A Week of Space Tech
Bill Nye Science Guy under guard at the Space Tech Expo
On May 20 I left Chicago for Long Beach CA to attend the 2nd annual Space Tech Expo. My mission: to cover the conference for Ad Astra magazine. Additionally I wanted to gather information from speakers and exhibitors that I could use to enhance my "The NewSpace Frontier" presentation. I developed this talk in April and have so far given it at three venues to a combined audience of approximately 200 people.
The Space Tech Expo did not disappoint. One of the curious things about this conference was its two-tiered approach to registration. Only the main programming track required a paid registration. The other two programming tracks and the exhibits were all accessible with a free registration.
While some of the exhibitors were companies/organizations that space enthusiasts would recognize, like ATK, Boeing, XCOR, ZERO-G, Planetary Society, and Google Lunar XPrize; most of the 140-plus exhibitors were companies whose names are not well known but whose products are crucial to the success of the companies whose names we do know.
XCOR Lynx Mockup at Space Tech Expo
The centerpiece of the exhibit hall was a full-scale mockup of XCOR's Lynx spacecraft. ZERO-G held a drawing for a free seat on one of their parabolic flights. Woe was me when I didn't win.
I spent my time camped out in the Space Tech Conference, a separate "room" on the exhibit floor that hosted the main programming track – access to which required the paid registration. Unfortunately I could not be in two places at once as the Satellite and Space Summit track had much excellent programming as well. The third programming track – Open Tech Forum – was specialized to serve industry professionals by providing exhibitors the opportunity to present technical talks on their products and relevant innovations.
Space Tech Conference programming included presentations and panel discussions on the following areas:
- Space tourism
- Space commerce
- Venture funding of space startups
- Technology transfer opportunities
- Military perspectives on space
- NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program
- NASA Space Launch System (SLS)
In addition to the aforementioned topics, there were dedicated presentations by
- Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One
- Alan Stern, President and CEO of Golden Spike
- Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express
- Alexandra Hall, Senior Director, Google Lunar XPrize
Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder
I was elated to see friend, fellow Chicago Society for Space Studies member, and former fellow NSS Director Richard Godwin at the expo. Richard is President and CEO of Zero Gravity Solutions and was one of the conference's featured speakers. Of the presentations I witnessed, Richard's presentation on his company's work with biotechnology and the use of the microgravity environment of space to manipulate plant and animal stem cells, without using genetic modification techniques, was the most fascinating of all, and potentially the most impactful on human society.
On the last day of the conference I headed over to the Satellite and Space Summit to catch Bill Nye's ("The Science Guy" and Planetary Society CEO) presentation Asteroids Will Kill You! Know Your Place In Space. The most memorable single item from Nye's presentation was the observation that an asteroid impact is the only preventable natural disaster.
The conference closed with a broadcast from the Open Tech Forum of Planetary Radio Live featuring:
- Matt Kaplan, Planetary Radio Host
- Michelle Peters, Zero-G Director of Research and Education
- Andrew Nelson, XCOR Chief Operating Officer
- Bill Nye, Planetary Society CEO
The two most interesting tidbits of information came from Mr. Nelson in answer to a question from the audience. First was that the first commercial flights of the Lynx could be as early as the end of 2014 and second that XCOR has no plans at this time for a manned orbital vehicle.
At the controls of the XCOR Lynx Mockup at Space Tech Expo
The Space Tech Expo will be returning to the Long Beach Convention Center next year but will be held at the start of April. I don't know if I'll make it or not, but I am certainly happy that I attended this year's expo.
Ad Astra, Jim