Space Advocates Get Ready for March Storm 2006
Thirteen years ago, a dedicated group of space enthusiasts gathered in Washington, DC, its task? To participate in the first ProSpace March Storm, an effort put together to brief members of Congress and their staffs on a whole new future for space.
These first March Stormers recognized the need to educate this nation's leaders on these new ideas, ideas that were not being given an audience in Washington at that point.
As a group they also fostered a strong belief in a famous quote from Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, nothing else ever has."
Since that first year and still governed by that belief, the members of ProSpace have held more than 3000 meetings with the offices of Senators and Representatives, as well as the White House, NASA and other government agencies. They have focused on presenting information and endorsing initiatives designed to make certain our efforts in space provide real, relevant and measurable benefit to the American people.
The thirteenth annual March Storm will be held in Washington February 26th - March 1st 2006. The message this year is that, in terms of space, the nation has arrived at a fork in the road, with a distinct path forward now clearly illuminated. That path is best illustrated by the following excerpt from this year's March Storm agenda:
"In recent years, the private sector has begun to eclipse the government's multi-billion dollar programs with significant advances accomplished at a fraction of the cost.
Compare the state of affairs at NASA and DOD with just two recent accomplishments in the private sector:
GOVERNMENT: NASA spent billions in the past decade looking for a replacement for the Space Shuttle - and has yet to fly any new human-rated vehicle even once.
PRIVATE INDUSTRY: Burt Rutan designed, constructed and flew the world's first private human-rated spacecraft in just three years - at a cost of just $25 million. Following NASA's cost models such a project should have cost $600 million!
GOVERNMENT: NASA and DOD spent at least $1.5 billion on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program to create new "commercially viable" launch systems - and are now being asked to provide huge subsidies to the companies that received those funds because of a lack of customers.
PRIVATE INDUSTRY: SpaceX designed and will soon fly a brand-new commercial launch vehicle for $100 million - and even before its first flight secured contracts with nine government and private customers."
That says it all...and proves what the members of ProSpace have been saying all along, that increased involvement by the private sector will result in space efforts that are more effective, efficient and affordable.
Our task this year is to reinforce that message and to provide specific recommendations to the Congress on how best to move forward.
While the complete agenda is still being formulated, our specific areas of interest at this point are:
1) Leveraging Private Resources to Meet Public Objectives: In this portion of the agenda we will be calling for:
A) An increase in the new Commercial Orbital Transportation Services at NASA, which deals with commercial solutions for both re-supply and crew transport.
B) A request to create the Center for Entrepreneurial Space Access (ACESA) at the Air Force Research Lab to encourage cooperation between emerging space companies and the Department of Defense.
2) Prizes: The tremendous success of the Ansari X-Prize has created a great deal of excitement on Capitol Hill. Last year our members found significant support for federally funded prizes but heard that Congress needed to identify a credible mechanism to initiate and conduct prize competitions. In response to that need ProSpace spent the last year consulting with industry, government agencies and other interested parties, then drafting exciting new legislation calling for the establishment of a National Space Prize Board (NSPB).
The bill is called "The SPACE Act of 2006" or "The Space Prizes for the Advancement of Commerce and Exploration Act" and calls for this new board "to use cash prizes as a means to accelerate the commercial expansion of economic, exploration, national security and scientific uses of space and spaceflight." The bill includes authorization for prizes up to an amount of $100 million. It also allows the NSPB to partner with other organizations to create and manage prizes.
We will be distributing the draft bill during March Storm in an effort to find sponsorship in the House and Senate.
3) NEO protection: In the recent NASA Authorization bill passed by the Congress, the space agency was instructed to formulate a plan for searching for Near Earth Objects of a size of 140 meters or greater. ProSpace will be seeking funding for this program to begin in the next fiscal year and will also be seeking additional funding for the Minor Planet Center.
We invite you to join us this year. We guarantee a unique experience that you will remember always.
If you would like more information about ProSpace, March Storm 2006 and how you can participate, please visit us on the web at:
www.prospace.org or send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc Schlather is president of ProSpace, a grassroots space policy organization. He also serves as Executive Director of the Space Roundtable at the United States Senate which, while not formally chartered by that body, counts 11 Senators as Honorary Chairs.
NOTE:The views of this article are the author's and do not reflect the policies of the National Space Society.
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