WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's the essence of democracy: Citizens coming to the capitol to share their views on important issues with their elected 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 and the public are encouraged to come on down to the capitol and join in the process of making space exploration a priority for the government.

The two-day event is the prelude to the society's 24th annual International Space Development Conference. This year's Legislative Conference--or the 2005 'Space Blitz', as it's known--was inspired by the positive response participants saw from last year's Moon-Mars Blitz, said NSS Executive Director George Whitesides.

The 2004 Moon Mars Blitz was credited with being an important part of the legislative victory NASA had in last year's budget, Whitesides said. "This year, the situation is potentially even more challenging," Whitesides said. "So we asking the public to come and do your part for space and be a part of the action."

Participants in this year's event actually go to Capitol Hill and make the case for space to key members of Congress and their staff.

"By the end of the two days, you could see that we had really achieved something," said Michael Gilbrook, who participated in the 2004 event. "We educated Congressional staffer who were space novices, and motivated some who were jaded."

Gilbrook said that often pro-space education efforts are unfocused, and results are intangible. "But with the legislative conference, you know you are having a direct effect on the decision makers who control U.S. space policy," he said. "It is probably the most worthwhile and cost-effective use of your time as a space activist."

While some staffers know fairly little about space issues, some are extremely knowledgeable, with a personal interest that stretches back to childhood, said Whitesides: "But whatever the level of knowledge, the Space Blitzers will review with them the main action points of this year's agenda: supporting the Vision for Space Exploration, saving Hubble, and supporting the nascent commercial spaceflight industry."

"The National Space Society Legislative Conference was an amazing experience," said Marty Trumbore of Chicago "By participating in this two-day event, we received a first-hand education on how policy takes shape and what we, as both individuals and as the NSS, can do to influence this process."

Trumbore, who also attended last year's blitz, recalled how "we were able to meet with Senators, Representatives as well as senior staffers to discuss key issues facing the space industry. Just walking through the halls of Congress gave a profound sense of history and that we were doing our part to make a difference."

For more information on the NSS Legislative Conference and to register online, visit http://www.nss.org/legislative.