2007 ISDC (and Lunar Library) update

By guest blogger Ken

We’re rapidly closing in on one month out from the ISDC and things continue to gel well. First and foremost, because I’ll finally get to meet Jon face-to-face. The prep work certainly has not been an easy process, and if I had to grade myself on program management I’d have to give myself no better than a B-/C+. I recognized this would likely be the case early on, and so I made sure to have a co-chair (perhaps the chapter insisted a little [lot]). Carol Johnson has been active since before the NSS, and has been to most of the conferences to date, so I know she knows what needs to get done, and she’s doing a phenomenal job compared to me (though I was strong in the earlier part). She also has hardware on orbit, so there.

There is still a lot of work because we’ve got a full plate lined up. We’ve arranged a lot of conference space at the hotel and will have a number of tracks each day.In a broad context it will look something like this:

Thursday –
ATWG wrap-up
Space Venture Finance Forum

Friday is Transport Day
The mornings are given over to plenaries and we’re still finalizing schedules, but we’re pretty confident on Congressman Nick Lampson, Shannon Lucid and Don Pettit for Friday morning. Friday lunch is given over to Robert Bigelow [Just found out today that Mr. Bigelow will not be able to be there Friday. We’ll have to see how the overall weekend works out for him], and after 2pm the tracks kick in. Attendees will have their choice amongst the three main tracks – Frontier Transport/Moon & Cislunar Space Development/The Martian Frontier, as well as Space Settlement, ISS Science, Space Business, Education sessions, Space Law, as well as a number of NewSpace speakers in the big room used for plenaries.

Saturday is Moon Day
Ames Director Pete Worden will open the plenary for us and we’ll have a number of speakers, including space hottie Laurie Leshin [um, I’m pretty sure she’s married – is hottie appropriate?] as well as Paul Spudis and Jeff Volosin. Eric Anderson should be telling us about Space Adventures’ $100Mn trip around the Moon (there are complications, understandably). John Carmack is going to talk in the Big Room about his Lunar Lander, and later on will be the Space Blogger Summit. I heard that about 35 folks were invited to that and about a dozen have responded with more expected. I’ve been given a sort of backdoor invite because of my work here and at the Lunar Library, so I may yet make a public appearance in something other than a Moon context. As before, the tracks open up at 2pm, and we’ve got again got Space Settlement, ISS Science, Education and Space Business, as well as Astrosociology, Space Solar Power, Space Outreach and the three main tracks.

Sunday is Mars Day
Bob is going to open the plenary, and Rusty Schweickart is going to be the lunch speaker. There’s an international session that we’re way behind on (I bear part, but not all, of the blame) being put together by the former president of CNES. We’ll also have tracks on Space Medicine, FTc, Settlement, Business, Education, and Transport/Moon/Mars, with everything wrapping up in an Awards Dinner Sunday night.

Monday is just some miscellaneous bits and pieces, like one of the Moon Rock Cert. classes, so that everyone can travel home Monday afternoon and evening. D/FW benefits from being within ~4 hr flying distance of most major North American cities. If we had point-to-point suborbital travel that would be a global capability, but we’re not quite there yet.

There’s also all kinds of other stuff that will be going on as well. We’re still trying to scare up displays for the front area. All of our Affiliates get a display table, and we’re trying (without only a few successes) to get some vendors of space stuff in there. We’ll have an Author’s Area for presenters and others to sign books they’ve authored. Dallas Personal Robotics Group wants to put on an outdoor robot challenge with some groups in Austin and Houston, and perhaps others, back behind the hotel. We’ll have a large Space Arts Track and Space Art area. We’ve got a small Kids Program. There’s a Jim Baen’s Universe writing competition tie-in, which stories are being processed as we speak. We’ve got a bunch of neat tours lined up. I’m already signed up for one of the Moon Rock classes we’ve arranged. There’s also the 50th anniversary of space flight, the 20th anniversary of ISU, and others as well I’m sure.

Apogee Books, one of the few exhibitors, is apparently partnering up somehow with Launch Magazine, who I know will be there on a Media Pass, and because they’re going to be doing some stuff with the Dallas Area Rocket Society. We’ve got a number of movies lined up, and the director of “Postcards from the Future” is working to get a special camera to the conference so that we can see it in all its 4K glory. We’ve also got “Microgravity”, Chip Proser will be there to talk about his documentary “GaiaSelene”, and the Mars guys have a cool flick as well.

