Well, New Mexico Space Week is at an end. The International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) wrapped up yesterday here in Las Cruces. Some attendees are on a tour of Spaceport America this morning. Because I attended the terminal dedication ceremony on Monday, I saw little need to pay $75 to see the spaceport again.
Compared to Virgin Galactic’s gala event, the conference was rather quiet. The biggest news was made by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who laid out in stark terms what will happen if Congress doesn’t fund the commercial crew program adequately. (I played a small role in this, incidentally; it was my questions she answered.)
The formulation goes like this: NASA needs $850 million this year to keep the program on track for crew missions by no later than 2016. The Senate wants to spend $500 million, the House $312 million. Garver said Congress can either pay American companies now, or send about $450 million to the Russians later when the schedule slips and we’re forced to continue to rely on the Soyuz spacecraft.
That’s pretty easy math and should be a slam dunk. But, then again, Congress has been flunking math class for 200 years now. Don’t hold your breath.
Robert Bigelow made an impassioned plea to his countrymen on Wednesday to wake up to the Chinese threat in space. He firmly believes that China has aims at claiming the moon — and its massive resources — for itself within the next 10-11 years. He proposed taking 10 percent of the military budget and spending it on an aggressive space program. (My slogan: “Make Space, Not War!”) I’m not sure his analysis and solution are very realistic, but it was a fascinating talk.
About a half dozen reporters followed Bigelow in the hallway outside after his speech. We were just trying to figure out where to go to talk when a very large guy came bounding down the hallway with a cameraman in tow. It was former professional wrestler and ex-Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura!
Apparently, Jesse is covering space conferences now. And he agrees with everything Bigelow said in there. Who knew? And who was next? I mean…first there were Sir Richard, Kate, Buzz and Beatrice at the dedication. Now Jesse. What would Thursday bring? Jeff Foust suggested Snooki. He was, sad to say, wrong. 🙁
The ever polite Las Vegas hotel mogul thanked Ventura for his support and agreed to talk later after he had finished talking with the rest of us. In comparison to other space moguls, Bigelow is quite approachable and down-to-Earth. There’s no airs, no tightly scripted moments, no entourage. He talked to us for quite some time about everything from international politics to NASA’s commercial crew program to Bigelow’s interest in UFOs. I recorded most of it; I’ll be posting excerpts over the next week.
Well, that’s about it from the high desert of New Mexico. I’ll be heading back to California shortly, hoping that the ground has stopped shaking by now.