital Space Settlement Interior

However, a recent essay by Astro Teller, head of Google X Labs, and his wife Danielle, a physician and researcher takes the bold position that “It’s completely ridiculous to think that humans could live on Mars.” This essay, published by Quartz, repeats with little examination some of the hoariest arguments against space settlement. To support this view, the Tellers quote their 12-year-old daughter: “I can’t stand that people think we’re all going to live on Mars after we destroy our own planet.” This quote contains two mischaracterizations that demand refutation: that “we are all” going to live in space and that we are going to live in space after we destroy Earth. Another canard that has long floated about was given form by the recent film Elysium starring Matt Damon: the rich will leave the poor on the Earth and escape to space settlements. Upon examination, all three of these ideas are strawmen.

There are more than seven billion people on the Earth today. No rational space settlement advocate suggests that any significant portion of that population, or even of those who are rich, will be moving to Mars or anywhere else in space. Instead, we expect that relatively small numbers of highly qualified individuals, or those who are deeply dedicated to living in space, would form the first settlements. Over a significant period of time, thousands more from the Earth would join those settlements as they become increasingly self-sufficient. Over more time, various possible niches for settlement (Moon, Mars, asteroids, free space, etc.) will be occupied, and eventually the population in space will total many millions, most of whom will have been born in space.

So why then do Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and many others, including organizations like the National Space Society (NSS) and Alliance for Space Development, believe strongly that space settlement is essential to human survival? Although this may seem surprising, the Earth is not a “safe space.” The destiny of virtually all species on Earth is extinction in a relatively short span of geologic time. The Tellers claim that “we live on a planet that is perfect for us.” This statement is both completely true and total nonsense. We fit well on the Earth because we have evolved over millions of years to become creatures that are both adapted to live here and to like living here. It is truer to say that we are perfect for the Earth than the reverse.

In fact, the Earth is not such a commodious place. It is subject to periodic calamities of various sorts, ranging from massive asteroid and comet impacts to titanic volcanic eruptions, and from periodic ice ages to disastrous solar flares. In the short run, the Earth seems balmy and comfortable. Viewed from the perspective of deep time, it starts to look more like a death trap, bedeviled by regular mass extinctions.

However, things are actually quite a bit worse. Although there are many potentially bad things that might happen to the human race on the Earth from natural sources, there are many more from unnatural sources. We have been dancing with nuclear disaster for a long time. An apocalyptic atomic war is not inevitable, but it is possible. Add to this scenario the genetically engineered killer virus, “gray goo,” a robot revolt, and other horrors as yet undreamt, and the odds against human survival get longer.

Hence, the need to abandon the fiction of Earth as our eternal and unchanging perfect home and to appreciate both the need for, and promise of, space settlement. Not so the rich can escape to an Elysium in the sky, or so we can all leave behind a polluted and overheated Earth, but simply so that the human species and human culture has a chance at surviving and flourishing in the long term.

The Tellers write, “We haven’t even colonized the Sahara desert, the bottom of the oceans… because it makes no economic sense.” This may be true, but it also makes no sense to settle the Sahara desert, the bottom of the oceans, or Antarctica since these locations are on the Earth, and humans living there will not increase the probability of species survival.

Near-Earth free space settlements and lunar bases are just stepping stones to ones much further out that are quarantined from Earth by millions of kilometers of vacuum. Once the motivation of species survival is put front and center, it becomes clear that a settlement in low Earth orbit, on the Moon, at L5, or on the Martian surface is not nearly sufficient. What is needed is a large set of thriving communities distributed throughout the solar system, and even ultimately in the Oort Cloud surrounding the solar system proper. This vision is not a small thing. It will be the work of many generations, just as was the settling of the New World or, even earlier in history, the human diaspora out of Africa along the Asian coast to Australia and beyond.

The Tellers believe that sustainability on the Earth has no relationship to what we do in space, but the same technologies that enable deep space settlement will have a profound impact on terrestrial sustainability. Space settlements, of necessity, push the limits of food production per square meter and per liter of water. Space settlement agricultural methods can also be applied to growing food in parched California or in vertical farms in crowded urban areas.

Space settlements require humans and technology to co-exist in close proximity. This implies an absolute minimization of pollution and sustained recycling of all waste. Such technologies seem highly applicable to sustainability on Earth as well. We will need to provide the best possible medical care for remote space settlements, which will be far from hospitals on Earth. The technologies that make such medicine effective—“tricorders,” telemedicine, and so on—can also bring medical care to underdeveloped and underserved areas of the Earth.

