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This meeting is held every year by LEAG, a division of NASA that oversees lunar exploration objectives. It is attended by the best in the area of lunar science and exploration.

This year I am going in order to help out a speaker at the event with his talk (tech support and general promotion) and to look after the table we'll have for promoting his project (more promotion and general working of room). He is a director of the National Space Society. His agenda there is advancing the idea of declaring an International Lunar Decade starting in 2017, as a framework for increasing international collaboration on a return to the Moon. I recently established my own chapter of the NSS on a very similar theme - Moonwards. I work on Moonwards full-time. It is just starting out, but it is my job, period. So, I help him with his mission, and he helps me with mine. The NSS has generally been happy with my work so far.

Pretty much everyone who reads this will have an idea what I think about the role of space.stackexchange in the future of space exploration. The area is on the verge of big changes. Getting momentum now in advocacy and support for the area puts one in a great position to catch the wave that is going to come along sometime in the next two years or so. SX.SE is in the right place at the right time. If SpaceX succeeds in reusing first stages, the whole field will go bonkers. Cubesats are developing in ways nobody expected, and that trend will accelerate. China's ambitions in space are big and one of these days they are going to do something that makes the rest of the world sit up and take notice. An announcement of big money pouring into the area will occur shortly before the LEAG meeting.

The people who will be at the meeting know all this - except the part about SX.SE. What they need is someone to convince them that engaging the public at the grass-roots would really help them navigate the big changes coming. They need someone to talk to them about how much morale can be lifted at an agency struggling with budget cuts and uncertainty, by sharing knowledge and watching the unexpected ways that ripples outwards. They need it seeded in their minds how great SX.SE is for those things. It would be awfully nice to have a few first-rate planetary scientists hanging around on the site, we have a bit of a gap there. And people going back to NASA, or ESA, or the Canadian Space Agency, and having a mug on their desk or a sticker in their cubicle, that is a nice, constant subliminal reminder. When traffic ticks up, we need the people here already, and experienced, to answer quickly and well. We need to recruit.

Now, whatever happens, I'm going, and I'll chat up SX.SE. But, you know, if my costs could be defrayed a little, it would be easier to do this more. I already have a couple of other reasons to do so, a nudge could make the difference. So please say what you think. If the community here thinks this is a good idea, Stack Exchange will help me out a little. I've already applied for swag to hand out, and I'm working with TildalWave on a t-shirt design based on the ads he made a while ago. I'll have a few made up, to raffle off, and to shove gleefully at any awesome planetary scientists I can get to take one. Anything else I should do?

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    $\begingroup$ I for one welcome our LEAG overlords. As a trusted member of the community, Kim Holder can ably represent us to our lunar overlords and find subjects for their underground dust mines. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Sep 8 '15 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ As an aside, I love the Moonwards logo. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 9 '15 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage thanks :) That one turned out well. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Sep 9 '15 at 19:02
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This is a mock-up (not an actual printed t-shirt) with finalized new design for this event:

   Space Exploration Stack Exchange T-Shirt Design Mock-Up

This is not in any capacity an official or Stack Exchange endorsed design for Space Exploration, I made it together with Kim exclusively for this LEAG event, but you can request high resolution layouts for print (for A4 or A3 size transfer paper, or direct print) in The Pod Bay and I'll send them to your email address, if you'd like to wear your own and promote our site like this.

Hope you like it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, fantastic! This should be our theme when we become a full SE member. $\endgroup$ – mark.g Jun 7 '16 at 20:18
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Now to report back on how the LEAG meeting space.stackexchange promotion mission went. Pretty well, I think. There were things that made it harder for me to spend time talking about it, but when I did, it went well. The t-shirts disappeared in a flash and I wish I'd gotten more. The sharpie markers and stickers that were also on offer went much more slowly, but they were willing to let me leave the leftovers behind, there at LEAG headquarters, for people to take as time went on, if they ever needed a sharpie.

david dunlop wearing space exploration stack exchange tee shirt

Above is David Dunlop, a long-time director of the National Space Society, wearing his tee shirt. He was my host, really. SX came up regularly in our conversation - since he is based in space advocacy, it often struck me as relevant.

