by Jeff Cunningham
If you’ve been tuned in with us up to this point throughout World Space Week, you may wish that there were some way for you to be a part of it — after all, the true spirit of the Browncoats is standing up and taking action for causes that no one else will.
Aside from writing Elon Musk and asking him to name the first manned private spaceship Serenity, of course, there are indeed ways to get involved. There’s actually a number of “space advocacy” groups that have been around for a while. These people don’t just hold meetings and bug Congressmen, they actually get out and do stuff, stuff that tends to have a twelve-foot flame shooting out its rear end. We thought we’d introduce you to a few of them today. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an engineer, educator, or real estate broker, space needs you (seriously, Oregon Trail would have been super boring if only one profession could be played), so come talk to these people:
After Robert Zubrin created the Mars Direct plan that we discussed earlier, he went on to found The Mars Society, solely dedicated to furthering the exploration and settlement of the planet Mars through public outreach, soliciting support for government-funded expeditions, and, of course, private enterprise.
Currently, the society owns and operates a couple of “analog research stations”: simulated Martian bases located in places that resemble Martian geography where scientists and engineers are working and getting their hands dirty to figure out in advance what the first men and women on Mars will need to know.
The National Space Society, or NSS, is probably the larger of the non-profit organizations here. The Chairman of their Board of Governors is Mr. Hugh Downs, former host of ABC’s 20/20. The Board itself includes Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut, Tom Hanks, Norman Augustine, General Simon “Pete” Worden, and many other notable figures.
In addition to regular, passionate “legislative blitzes,” the society hosts was has become the central shindig for the entire space community, the International Space Development Conference (ISDC). I’ve attended for four years, now, and I can tell you that it never gets old: Hear amazing ideas, exciting and ingenious business proposals, chat with astronauts in the hotel bar (hearing stories NASA would probably rather you didn’t) and maybe, just maybe see history happen. Congressmen, astronauts, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and CEOs all attend and are as accessible to you as they ever will be…so keep an eye out for Elon Musk, who makes appearances from time to time.
Nearest and dearest to my heart is the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). Sort of a mini-organization devoted entirely to students at the high school and university level, this was the source of the greatest adventures I had during my college years. Thanks to SEDS, I shook hands with men who walked on the moon, built an experiment that flew on the Zero-G plane, flew myself a year or two later, and met people and was given opportunities that had a profound impact on my life.
Suffice it to say, if you’re young, a student, and want to do something, this is a very project-focused group, whether it’s building rockets in a campus workshed, or finding ways to grow crops in the black. You don’t have to come from a scientific background, either — it’s for anyone who believes in the cause.
They get their own conference, as well, hosted by students, for students, called SpaceVision. The keynote speaker every year, traditionally, is none other that X Prize founder Peter Diamandis, who, it turns out, founded SEDS with two of his friends as a student himself. I count hearing his powerful oratory of the potential we all have, of what we could be doing in space, as shaping the way I looked at space exploration and enterprise.
Lastly, the Space Frontier Foundation deserves special mention. This organization is devoted especially to furthering human colonization of space through free enterprise. Their current projects include coordinating suborbital flights for teachers and other successful outreach programs.
They also hold their own conference, called NewSpace, the next being held in Silicon Valley, where they discuss the industry and recognize achievements — such as giving Joss Whedon the Vision of the Future award for his portrayal of individual liberty in space.
These are the Browncoats of space. If you like the idea of working for an idea that others find crazy, you’ll fit right in with any one of these. While you’re at it, get them on board for Serenity!