So it’s going to be a great conference. We do of course have various concerns that give each of us ulcers. My co-chair is disappointed that we don’t have more deep space presentations for things like Hubble and Webb. I tried to drum up some support with the local JPL Solar System Ambassadors but had no luck. A few speakers have pulled out to date (typically after they are in some printed ad), and there seems to be an overall squirelliness about speakers and the Memorial Day weekend. I’m disappointed that we don’t have more people showing off hardware or just corporate displays, but folks have been most parsimonious in that regard. My disappointment is that if we do get a fair amount of local turnout they will not have a whole lot of stuff to see, and so by extension it’s still not a serious industry. Space companies need to spend less time showing off for each other and more time showing off for the public.

Because is there any doubt that this is a general space interest conference? NSS’s goal is to get people living and working in space, and it turns out we do have a lot of friends in that regard.

Lessons learned:
-Have a high-speed internet connection and a solid e-mail host. Dial-up doesn’t cut it anymore when you’ve got 17Mb files that need sending around. Hotmail, which I’ve been using since 1999 and have been able to access from places as diverse as a bar in Christianashavn to a bar in Cabo San Lucas (okay, maybe not so diverse), has been so-so. It’s great in the global access regard, but it’s a Microsoft site and so seems to have periodic fits, and is also slow at their end. It may be time to start migrating more stuff to the Lunadyne GMail account.
-When people give you a really good deal and you take it, they’ll probably come back later to revisit the deal.
-Choose any weekend other than Memorial Day. It’s too close to too many other traditional community/family activities. People in the space field don’t want to spend their weekend doing space stuff. 2007 is an important year, so we have got a pretty impressive line-up of speakers, but it’s not worth the heartache.
-When you live in the heart of the Bible Belt, the major local newspaper is likely to have other priorities than space and technology (our GuideLive.com submission isn’t up yet, for example). The small niche papers seem to be the way to go.
-Try to make sure your leaders are people with initiative. If you can just give them general guidelines to work with and then they take the ball and run with it, you get great results. It doesn’t always work that way, though.
-Take periodic vacations. Go far away and do not do any space stuff. I am sooo looking forward to one of those. I’m guessing it’s about time for another trip to Eden. I’m just worried that I’ll get a ticket from the State Trooper in Brady for still not having the front license plate (it was stolen, probably to get a vehicle to Mexico as they’ve gone after my inspection tag as well, and my topless beetle has a much prettier smile without it. DPS in Dallas has much more whacked out stuff to deal with than missing license plates).

So what happens afterwards? That’s a good question. I’ve got close to a score of vacation days saved up. Ten of those are for prep and aftermath of the conference. In early June I’m going to use some vacation time to go to the Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Settlements. Then I’m going to start working on my next project – some kind of Lunar Academy program. The guys over at the Moon Society have a really good super-secret idea that ties in with that that I may be able to help out on.

I’ve got some work to do on the Lunar Library like getting more of the old papers up and compiling the first CentiLune. I’ve got over 100 Moon story reviews (and counting) linked into the Lunar Library. Amazingly, they average about 100 views per day and have since the beginning of the year. Much higher traffic than Google is showing for the site proper. It is kind of cool to see the search terms and realize that people are looking for titles they remember seeing on the site. Popular search or e-mail items have been the “Final Frontier” mini board game, the Spanish language version of the Braille Moon phase book, the “Moon in my Room” nightlight (which has apparently been selling like gangbusters [though not through my site :-(]), the “Earthrise” 8’x13′ wall mural which is OOP, and “Kids to Space”.

I’m also excited to hear that the guys at Orbis got an order for a large (probably 20′) Moon globe. If they sell a few more large ones they’ll be able to afford the processing time to render it down to the sizes I can afford, like the 1 meter. (These are high-definition renderings, unlike the inflatable Moon globe I have now) I’ll definitely be picking up a few of the smallest (16″) ones when they come out.

I’m also going to be buying a house by the end of the year (I’m anticipating some serious seller pain in the third quarter, but the first quarter of 2008 might be more opportune), so I will actually be able to put the LL in a real home. Ultimately it’s bound for an institution (like the ISU Lunar campus), but it’s still not quite there yet. So much work left to do…

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One Response to 2007 ISDC (and Lunar Library) update

  1. FlyingSinger... says:

    Thanks for this update on ISDC events. I’ll be there to present a talk on educational use of the Orbiter space flight simulator. I’ve seen the “space blogger summit” event mentioned in a couple of blog posts (here I think) but have found no other information on this at the main ISDC site. I’d like to participate if possible.

    Thanks,
    Bruce

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