Space, Spring, Snow, Schmoozing, and finally, Snoozing

Setting up New Shepard for launch…Symposium launch, that is.

Wow, what a week!

And yes, the picture above shows Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital space launch vehicle being set up.  It’s the same one that launched and then safely landed, five times, near Van Horn, Texas. Really–the real one. The last New Shepard test launch was the most spectacular and you can watch that here, should you wish to. The launch happened around the 51-minute mark in the video below. Blue Origin is entitled to some chest-thumping, I think.

Blue Origin was cool enough to put the vehicle on display in front of the Broadmoor Hotel for nearly a week during Space Symposium this year. A mock-up capsule sat next to it. I’m pretty sure it’s on its way to Seattle to be put on display in a museum there–but that’s just a guess. Wherever it goes, I’m glad I got to see it up close this last week. Here’s my night shot of the rocket. And, yes, the scorch marks are real.


This is a pretty sweet moment for someone who comes from space operations. And this is just the beginning–a beginning that’s been put on hold for decades.

For those of you who don’t know, I work for the Space Foundation, and we just finished hosting the 33rd Annual Space Symposium here in Colorado Springs. It’s a big event for us, and we try to get nearly everyone who has their finger in the space industry pie involved. There aren’t much more than 50 employees in the Space Foundation, so the event is an “all-hands-on-deck” exercise. Education, philanthropic, government, marketing, customer service, museum and research departments all work together towards one goal. Heck, most of the last month was me getting my hands around our Technical Track program.

The Blue Origin capsule. Oddly, there was always a line for this display ;-).

And the Symposium’s success certainly would not be possible if we didn’t have over 300 of the most awesome volunteers in the world helping us. You can meet some of them at our museum, the Discovery Center, here in Colorado Springs.

The Symposium is a big networking event for the global space industry. And people pay a lot of money to network and show off their businesses, which is a little weird to me still. But every person I talked with there seems to like it, so there you go. It’s also pretty neat that so many people from other countries were there: China, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and more. So many countries involved in the industry of space, and it’s growing. We can see it growing just because we’re running out of space for the company and agency exhibitors at the Symposium.

Snow and rockets in Spring, in Colorado Springs. Typical for us. Maybe it’s this way in Baikonur, too?

Even some Australians were there, obviously a little jealous of New Zealand’s score of hosting Rocket Lab’s launch pad. Some of them confided in me that New Zealand’s space involvement is probably the best thing to have happened to Australia. I guess the spaceport got someone’s attention, although Australia has had plenty of opportunity to get involved in space for some time.

This is what it looks like behind the stage when a speaker gets a little too verbose…the red light means the speaker has gone over time–in this case one minute and forty-one seconds. It eventually was over 9 minutes…

I tried hard, as the Foundation’s analyst, to talk with anyone I could. It’s what I like doing, especially to help with analysis of the industry. But, and this is not a complaint and just the reality, Symposium duties remain above all during this time. I’ll have to chat with those folks at other events.

So, we had Space Symposium. So what? What’s next? A lot of it depends on the very people who attended the event. Do they intend to follow through on their plans for space? Is everyone’s plan even feasible? If it’s a healthy, open space market, then the answer to that will be “No.” It’s sure going to be interesting, though.

The end of Symposium is always a mixture of sadness and relief for me. I really do love helping with the event–it’s akin to running a mission or a test (but without the heavy consequences if something goes wrong). And I’ve always come alive for those, as I do for Symposium. But at the same time, and I know most of the folks I work with feel the same way, it’s nice to be able to put feet up on the sofa at home, and veg out on Netflix once the event is over. It just takes a lot of energy, at least for me, to not just conduct the event, but talk with people.

One more thing. I discovered it’s pretty great to work with my wife. She was sort of shanghaied to help us at the last minute. But she seemed to like it, and instead of missing her while working 12-18 hour days, I could actually admire the work she was doing. She may have been surprised at all the work we do during this event, but she seemed fine working with us.

I hope I’ll be able to write a bit more now that Symposium is over. Please stay tuned…

Friday–the day after Symposium. Blue Origin’s New Shepard is ready to ship out. And so are we.

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