The Tellers raise the specter of “winter-over syndrome” in the Antarctic, writing that “living on Mars would be way, way more miserable than living in Antarctica,” and concluding, “Nobody wants to live there.” Although it is clear that the Tellers will not be going, the large numbers who signed up for Mars One’s sketchy settlement plans suggest that a lot of people do want to live on Mars. There are real challenges to constructing space settlements, but current Antarctic bases are not true settlements. Nobody lives there with their families, with the exception of the coastal Esperanza Base, where about ten families routinely winter over. No real effort is made to create any kind of human environment that is comfortable over a long period of time. Conditions in Antarctica might be better compared to living in a campground than a self-sustaining settlement. Additionally, the current Antarctic Treaty essentially prevents any extraction or use of the natural resources found there, thus making economically independent settlements infeasible.

Let us not shy from the truth. Conditions in the early settlements in the New World were difficult at best, and the casualty rate was high. We should expect the same to hold true for early space settlements. However, Jamestown and Plymouth gave rise to vast cities and a tamed landscape on a scale of hundreds of years. We now bring to the table technological means that would seem magical to the Jamestown settlers. Even as difficult an environment as the Moon can be developed and settled using technology that either exists currently or is an engineering project, as one book suggests (The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Settlement).

The Tellers think that, from an economic perspective, “Mars has nothing to offer in return.” Here, at least in the short run, they have a point. Although Mars may have more of the natural resources a settlement will need than, say, the Moon, it is at the bottom of a fairly steep gravity well and, for the time being, it is not likely that there will be many Mars-to-Earth exports. However, this is like looking at the resources of the New World via a keyhole, seeing a swamp, and reporting back that there is no point in going there. It is worth keeping in mind the example of “Seward’s Folly.” The purchase of Alaska from Russia was mocked as “Seward’s icebox” and a “polar bear garden.” At the time, the oil and mineral riches of Alaska were undiscovered and undreamt of.

Space itself teems with valuable resources, including continuous and abundant solar energy and mineral wealth on a scale beyond imagination just in the near Earth asteroids (see the book Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy). Just as the Tellers were dismissing space resources as irrelevant, the US Congress was laying the legal groundwork for asteroid and lunar mining with the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, signed by President Obama on November 23, 2015. The Tellers also seem unaware that their leadership at Google, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, are investors in the asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources.

The Tellers say that “we won’t survive [on Earth] unless we learn to live in a resource neutral way.” This statement assumes that that Earth is a closed system, which it is not. The Earth is flooded daily with vast amounts of solar energy that, if exploited, could power just about any civilization we wish to maintain (see the book The Case for Space Solar Power). There is no technical limitation to providing continuous, carbon-free power from space solar power satellites beaming power back to the surface of the Earth anywhere it might be needed. The main opposition to this idea derives from an unwillingness to consider centralized power systems on ideological grounds, combined with the unexpected reality of very cheap natural gas today. Even the most conservative consideration of near-Earth asteroid resources suggests that there is no reason to view the Earth as a closed system to which nothing can be added.

The time for the settlement of Mars will come, but first we need to build on our success in developing the resources of Earth orbit, in the form of navigation, Earth observation, communication, and weather satellites, by fully developing the economic potential of the Earth-Moon system. Space settlements must flow out of the development of the economic resources of space if they are to be sustainable in the long term. NSS has developed a complete description of milestones toward the development of space settlements.

A key first step toward space settlement is ensuring a gapless transition from the existing International Space Station to commercially owned and operated LEO space stations as described in the NSS position paper “Next Generation Space Stations.” Next will come the development of the resources of the Moon and nearby asteroids leading to the creation of a self-sustaining Earth-Moon economy. Once we have established an asteroid-Earth-Moon economy that makes the resources found in this region fully available for projects ranging from the construction of solar power satellites to fueling future Mars missions, trips to Mars will be far less of a reach than they are today.

In view of the above, Astro Teller was probably right to turn down the “space cadet” who wanted Google X to spend money on Mars settlement. Currently Google’s money would be better spent in low Earth orbit, among the asteroids, and on the Moon, joining forces with the growing number of entrepreneurs seeking their fortunes in space. But wait—Google is doing exactly that by sponsoring the Google Lunar X PRIZE to encourage private groups to send landers to the Moon, and investing $900 million in Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Given that corporate Google (now Alphabet) has just made a massive investment in a company founded to settle Mars, the Tellers’ essay sounds a bit like sour grapes. In any case, the Tellers are completely wrong in their disregard of the potential economic benefits of space development and the underlying motivation for space settlement.

