Space Advocates Get Ready for March Storm 2006

Thirteenyears 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 tobrief members of Congress and their staffs on a whole new future for space.

Thesefirst March Stormers recognized the need to educate this nation's leaders onthese new ideas, ideas that were not being given an audience in Washington at that point.

As agroup they also fostered a strong belief in a famous quote from Margaret Mead:"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can changethe world. Indeed, nothing else ever has."

Sincethat first year and still governed by that belief, the members of ProSpace haveheld more than 3000 meetings with the offices of Senators and Representatives,as well as the White House, NASA and other government agencies. They havefocused on presenting information and endorsing initiatives designed to make certainour efforts in space provide real, relevant and measurable benefit to theAmerican people.

Thethirteenth 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 nowclearly illuminated. That path is best illustrated by the following excerptfrom this year's March Storm agenda:

"In recent years, the private sector has begunto eclipse the government's multi-billion dollar programs with significantadvances accomplished at a fraction of the cost.

Compare the state ofaffairs at NASA and DOD with just two recent accomplishments in the privatesector:

GOVERNMENT: NASA spent billions in the pastdecade looking for a replacement for the Space Shuttle - and has yet to fly anynew human-rated vehicle even once.

PRIVATE INDUSTRY: Burt Rutan designed,constructed and flew the world's first private human-rated spacecraft in justthree years - at a cost of just $25 million. Following NASA's cost models sucha project should have cost $600 million!

GOVERNMENT: NASA and DOD spent at least $1.5billion on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program to create new"commercially viable" launch systems - and are now being asked to provide hugesubsidies to the companies that received those funds because of a lack ofcustomers.

PRIVATE INDUSTRY: SpaceX designed and will soonfly a brand-new commercial launch vehicle for $100 million - and even beforeits first flight secured contracts with nine government and private customers."

Thatsays 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 effortsthat are more effective, efficient and affordable.

Ourtask this year is to reinforce that message and to provide specificrecommendations to the Congress on how best to move forward.

Whilethe complete agenda is still being formulated, our specific areas of interestat this point are:

1) Leveraging Private Resources to Meet Public Objectives: In this portion of theagenda we will be calling for:

A)      An increase in the newCommercial Orbital Transportation Services at NASA, which deals with commercialsolutions for both re-supply and crew transport.

B)      A request to create the Center forEntrepreneurial Space Access (ACESA) at the Air Force Research Lab to encouragecooperation between emerging space companies and the Department of Defense.

2) Prizes: The tremendous success of the Ansari X-Prize has created a great dealof excitement on Capitol Hill. Last year our members found significant supportfor federally funded prizes but heard that Congress needed to identify acredible mechanism to initiate and conduct prize competitions. In response tothat need ProSpace spent the last year consulting with industry, governmentagencies and other interested parties, then drafting exciting new legislationcalling for the establishment of a National Space Prize Board (NSPB).

Thebill is called "The SPACE Act of 2006" or "The Space Prizes for the Advancementof Commerce and Exploration Act" and calls for this new board "to use cashprizes 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 andmanage prizes.

Wewill be distributing the draft bill during March Storm in an effort to findsponsorship 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 NearEarth Objects of a size of 140 meters or greater. ProSpace will be seekingfunding for this program to begin in the next fiscal year and will also beseeking additional funding for the Minor Planet Center.

Weinvite you to join us this year. We guarantee a unique experience that youwill remember always.

If you would like more information about ProSpace, March Storm2006 and how you can participate, please visit us on the web at:

www.prospace.org or send usan email at: marchstorm@gmail.com

MarcSchlather 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 Senatorsas 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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