ProSpace agenda, and activism issues

ProSpace has released its agenda for its March Storm lobbying blitz in early March, with two major themes: “Developing Space Resources” and “Develop Commercial Space Infrastructure”. The former calls for support of space-based solar power and NEO detection and risk mitigation efforts. The latter calls for expanded funding for COTS and the passage of the Spaceport Equality Act and Aeronautics and Space Prize Act. March Storm 2008 will take place March 8-12, a week later that previously planned.

March Storm isn’t the only lobbying effort planned for the coming weeks. The Space Exploration Alliance has its 2008 Legislative Blitz planned for a month earlier than March Storm, February 10-12. That’s prompted “space cynic” Shubber Ali to propose an anti-blitz blitz at the same time to “counter the voices of the hucksters and their gullible followers” who support the Vision for Space Exploration. Then there are new efforts like “Political Action for Space” that has a four-step plan to make space policy “impacted for good”. Meanwhile, people are excited that space questions are at the top of Politico.com’s list of most popular debate questions, without any information about just how many votes have been cast for those questions, nor any guarantees any of those questions will be used in the debates.

And people still wonder why space policy activism isn’t more effective.

15 comments to ProSpace agenda, and activism issues

  • These are signs of an active and dynamic support base for promoting America’s spaceflight industry. There is no silver bullet to getting more federal funding, or creating more conducive laws for private space companies, or getting politicians more supportive of pro-space legislation.

    It’s a great thing to see that so many people are getting involved. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for work, and the more the merrier, I say.

  • Tom

    The activity is good. As long as groups don’t go out of the way to trash each other to Congress, the increase in advocacy should be a net positive.

    I have some stories to tell of my own experiences.

  • reader

    Whoa, this is offtopic but worthy of a blogpost on its own. Ron Paul on space

  • Absolutely. At the end of the day, the politicians never actually take unsolicited suggestions from the layperson. It’s only about gauging how much “support” there is for general programs and initiatives.

    Policy makers love it when the constituents set them up by saying that we should do one initiative over another. The best way is to put them in the hot seat and say that we need both human and robotic or inner and outer solar system missions.

  • Tom: As long as groups don’t go out of the way to trash each other to Congress

    This being the space community, they will.

    — Donald

  • Jeff, you are right. We don’t know how the questions will be asked, or even how much weight the candidates debate-prep-team will give these questions.

    My HUNCH is that if I were trying to prepare my boss for a nationally televised debate and 9 of the top 10 questions – OUT OF 1313 TOTAL were about “space”, then I would try and brief my boss on “space”.

    Even if the questions are not asked, I am just about certain that some of those debate-prep-team folks are reading these questions, and considering their answers. And maybe more importantly, they are considering that a once-silent constituency might be making some noise…

    If they give that even 5 minutes worth of consideration they will realize that “our demographic” consists of:

    1) representatives of just about every advanced technology sector – aerospace (of course) but beyond that – robotics, computing, math, science, engineering, nanotech, materials, communications, and education. And that these passions that we have chosen as careers, reflect our collective belief that technology is a force for good in the world.

    2) above average education, and potentially WAY ABOVE average incomes (allen, bezos, bigelow, carmack, musk are the obvious names, but there are a lot of folks behind them, that are ‘merely millionaires’…). And “our demographic”, if you lumped all these industries together, along with all the college programs that feature these technologies, has got to be 2-5 million potential voters.

    3) we are all highly networked – between our professional societies, our advocacy groups, the people that we know, and our professional associates – we can reach into a lot of living rooms in the US (and around the globe). We are also networked, in the sense of using web tools to leverage our voice: email, blogs, websites, twitter/jaiku, newsletters, and social networking sites can spread a message in moments.

    So, in the end, I do care whether the questions are used in the debates.

    And I am a realist, CNN/LAT is not going to ask 9 questions about space, 1 on darfur, and call it a complete debate. If 2 questions are asked/answered then our community should be happy with that. If we get more, bonus. If we get less, then we know where our priorities stand, compared to the national level.

    However, my gut tells me that even if not asked/answered on TV, that the candidates themselves will at least consider the questions posted on the site, and we may yet get a response, in the form of a position paper. At this point, I am willing to give them all the benefit of the doubt.

    I am not a single-issue voter, but I would lean heavily in favor of a candidate that took “space” seriously, and proposed budget amounts that back up their interest.