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National Space Society Congratulates Blue Origin on First Reflight of New Shepard Rocket

On January 22, 2016, two months after Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket first successfully flew to the edge of space and returned to its launch site intact, Blue Origin again made history by re-flying the same vehicle. On this second launch the New Shepard passed the Karman line that defines the boundary of space, reaching an altitude of 333,582 ft before a spot-on landing in West Texas. This marks the first time that a re-usable vertical take-off/vertical landing vehicle has reached space and returned to its launch site and then done the same thing again using the same vehicle. Both the New Shepard cargo/crew capsule and booster were re-used on this uncrewed test flight.

Jeff Bezos reported that “The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including one noteworthy one.” This major change allowed the New Shepard to land a bit off-target while providing better resistance to possible cross-winds. Bezos added, “Though wings and parachutes have their adherents and their advantages, I’m a huge fan of rocket-powered vertical landing. Why? Because—to achieve our vision of millions of people living and working in space—we will need to build very large rocket boosters. And the vertical landing architecture scales extraordinarily well.”

Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President said, “NSS members look forward to future crewed flights of the New Shepard and an exciting future of operational sub-orbital tourism.”

“Blue Origin’s successful re-use of the New Shepard booster after reaching the edge of space represents a major step toward a fully re-usable sub-orbital vehicle,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “We endorse Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos’ vision of ‘millions of people living and working in space’—this is the heart and soul of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (get a free PDF of this document at Today that vision made a significant step closer to realization.”

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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® ( 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.

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National Space Society Applauds Selection of Dream Chaser, Dragon 2, and Cygnus for ISS Cargo Services

NSS congratulates Orbital ATK (Cygnus), Sierra Nevada (Dream Chaser), and SpaceX (Dragon 2) for being selected to provide cargo services to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Service 2 (CRS-2) contract. Orbital ATK and SpaceX, the CRS-1 cargo providers, are joined for the first time by the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser winged orbital vehicle. The CRS contract covers the delivery of supplies to the ISS, disposal of ISS waste, and the return of scientific samples from the ISS. The new contract provides a minimum of six missions to each of the three winners during the period 2019-2024. A NASA spokesperson said, “NASA’s service contracts to resupply the space station have changed the way the agency does business in low-Earth orbit. With these contracts, NASA continues to advance commercial spaceflight and the American jobs it creates.”

Dream Chaser cargo vehicle

Dream Chaser cargo vehicle docked at ISS. Image credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

“This announcement represents a major forward advance for NASA and the CRS program,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “Both Orbital ATK and SpaceX added significant new capabilities over the first contract. In the new contract, the up-sized Cygnus with new solar panels will be used, and the Dragon 2 offers options for both berthing and docking, along with a rapid return to Earth capacity via propulsive landing. However, the selection of Sierra Nevada and the Dream Chaser means that for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle reusable winged vehicles will be returning from space and landing at Kennedy Space Center.”

The Dream Chaser can deliver up to 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized supplies to the ISS. A runway landing supports low-g force return of fragile samples and equipment, and folding wings allow for the usage of a variety of launch vehicles, although the initial target is the Atlas V. In an area of improvement over the Space Shuttle, the Dream Chaser uses all non-toxic propellants. Finally, the system includes a “trailer” that can be used to dispose of ISS waste.

“NSS congratulates NASA on adding a third CRS provider,” said Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee. “The CRS-2 program now has triple redundancy in both orbital components and launch vehicles. NSS members look forward to the Dream Chaser’s first return from space.”

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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:

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United Launch Alliance CisLunar-1000

Excellent 7-minute video from United Launch Alliance:

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National Space Society Partners with Voices From L5: A Space Settlement Podcast

The National Space Society is proud to announce its partnership with Voices From L5. This exciting new podcast will open new discussions on space settlement, focusing on the humanities and social sciences, and educate the public on the science of space settlement. Space settlement is the concept of humankind moving our economy into space, with people living and working in space.

Voices from L5
NSS vice president for Public Affairs Lynne Zielinski said, “We are thrilled to strengthen our online community and outreach by branching into the vibrant world of podcasts, and we are very excited to be working with Voices From L5. This podcast project will explore topics such as law, art, politics and sociology to generate excitement among a whole new generation of space settlement enthusiasts.”

Voices From L5 was founded in early 2015 and has already reached hundreds of new science fans by making space settlement topics accessible and interesting for non-experts.

To learn more about Voices From L5 visit:

For previous podcasts visit:

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