Rich Vondrak, who sat in the middle of the front row for almost all the presentations given at the meeting, and commented or asked questions afterwards frequently and astutely, came up to me while I was setting up our poster presentation and asked me if I was giving away the tee shirts. He thus got the only XL there was. Then two other people noticed this and came to ask for one too. Rich walked off as I looked after them, and I never really talked to him. Much to my dismay, he is nowhere in the program and I can't determine what his position at NASA is. He is definitely a serious veteran. If anyone knows what center or program he is part of, please let me know*.

The two people who asked right after him were Ryan Clegg-Watkins and Lillian Ostrach. They got the two smalls (one of which I was wearing, over a sweater, and took off to give to Ryan). Ryan is on the executive committee of LEAG, and is currently a post-doc in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Lillian is with NASA's Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory in Washington. I got to pitch SX to them properly. Both are active with the 'Next-Gen' group that organizes presentations and socials for young people at NASA, Ryan in particular does a lot of organizing for that.

Elizabeth Fisher is another next-gen, she was there with a veteran, I gave her a shirt when she came up to look at the basalt product samples I'd put on display. Once again, mea culpa, I didn't get a chance to ask her what her area is and now I can't get more information on her. Or even on the manager-type she was there with (Paul something...). They didn't give a presentation, and they weren't private industry, so they were gathering information. Next time I will be much more careful to note names and affiliations, this time it was all a bit overwhelming and there were constant distractions.

Kim Ehr works on lander technology at Marshall. She took a shirt for her son, who plans to start studying for a career in aerospace after highschool in a year or two. She came with Josh, who I thought I'd have a chance to hang out with again after the conference ended, at a pub a few of us had already picked out. But David wanted to wrap up some NSS and ILD business with me, and he was fried and didn't want to go to a pub. We talked at length, though I'm missing his last name. Of all the people I spoke to, he was the only one who had ever heard of Stack Exchange before, though he hadn't known there was a Space Exploration section.

Rob Kelso is head of PISCES, he got a shirt partly because I button-holed him because his center is also experimenting with basalt as a construction material on the Moon, so I wanted to talk to him. And later I ran into him at Baltimore Airport as we both waited to fly home, so he definitely remembers me :)

I gave a shirt either to Bob Cataldo, who does nuclear systems and mission analysis at Glenn, or Ron Candless, who is developing an educational video game based on lunar exploration - the8thcontinentgame.com. I'm not sure which. At any rate, I talked for a while to both. In particular, Bob presents the cynical case at all times but is then quite willing to talk things over. I'm glad I got his business card. Nuclear systems? Ooooo....

And then I went and made sure Jim Carpenter got one. I was down to one medium, which was small for him, but he said it could go to his kid as well. He is lead scientist on ESA's Luna 27 lander program, he was a very busy guy at the conference, representing ESA. I wanted at least one shirt to go to a European, and also he seems very focused on the role of outreach in spurring space exploration, he had said as much during at least one of several presentations he made on behalf of the agency. He didn't have a card but he invited me to email him through the agency, that I could look him up there. He also was the only person who said he could see a possible role for SX in their outreach activities and that it was the kind of thing he is interested in.

I got biz cards from Jordan Estrada, who heads the ELASCA project, a private undertaking to assist in mission planning by mocking up an analog for a spacecraft in a large truck, in support of the off-world analog projects at various locations. He's just starting out, and saw my point when I said SX could be useful to him. From Lawrence Taylor, of the U of Tennessee Planetary Geosciences Institute, who has seen it all, since Apollo days, and likes to yak. From Kieran Carroll, CTO of Gedex, who has developed a gravimeter for use in lava tube detection and is a former head of the Canadian Space Society. And from Greg Schmidt, deputy director of SSERVI.

