Space Advocacy: A Guide to Getting Involved
"Space is big. Space is really big. It is so big you probably cannot comprehend just how big it is..."
If you recognized that quote from "The Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy" then congratulations! You are a good candidate for Space activism. If you didn't get the reference, never mind you are still a good candidate! A lot of people are aware of Space and some of the value it brings to our lives, but Space like the environment, needs good promoters so the rest of the world knows what Space is really about.
Anyone can be a good Space activist. It is also easy to do. It takes a little bit of time, occasionally costs a little money but most of all is the desire to make a difference. If you fit these criteria, then you are ready to start down a fun and exciting path.
Probably the first step is to find an organization that suits your personal goals and ambitions for Space travel. There are plenty of them each with different objectives. The National Space Society, for example, is politically active not just in the USA but also in numerous countries lobbying for "Space friendly" laws. The Artemis Society is focused on travel to the moon. The Mars Society, as its name implies, is focused on manned exploration of the red planet. Other groups include the Planetary Society, the Space Frontier Foundation, the Space Foundation, etc. All of these are great organizations only each group's core focus is different. Before joining any of them take some time and gather as much information about them as you can. Then pick one or two to join. Usually the annual dues are very reasonable, and you'll get first hand information on what the group is doing to further Space activities. You'll find some great information and there is a lot of fun to be had and many great, interesting and smart people to meet.
Next, you'll want to get involved locally. Most of the national organizations have local chapters (clubs) that hold monthly meetings, assist with educational activities and present information to the general public and politicians alike. The biggest danger with joining a local club however is burnout. The desire to get involved in something new can lead to joining too many projects quickly and becoming overwhelmed. Take your time, be patient and assist with one or two club projects. The amount of glamour work in any group is just a small percentage of the project. There are lots of "nuts and bolts" activities that need to be done. Start with some of these (matching them to your hobbies and interests of course) and you'll be on your way. As for costs, most of the local chapters have annual dues on top of the parent organization's, but they are usually very modest.
Third, get out and talk about Space. This is more than just talking about the Space shuttle around the water cooler. You need to talk about how Space affects people's lives, what it has done for the economy, where it is going, etc. Are you working on a neat idea for something Space related? Share your ideas at meetings like the International Space Development Conference (ISDC). It is a great way to get together with like minded Space buffs. If you like public speaking, you can give a presentation on Space flight at a local business gathering. Maybe you can assist school kids with building rockets. Nothing is better than the look in a child's eyes when they learn something new. It is a great reward to a fun activity.
Finally, show your support for companies in the Space business. They started into the business for a reason - to turn the dream of Space flight for everyone into a reality. It takes a lot of hard work and knowing that people are interested helps these firms continue onward even when times seem bad. The best ways to show your support include sending an email or two or better yet, purchase some of the products they sell (they are in business after all). As a Space entrepreneur, it is nice to know that people out there believe in what you are doing. Showing your support keeps them going.
These few points are just the start. There are as many ideas about what to do in Space as there are stars in the sky. Space is big, it has room for a lot of ideas. But Space needs your support. It starts with you. You are the reason these groups and companies exist. They want to help you turn your Space dreams into something more. Become an advocate and let's go exploring - together.
Joe Latrell is founder of Beyond-Earth Enterprises - a consumer space development company based in Colorado Springs.
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