As someone living on Earth here at the start of the 21st Century, you and I are able to communicate with more people than any humans before us, ever– since the beginning of time. So, welcome planetary surfers from all over our world. Our new site makes it easier for you and me to be in touch, and especially for you to be in touch with our growing community of space enthusiasts, buddies, colleagues, new acquaintances, and button-wearing Space Geeks®.
As your CEO, I’ve been busy. I was a speaker at TED, the Technology, Entertainment, and Design meeting in Long Beach, California, at Eastern Missouri State University, at the University of Colorado, and the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. After all, our species has a landing on Mars, which is coming up very soon. With your support, we’re participating in the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity mission. The third MarsDial, is on board. It’s the test pattern for the cameras, the photometric calibration target. And, it’s a sundial, used to indicate true north and to reckon time by the Sun— on another world. For the landing, we’ll have Planetfest® 2012 in Pasadena and at museums and science centers around the world. I hope many of you reading along here will participate. Go to your local planetarium or science center and share the excitement of the weekend. We’ll have panels of experts, exhibits, displays, and the amazing, edge-of-your-seat experience of being together as Curiosity makes its way through the Martian atmosphere and lands in the spectacular Gale Crater.
I hope you celebrate the mission for months and years to come by participating in our EarthDial Project 2012, which we will unveil in the coming month.
Meanwhile, our two Lightsail® spacecraft are assembled and being tested as we prepare them for a launch. We’re on a NASA launch manifest, and we’re still waiting for that ride on a rocket. (If you know anyone with a rocket big enough to carry our small 4.5-kilogram payload to an altitude of about 840 kilometers, please contact us right away.)
When it comes to politics right now, I paraphrase an old curse that goes roughly, “May you live in exciting times.” In this context, it’s not the happy good kind of excitement. It’s the turmoil we face if the U.S. government steers us into a wall, a stop to significant planetary exploration missions. I hope many of you have helped out by sending an electronic message, or better yet, a paper letter to your representatives in Congress. If you live overseas, I hope you’ll take the time to write as well. We’ve provided sample messages and letters. The idea is to let the people, who control the purse strings of the largest space agency on Earth to support planetary missions. We’re on the verge of great discoveries, maybe even the discovery of once-living, or still-living things on other worlds. We can’t stop now. There are only a handful of engineers and scientists, who have the expertise to build spacecraft that can enter the Martian atmosphere, descend, and land safely. If those people are compelled to seek employment elsewhere, we may never get that knowledge and ability back. Let your voice be heard.
As I write, the staff and I are working hard to prepare for the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. It’s an opportunity for us to showcase the Society and what we do to the world. We hope to recruit some supporters and meet a great many new friends. If you’re in the Washington area, please come by our booth. We’ll be under a circular star field featuring our new logo and model of the Lightsail® spacecraft. You can meet astronauts, science fiction writers, the staff, and me. We’ll be working to meet people and engage them in the adventure and discovery of space exploration. Meanwhile, click around our new website; I predict you’ll make a few discoveries of your own.