I also connected with Perry Edmundson and Peter Visscher at the mixer on Wednesday, they are from Ontario Drive and Gear, they are developing lander drive trains. They are young representatives of the private industry perspective, and could be connected with again from that perspective.

Kim Ehr and Rick Elphic offered to email me info once they had the chance, I'd given them cards but they didn't have any themselves. If that later slips their mind, Rick is easily found. Kim I have not found and I am concerned I'm not spelling her last name right. Hunting around on Marshall's website hasn't turned her up yet. Rick was in fact going to forwards me Jerry Sander's contact info. He remembered - without cues - that I had asked about the status of tech development for extraction of oxygen from lunar regolith, which is Jerry's turf. So, when I have the right question or request for them, I plan to follow up with all the people I've mentioned. That is mostly for the sake of Moonwards, but also genuinely for SX too. It is a matter of having something that fits with the individual, something they know about, care about, and would be interested in doing a little work on. I'm pretty sure something can be found for every single case.

I will be attending the ISDC in Puerto Rico in May of 2016. That is the NSS's flagship annual event. This year the list of presenters was a mixed bag and included a lot of big names and up-and-comers. I expect next year will be the same. Next time I will blatantly record verbal notes when I talk to people, I can't afford to lose track of names and projects this way. And request photos for the same reason. I will be presenting at that conference on my Moonwards project. I know a bunch of NSS people, I have many people with whom networking can be coordinated, and most of us have shared agendas at least in part. Hopefully my plugging skills will have been honed to a finer point by this event, for that next event.


*Rich Vondrak is in fact project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, TildalWave informed me.

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  • $\begingroup$ While you were at LEAG, did you hear any whispers of this return to the Moon that Roscosmos just announced (that ESA is apparently working closely with)? $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 29 '15 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ @called2voyage There were some small indications there would be a major announcement at the Moon 2020-2030 conference that starts Dec 15. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Oct 29 '15 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, it is good to see some progress in this area. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 29 '15 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ Kim, think you can accept this answer :) I've petitioned mods to tag-feature the question - it's important to let people know about the great work you've done. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Oct 29 '15 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @DeerHunter :) $\endgroup$ – kim holder Oct 29 '15 at 15:32
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One thing that I think could be emphasized more is the potential of crowdfunded space exploration and astronomy. Obviously, the total budget of space science and exploration is still beyond that of a single crowdfunding project, but individual satellites or additional science missions for probes are good targets for crowdfunding initially.

If you can get public buy-in, you can open up a deep pocket of funding. What is critical, however, is that the public understand the mission. Like any stakeholder, the public will want to know what the details of the mission before contributing, but for the public to properly understand they need a forum to ask pertinent questions that a layman has when reading about space.

Enter Space Exploration Stack Exchange.

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    $\begingroup$ That is definitely a point i'll add to my arsenal :) $\endgroup$ – kim holder Sep 8 '15 at 16:39
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Well, Stack Exchange agreed this is a good opportunity to spread the word about Space Exploration SE. They sent out some black t-shirts, and some other stuff, the package is waiting at the hotel for me. I am printing up transfers to iron on to those shirts so they have the design TildalWave shows in his answer.

And I am mentally practicing the pitch I'll make to convince people there to come to the site and look around. I'll have a tablet with me, and I'm pre-loading it with some of the questions and answers that might be most interesting to them (because there probably won't be wifi).

When I get back I'll send SE my receipts and they'll reimburse me for part of my expenses. It won't cover everything but it'll be a big help. They naturally expect me to report back to you about how it went, which I will be going on about anyhow in the chat room. And they naturally expect me to get input before the event from you, to be sure I can act on any requests or ideas. So I leave Saturday early, and will be online at the hotel Sunday and Monday before the conference starts, and in the evenings while it runs, Tuesday to Thursday. If you have anything you want to add, put a comment or answer here, or better, go to our chat room and preface an entry with @kimholder.

I'm going to have a great time. :)

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