TheNational Space Society of North Texas (NSS-NT) has been doing a lot of greatprojects recently in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. We get to have fun, while investing in ourspace future by talking to the people in our communities about space. On Saturday June 4th, in my role as presidentof NSS-NT, I participated in a Hugh O'Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership program atthe University of North Texas (UNT). I was on a space frontiers panel with DonGarland, an astronomy professor at UNT. It was certainly a very interesting and exciting experience.
Theaudience was about 100-125 or so high school sophomores. They handled the basiclogistics of the program once the speakers had been lined up, and our group ofstudents decided on a basketball/wrestling style entry with screaming fans andcheerleaders and a "Let's get ready to..." emcee. We had been told that the topic was "NewFrontiers in Space", but on the program it read "Space: An ExpensiveAdventure"
Mr. Garlandgave a brief talk on 2004 MN and played the Paul Harvey radio piece whichmentioned Rusty Schweickart's B-612 talk at theISDC. Since I was at that ISDC talk Iwas able to add some additional flavor. We did make sure to keep the doomsday aspects to a minimum as we didn'twant to scare them too much, though they did pay attention when he describedobjects that he personally had seen in the telescope passing between the Moonand the Earth. He then went on to talkabout the Deep Impact mission climaxing on July 4th with an event that will bevisible to everyone in North America with theright tools.
Then it wasmy turn to speak, and I decided to try an experiment. I asked the assembly whoamongst them actually, pragmatically and realistically thought that they wouldhave a real opportunity to go into space in their lifetime. About one and ahalf hands went up.
I thenlaunched into a spiel which I only vaguely remember but one that touched onjobs that might include but are not limited to asteroid mining, building solarpower satellites, solar power towers at the lunar poles, servicing GEO sats, inventing new materials, making anhydrous fiberglass,mining for LUNOX, cleaning toilets at Moonbase, andmyriad other things.
I asked howmany had cell phones (>95%), and noted the rare elements that go into theirconstruction, and how we have to tear up our planet to get at them while theyawait us in abundance overhead, and also noted the billions of dollars in spaceassets that help support the telecommunications and broadcast infrastructure.
I asked howmany had XM Satellite radio and a surprising number of hands went up. I notedtheir difficulties and why it's a problem that we can't get to our assets tofix them. I also touched on financial, insurance and international aspects andnoted that if we here in the U.S. are not the ones going out there and doingthis space thing then the rest of the world isn't going to wait.
At the end,before the Q&A, I asked how many of the audience thought they could seethemselves doing one of those jobs in space, and roughly 25-33% of the handswent up.
Many ofthese kids clearly realized the importance of asteroids. They understood thebenefit of tapping directly into a 4.5 billion year power supply with solarpower satellites and Lunar power towers. They could seewhy it might be a better idea to stop tearing up our own planet and starttearing up space.
There werea number of them that were obviously future space leaders, primarily inscience, mostly girls. I hardly touched on Mars and no one seemed to miss it. Aftera slow start there were a number of very good questions at the end, touching onthings like nuclear power sources, lunar resources, ownership and the OST, HLLVvs. EELV, parallel universes, and all kinds of other wacky stuff.
It was agreat way to invest an hour and a half. I always get a nice warm fuzzy feelinginside when I contribute to something like a youth leadership camp, plus a coolt-shirt and some of the smug self-satisfaction one gets when one of thecounselors comes up afterwards and says that's one of the best presentationshe's seen in years of doing this HOBY thing and they want NSS-NT back againnext year. There's also the added benefit of the UNT Planetarium wanting towork more closely with NSS-NT on future outreach projects and the 2007 ISDC.
It doesn'tget much cooler than that.
See howmuch fun NSS-NT has by visiting our chapter gallery at http://nssnt.org/Image/Image/Chapter.
Ken Murphy works as an underwriter and analyst in aviationfinance at a private investment bank in the D/FW metroplex. He has a Master of Space Studies,cum laude, from International Space Universityand was a delegate to the Space Generation Forum at UNISPACE III.