The LCR started with a reception and overview presentation. I saw a lot of familiar faces, met some new folks, tried to chat up the hottie from Orbital, the usual reception stuff. So I’m sitting at a table trying to wolf down some hors d’oeuvres and appetizers while chatting with some guys, and I look up to see the owner of the bank I work for walking up to the bar.
The Lunar Commerce Roundtable is a lot different from most of the organizations one reads about in the blogosphere. It’s composed of business people who are looking at and trying to work through some of the business cases for space. I was invited to participate in the LCR/LEAG last October in Houston, largely because of my banking and finance background. I can answer questions about investment banking and commercial banking.
This is not a field of knowledge for which the space field (in general, I’m not talking about the Boeings or LockMarts) is particularly well known. However, money is sniffing a bit around the edges, a point brought home to me later in the week when I spent half an hour talking to an Italian gentlemen in French (he indulged my desire to practice a bit) who works for a private money firm in France (gotta love the EU passport).
So these are not your usual suspects. All attendees were asked to not write about the proceedings, so I can’t say much about the stuff we talked about in the long sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. The stuff I talked about with my boss is corporate confidential, but I can say he was just as surprised to see me there as I was to see him. I can say that progress is being made in a good way. There’s going to be a report and media stories, so y’all will hear about it eventually. But the messages and the themes are changing a bit, and that’s a good thing.
We were treated to a Cirque de Soleil show, Kà, at the MGM Grand. The cultural creativity that was displayed is wonderful, and influences could be seen from a variety of sources, from video games to the movie ‘Le Pacte des Loups’. The one feature that all the space people were talking about were the acrobats who operated the large rings on a rotating arm, walking both inside and outside as it rotates. There were quite a few freefall moments, and I was astonished at my body’s response.
I wanted to do it myself. Bad. I was having a muscle memory flashback to my Zero-G flight and my body hungered for it. I could feel the physionomic response. It craved it. Like a cigarette smoker who has to light up when someone else does, I was having a serious jones for freefall. I must do another Zero-G flight! (and this time I’ll take the motion sickness medicine. Forget the whole purity of body thing, there’s not much purity in puke 😉
Another thing I made sure to do in Vegas was visit some of the local used book stores. These independent stores have been invaluable in accumulating my Lunar Library, and I still managed to find half a dozen new titles. There’s going to be a new and improved Lunar Library coming to outofthecradle.net, just as soon as I finish cataloguing all the titles I’ve accumulated over the past six months. I’m a banker, I have to double check everything. Clark Lindsey has been gracious enough to host it at Hobbyspace.com since its old home at the SFF Boards (Return to the Moon and Space Arena) were shut down.
Wednesday night began the switchover to the Space Frontier Foundation‘s Newspace conference, and more space hotties showed up on the scene! I’m telling you, things are starting to change in the space field. At one point I managed to scare off three at once 😉
By this point I had decided to head back on Friday instead of Saturday, so that I would have a full day to rest before work on Monday. This would allow me to see at least the Return to the Moon portion of the proceedings and fill out my Lunar vacation.
I wandered into the exhibit hall and immediately headed over to talk to Rich Godwin at the Apogee Books display. They had a copy of Alan Binder’s “Lunar Prospector” book, which I hadn’t seen around (except at one bookstore down in Houston) so I picked that one up for the Lunar Library. I’ve been trying to convince Rich to send me review copies of Moon books for my reviews over at outofthecradle.net. Since I’d just put a review of “Kids to Space” up at Amazon.com, I think he was a little more inclined to my suggestion this time around. I talked with the FAA representative and picked up a heavy box of handout materials to bring back to Dallas for NSS-NT and Frontiers of Flight to use in our activities. I had the guys from Flometrics explain their pistonless pump display, and talked with the Fisher Space Pen folks a bit.
I also bought a Moon Base. 1/144th scale, but a start. I got it from Philip Mills of NewSpace Models, who did a nice Bigelow balloon base with a little bulldozer and a Solar Power Tower in the back. He started out at 150 quid, but I talked him down a ways. Haggling is always great fun, and I encourage all U.S. citizens to cultivate this skill.
I intend to use the Moonbase in the educational outreach displays that I do here in North Texas, so as to allow people to better visualize what life might be like on the Moon. It’ll be very useful with a couple other goodies I picked up on the trip.
Others have covered the speakers better than I could hope to, especially Clark over at Hobbyspace and Rand over at Transterrestrial Musings. The impression I got was that NASA is digging in its heels about ESAS and being allowed to follow their path. I also heard more talk of how space can provide terrestrial solutions, but the key phrase at this point in time is performance. Burt Rutan performed with SpaceShipOne. Robert Bigelow performed with Genesis 1. We need to continue this, because performance builds confidence and that’s what business people need. They’ve been so put off by the shenanigans of the usual suspects that space really has very little credibility in the non-space business sector. This is starting to change, but it’s a slow process, one that can only be accelerated by accelerating performance. A private orbital flight would be ideal. Good thing it’s coming soon.
I also heard talk that there needs to be some kind of tradeshow/expo for the space industry. I’m trying to do that to a modest extent with the ISDC 2007, because I feel that only by showing off hardware will the general public start believing that yes, we can in fact do this as a nation, and not just NASA. All of the different voices in the space advocacy field are starting to sing closer in harmony, and that’s helping to send a stronger message to those outside of the space field that we’re serious about this thing. The business of America is business, and thus will it be in space, starting from LEO, and working ever outward.
Notes on LCR/RtttM pt. III: It’s a long way home.