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In its first year, the National Space Symposium counted 200 heads, said US vice president Mike Pence. Last week, a shuttle driver told us, the number landed on fourteen thousand attendees.

Garden of the gods revisit, part 1

Published on:
April 23rd 2018

Returning after 2 years.

Technology is accelerating and no wonder. Considering modern humans have been around for a mere 0.004% of the Earth's history; it's amazing to think we’ve already made it to the Moon.

"How hard can it be" ended our big wrap of the event two years ago.  Now we were back in the Garden of the Gods, observers turned rocket engineers.

In beautiful Colorado Springs we found a Space revolution underway, and rising stars from our last visit already old news.

Setting the stage

The day kicked off like an action movie. Mike Pence was in town and security was tight. 2 hours before his talk we found the speakers' hall jammed with journalists and VIPs. “Interest has been huge,” our mandatory escort told us.

My thoughts went to the man behind the National Space Symposium success. Those who knew Elliot Pulham said he enjoyed bridging unlikely shores. To me, he was a smile to a nobody writer among big media drakes (“The Times”, a man in black would push by).

At the top of his life’s work, he abruptly resigned. Last fall, Elliot contracted cancer and then he was gone.

The kings, the media, and the vice president

We rose when the vice president entered the hall. Mentioning his boss Donald Trump every other sentence, “we are leading Space again,” Mike Pence kicked off. Loyalty says a lot about a man.

He finished the talk reminding about God, quite spunky I thought in this battalion of generals and industrialists, already dividing the Universe between them.

Back in the media room, a journalist made fun of the God quotes to a chuckling colleague, grabbed lunch and took off. I noticed a leaflet he’d left behind: “A drinker’s guide to Colorado.”

Celestial Regulations

We hit the tracks. Continuing on the divine note, a Space regulations meeting took place.

For some reason, people think it’s fine to own property on Earth but not on other planets. Especially not if it's an American affair.

The general theme was that Space bounty must be shared equally by all citizens of Mother Earth. “Those pictures we watched of the American flag on the moon were great, but didn’t mean the country just added its 51st state,” chortled a spokesman from Europe.

“So it was wrong for Apollo to bring back rocks from the Moon to the US?" asked someone in the audience. “It would be on a large scale,” replied the lawmaker, adding in a consolidating tone, “but of course some souvenirs are OK.”

It wasn’t clear where those rules would be set, the roundtable couldn’t decide between Hague and Vienna. There was no harping at all on China or Russia, “cause they don’t give a crap,” Tom stated the self-evident.

What about us

Good news for us was that regulations concerned mainly business and commerce. For now, freedom to roam remains a general public right.  The trickiest part is to leave Earth under regular aviation restrictions.

That may change once we hit Mars. Judging from exploration history, should we find gold they’ll send their own ships and find a reason to throw us in jail.

At first, I got disheartened. No matter what I build, the suits will never let me go. Then I remembered the old advice; imagine them naked. Now I saw monkeys fighting over bananas. And I felt better.

Changing games

We ended day one in a special media briefing by Orbital, unveiling their new heavy launcher, named Omega on the spot.

Another heavy launcher.

Media asked polite questions about payload, funding, and challenges ahead. Nobody addressed the gorilla in the room - why get into a market already saturated by SpaceX, ULA, Europe, Russia, China, India and what else. Neither did we.

Similar to independent climbers attending a commercial expedition leaders’ meeting in Everest basecamp; it was sort of interesting but not really relating to us.

We decided to shift focus. Getting out of the 50’s tailormade suit he had donned for the vice president, Tom changed to sneakers, pushed a cap down his forehead and, wearing his darkest shades, hit the exhibition halls.

Tina Sjogren
Tina Sjogren
CEO & Founder
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Last I saw Elliot Pulham was at this stage, wrapping up the best year yet. He penned an entry about Space and America that was so awesome I meant to write and tell him. I wish I had.