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Reflections on the 2018 International Space Development Conference

Jim Plaxco and Jeff Bezos at the International Space Development Conference VIP Reception
Talking with Jeff Bezos at the International Space Development Conference VIP Reception

If you were searching for me the last week of May you would have found me at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles. This is the second year in a row I’ve attended the conference. Before that, the last time I attended was in 2010 when the conference was held here in Chicago and for which I served as the conference website’s webmaster.

I had three tangible reasons for attending the conference this year. First, the conference had a compelling collection of speakers and presentations. Add to this the presence of Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin and Amazon) and physicist Freeman Dyson whom I hoped to meet (it would be my second time meeting Freeman Dyson).

Factors Impacting the Sustainability of a Cislunar Economy
Factors Impacting the Sustainability of a Cislunar Economy presentation for the 2018 International Space Development Conference

Second, it turned out that I was one of the conference’s speakers. I had submitted a proposal for a presentation titled Factors Impacting the Sustainability of a Cislunar Economy but did not hear back and two follow up inquiries went unanswered. I had no choice but to assume that my submission had not been accepted. I only learned that my presentation proposal had been accepted a couple days before leaving for California. I wound up putting the presentation together in my hotel room as I found the time. As such it was a simplistic presentation completely lacking in graphics (I added an image for the title slide for posting here) and numbers. I was however quite pleased when a number of folks, including Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society, complimented me on my talk. I even got a request from a representative of the Aerospace States Association for a copy of my talk.

Third, I am currently contracted with NSS to perform a number of IT (information technology) tasks. These include designing and deploying a new WordPress mobile-friendly website (see it at space.nss.org), code cleaning and converting the NSS mirror of the NASA Ames Space Settlement website so that it too would be mobile-friendly (with “our” version now running on the NASA side as well), assisting with a migration of the organization’s membership system, and other duties as assigned.

My intangible reason for attending was the opportunity to reunite with old friends and to make new ones.

As it turns out, I was also asked to serve as a judge for the student debate on the topic of universalization. Specifically the debate question was: Can universalization promote global peace through cooperation? A definition for the term universalization that is being advocated by Dr. Lorna Jean Edmonds, Vice Provost for Global Affairs and International
Studies at Ohio University and one of the debate judges, is one meant to describe the next phase of human development, specifically:

as marking the transition from trans-national to interplanetary relations and much more aggressive exploitation of opportunities that lie beyond the confines of Earth. As both a process and an end state, universalization implies an increasingly pervasive, abiding and singular human focus not only on global issues per se but on social, technological, economic and cultural challenges and opportunities extending into our solar system, our galaxy, and well beyond, where cooperation supersedes conflict negotiation.

While I very much enjoyed my experience as a judge, I was disappointed that the debate topic was not more space-centric. If student debates are to be a feature of the 2019 ISDC, I do hope that their topic will be more directly relevant to the theme of the conference.

One unexpected bonus for me was getting to meet Cara Gee, the actress who plays Drummer on the TV series The Expanse and who coincidentally is my favorite female character in the show.

Posing with Cara Gee and Ken Ruffin
Posing with Cara Gee and Ken Ruffin

The photo above was to be a photo of Cara and I taken by Christian Meza, CTO of Aerolite Meteorites. Seeing Ken Ruffin of the National Space Society of North Texas standing nearby, I asked him to join us for a group photo. After the dinner that followed, I did get to speak with Cara Gee some more. I also had a lengthy conversation with Tasha O’Neill, the widow of Gerard K. O’Neill. It was Tasha who presented Jeff Bezos with the NSS Gerard K. O’Neill Award (shown below). Much of my conversation with Tasha dealt with photography as Tasha is a fine art photographer.

With respect to space art, the conference had a screening of the documentary movie "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future" which was an in-depth look at the life and art of Chesley Bonestell, the greatest of space artists and one whose impact will most likely never be equalled. There was also a sweet exhibit of space art put on by the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA) of which I am a former member. It was great getting a chance to see Rick Sternback and Aldo Spadoni again after so many years (although we do interact on occasion on Facebook – which I am an infrequent user of).

All in all, it was a wonderful, fun, educational, multi-faceted conference which I can highly recommend to anyone with a serious interest in the exploration of space and the development of the space frontier.

A Few Photographs from the
2018 International Space Development Conference

In total I took 560 photographs at ISDC, a few of which I share below. A good number of the photos I took were of the fashion show (yes, a fashion show) that was a part of the Filipino Heritage Night which was also a part of the conference and which featured a variety of music and dance performances. A wonderful way to spend the last evening of the conference.

Jeff Bezos NSS Gerard K. O'Neill Award for Space Settlement Advocacy
Jeff Bezos NSS Gerard K. O’Neill Award for Space Settlement Advocacy

ISDC Award Ceremony with Tasha O'Neill and Jeff Bezos
ISDC Award Ceremony with Tasha O’Neill and Jeff Bezos

Cast of the SciFi TV Show The Expanse Viewing Episode Clip
Cast of the SciFi TV show The Expanse viewing a scene from an episode

Student Space Settlement Design Contest Displays
Student Space Settlement Design Contest Displays

Posing for a photograph with Freeman Dyson
Posing for a photograph with Freeman Dyson

Dancing to the music of The Zippers
Saturday night dancing to the music of The Zippers

Jeff Bezos and actor Cas Anvar from The Expanse
Jeff Bezos and actor Cas Anvar from The Expanse

ISDC VIP Reception Buzz Aldrin, Jeff Bezos, Bruce Pittman, and Howard Bloom
At the ISDC VIP Reception from left to right Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin and Amazon), and Bruce Pittman (National Space Society Senior Vice President). Behind and to the left of Buzz is Howard Bloom (author and founder of the Space Development Steering Committee)

HP Mars Home Planet: Designing a Future Human Civilization on Mars in VR by Sean Young of Hewlett Packard
HP Mars Home Planet: Designing a Future Human Civilization on Mars in VR by Sean Young of Hewlett Packard

John Mankins ISDC presentation on Space Solar Power
John Mankins ISDC presentation on Space Solar Power

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