Spaceflight Leaders Flock to Colorado For Big Conference This Week

Space Foundation board members at the 27th National Space Symposium in 2011.
Space Foundation board members (from left to right) William Ballhaus, Jr., Capt. Frederick H. Hauck, USN (retired), Kathryn Thornton, Col. Brewster Shaw, Jr., USAF (retired) and Elliot Pulham at the 27th National Space Symposium in 2011. (Image credit: Space Foundation)

More than 9,000 space agency representatives, aerospace industry leaders, military officials and students are converging in Colorado this week for a conference to discuss and debate the major issues facing robotic and human spaceflight.

The 28th National Space Symposium is being held from April 16 to 19 at the swanky Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The event attracts space leaders from around the world, and will feature more than 100 speakers who will discuss a variety of topics that affect the global space community, said Janet Stevens, vice president of marketing and communications for the Space Foundation, which sponsors the National Space Symposium.

"This year's program is probably the most diverse we've ever had," Stevens told "As the space sector becomes broader, we've shaped our program to accommodate a much broader palette of interests."

The Space Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to increase space awareness, educational programs and advocacy for all aspects of the space industry.

Poster for the 28th National Space Symposium, which is being held April 16 to April 19, 2012 at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Image credit: Space Foundation)

Panelists at this year's symposium will lead discussions on a range of topics, including human spaceflight, international military collaboration, Earth observation, and satellite hosted payloads.

Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York, will deliver the opening keynote address on Tuesday, April 17.

"Neil Tyson is the intergalactic space poet laureate of our time," Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation CEO, said in a statement. "He connects people with the universe with wit, humor and genius that has proven irresistible to his millions of readers, viewers, students, lecture guests and fans the world over. We are delighted to have Neil return to play a major role at the National Space Symposium."

Other speakers include NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Gen. William Shelton of the Air Force Space Command, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, and Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary for space and defense policy at the U.S. Department of State.

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, United States Strategic Command, Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, European Space Agency, German Aerospace Center and Mexican Space Agency will also participate in panel discussions.

In addition, executives from various aerospace companies, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, ATK, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Sierra Nevada will be in attendance.

This year's National Space Symposium features a much larger global presence, and as always, a "heavy focus on networking conducting business and getting work done," Stevens said.

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Denise Chow
NBC News science writer

Denise Chow is a former staff writer who then worked as assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. She spent two years with, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions, before joining the Live Science team in 2013. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University. At NBC News, Denise covers general science and climate change.