15 July 2008
Events - General (None)
Creating the Future, or Living in the Past?
More on the NewSpace 2008 conference
by G B Leatherwood
Creating the future, or living in the past? That is the theme of NewSpace2008, the conference being produced by Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) on July 17-19, 2008 in Crystal City, Virginia (just outside Washington, D.C.), at The Doubletree Hotel.

The three-day conference is built around one specific theme each day:

● Thursday, July 17: Space Policy
● Friday, July 18: Space Business
● Saturday, July 19: Space Vision

According to SFF Executive Director Will Watson, what makes this conference different is how the participants interact with each other and the panel members. “I’ve been to a lot of conferences where there are presentations by panels of distinguished experts. The usual pattern is that each panel is composed of members of the same field, say, NASA, for example, or space law, or some other facet. They make their presentations and then invite comments or questions from the audience. This is going to be different. Each panel will consist of people with interest in the specific topic, but from different parts of the field—perhaps technical, perhaps financial, perhaps legal, and so on.

"The discussion—not a ‘presentation’ per se—will be led by a moderator and the audience will be encouraged to join in the discussion throughout the time available. This way, there will be much more interaction and fewer ‘pronouncements from on high.’”

As is the case with most such conferences, the decisions to be made will be difficult because there is so much diversity and so many workshops offered. Conference planners have attempted to make it possible for participants to choose areas that are of specific interest to them, then follow that topic area throughout each day and then to the next day.

But participants won't be spending all their time in workshops. Watson described the meeting facility as unique in that all the workshops will be held in a hall surrounded on the outside by exhibitor booths, so that participants must go through the exhibit hall to reach the workshops.

“This gives the exhibitors,” Watson said, “maximum exposure and the participants maximum opportunity to see who is in the business, talk with them, get information, and network. The hard part for the participants will be choosing how much energy they have!”

After the day ends, the real networking will begin with dinners and, as one commentator, Dr. David Livingston, host of The Space Show, observed, “You could almost hang out all night in the hospitality suite talking with the speakers, industry representatives, and each other and just give up your hotel room.” That might be a bit of a stretch, but there will be terrific opportunities for networking.

One special treat will be a sneak preview showing of the new documentary film, “Orphans of Apollo,” slated for public release later in 2008. It is the true story of the efforts of a small group of dedicated entrepreneurs and dreamers to form the first commercial application of a true space-based business using the Russian Mir space station when its mission was completed—MirCorp.

The documentary details how the idea was conceived, all the hurdles that were nearly surmounted, and the eventual demise of the project as decisions were made to de-orbit the space station.

It also details the role played by the US government and NASA in blocking the enterprise, thus ending what could have been the first non-governmental space station.

The final event for all participants will be a black tie dinner affair named for the late Dr. Arthur C. Clarke. This will recognize a number of members of the SFF who have made significant long-term contributions to the efforts of SFF to bring together all of the players in the commercial development of space—not just entrepreneurs and financiers, but government and scientists as well.

Watson put the vision of the conference this way: “We see this year and the next as a turning point. Decisions have to be made about whether we are going to create an industry that could possibly support hundreds of thousands of new jobs, or continue living in the past about how NASA, space overall, government and private industry operates used to mean. That’s what our theme means: ‘Creating the Future, or Living in the Past.’”

Full information about registration, the agendas, and information about the special events may be found on the SFF web site.
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G B Leatherwood 15 July 2008
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