WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's the essence of democracy: Citizenscoming to the capitol to share their views on important issues with theirelected representatives. But there is a twist this time: the issue is space,and the citizens are members of the National Space Society (NSS). The NSS's third ever "Space Blitz" kicks off Tuesday, May 17 andthe public are encouraged to come on down to the capitol and join in theprocess of making space exploration a priority for the government.
Thetwo-day event is the prelude to the society's 24th annual InternationalSpace Development Conference. This year's Legislative Conference--or the 2005'Space Blitz', as it's known--was inspired by the positive response participantssaw from last year's Moon-Mars Blitz, said NSS Executive Director George Whitesides.
The2004 Moon Mars Blitz was credited with being an important part of thelegislative victory NASA had in last year's budget, Whitesidessaid. "This year, the situation is potentially even more challenging," Whitesides said. "So we asking the public to come and doyour part for space and be a part of the action."
Participantsin this year's event actually go to Capitol Hill and make the case for space tokey members of Congress and their staff.
"Bythe end of the two days, you could see that we had really achieved something,"said Michael Gilbrook, who participated in the 2004event. "We educated Congressional stafferwho were space novices, and motivated some who were jaded."
Gilbrook said that oftenpro-space education efforts are unfocused, and results are intangible. "Butwith the legislative conference, you know you are having a direct effect on thedecision makers who control U.S.space policy," he said. "It is probably the most worthwhile and cost-effectiveuse of your time as a space activist."
Whilesome staffers know fairly little about space issues, some are extremelyknowledgeable, with a personal interest that stretches back to childhood, said Whitesides: "But whatever the level of knowledge, the SpaceBlitzers will review with them the main action pointsof this year's agenda: supporting the Vision for Space Exploration, savingHubble, and supporting the nascent commercial spaceflight industry."
"TheNational Space Society Legislative Conference was an amazing experience," said MartyTrumbore of Chicago "By participating in this two-dayevent, we received a first-hand education on how policy takes shape and whatwe, as both individuals and as the NSS, can do to influence this process."
Trumbore, who alsoattended last year's blitz, recalled how "we were able to meet with Senators,Representatives as well as senior staffers to discuss key issues facing thespace industry. Just walking through the halls of Congress gave a profoundsense of history and that we were doing our part to make a difference."
Formore information on the NSS Legislative Conference and to register online,visit http://www.nss.org/legislative.