    So, yes, I think ensuring that there are questions asked/answered about space matters.

    Take care. mjl

  • Michael: I am not a single-issue voter, but I would lean heavily in favor of a candidate that took “space” seriously, and proposed budget amounts that back up their interest.

    I agree with your analysis, and especially this. It’s worth noting this appears already to be working. Would Mr. Obama have mentioned space had Mrs. Clinton not brought it up? Frankly, I doubt it. This interest in space could feed on itself, with interest from the candidates generating interest on the part of other candidates and questions from us, which in turn generates more interest by the candidates as a group.

    At least, that is my hope.

    — Donald

  • I wish I could be sanguine about “the space community” ever “speaking with one voice,” but I’m not — because it really is multiple communities, with some overlap in membership and goals, but also with many areas of genuine strategic (not merely tactical) disagreement that aren’t ever going to be kumbaya’d away.

  • What is going to be the next outlet for the feedback after the Jan 30 debate?

    There will be other debates, but that is not enough to keep people who want to be active busy.

    Direct contacting of candidates through emails is effective, but with no feedback on how we are doing (like with Politico,) it is hard to keep the momentum up.

    I think that we need to track the events that the candidates are going to and what media outlets (local TV stations, radio stations, etc.) are talking with these candidates and then contact the people that are going to interview the candidates directly and tell them that we want to know about space policy.

    That provides clear feedback and a timeline to know about the effectiveness.


    Obama will be speaking with John Doe on Tuesday in Springville. Send John Doe an email and tell him that you want to know about Obama’s space policy. If you live in Springville, it is especially important that you contact John Doe and maybe even go to the event or call in.

    Substitute candidate, media contact, and location…

    If John Doe doesn’t ask Obama about space, then we all flame John Doe for not listening to us.

    I think that this can be a sustainable way to focus the energy of the online community and give them clear milestones. This is better than emailing the black hole that will never talk back to you and tell it how important space is.

    What do you all think?

  • Monte:

    At this stage in the presidential candidates run, the differences in the different parts of the space community don’t matter. All they know is that they are getting asked about it, so they better develop a position. And they need to be willing to throw down money for it for someone at some point. Whether that mission is robotic or not, or earth sensing or not, they don’t even appreciate the differences.

    The last thing that we want to do is make it simple for them: pick robotic or manned; if we do that, they will, and they will feel that they are pleasing a large segment of the space community.

    We need to tell them that we want our cake and we want to eat it. None of this translates into hard decisions and dollars for a while to come. What we need now is words. Positive words and questions.

  • John: Fair enough. I wasn’t throwing up my hands — I don’t think space is any more various or fractious than the “business community,” “foreign policy community,” or other
    granfalloons. I agree 100% that at this stage signaling simply “there are more voters who care about space policy than you thought” is both attainable and desirable.

  • Joe Smith

    “If John Doe doesn’t ask Obama about space, then we all flame John Doe for not listening to us.”

    Well, that’s really going to win over people.

  • Well, “flame” maybe isn’t the best word. The point is feedback. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  • Jeff,

    I would like to think that ProSpace has been effective. Bills and issues that we have briefed Congress on have eventually made it into law, including:

    -The Commercial Space Act of 1998
    -The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004
    -The Near-Earth Object Survey Act, part of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005

    The recently introduced Aeronautics and Space Prize Act has similarities to the SPACE Prize Act that ProSpace has proposed to Congress in the past.

    Success has many fathers and certainly these bills had other support. Still, we should not underestimate the impact that several hundred ProSpace volunteers have had making over a thousand Congressional staff briefings over the years.

    The emphasis of ProSpace has always been on enabling the entrepeneurial development of the near-earth space frontier. I think it was only natural that groups thats focused on space exploration would form their own lobbying efforts. I see no fundamental conflict here and I think there are volunteers that participate in both efforts.

    Many ProSpace volunteers (including myself) have participated in multiple March Storms. We keep coming back because we are engaged in a meaningful effort and because we are making progress. We still have a long way to go and new volunteers are always welcome to join us.

    -Frank Johnson
    President, ProSpace

  • Jeff Foust

    Frank: I agree that ProSpace has been effective in getting some key legislation passed. I think that’s the kind of metric the space advocacy needs to use to measure its progress, as opposed to voting up debate questions.

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