PLEASE NOTE: “As an Amazon Associate, [Need Coffee] earns from qualifying purchases." You know we make money from Amazon links,
and I know you know this, but they make us say it anyway. More info, click here.

The 2011 International Space Development Conference

ISDC 2011

Widge here. Okay, first up: we’re about to get a guest post from Bart Leahy, who’s the Conference Chairman for the 30th International Space Development Conference–and he’ll be explaining shortly just what the hell that is and why you should care. But let me set it up pretty quickly for you–those of you who might be wondering why such information is here on Need Coffee: as Larry Niven said (although it was quoted by Clarke, from what I can tell), “The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!”

This planet is what the geeks and other technical types among you would recognize as a Single Point of Failure. Granted, it’s a very large SPOF, but that’s it nonetheless. So one of the things I earnestly believe in is we have to get off this rock. Not you and me, I mean we as a species. These are some of the folks that are working on that. So they deserve a bit of attention. From here on out, it’s Bart.

Widge and Doc have graciously allowed me a little time/space to pitch my conference to the Need Coffee audience, so I’ll try not to waste your time.

I’m chairing the 30th International Space Development Conference, which is the annual gathering of the National Space Society (NSS). It will be at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama, May 18-22, 2011. For three and a half days (May 19-22), we’ll be talking about the full range of what it takes to people into space: what NASA is doing, as well as the commercial world, space science community, political realm (like why it literally takes an act of Congress to get things done), and even the alternative energy community. If you’re an aspiring space entrepreneur who wants to learn how to work with venture capitalists and investors for your bright idea, throw in an additional $125, and you can attend the Space Investment Summit (May 18).

I’d gone to several science fiction cons in the past, but the ISDC changed my life 14 years ago. Here’s what differentiates an ISDC from an SF con: the folks there are making cool space stuff happen now, in our lifetimes, not 200 years from now. I realized I wanted to be a part of that–to the point where my day job is writing for NASA and my free-time job is chairing ISDC. The conferences are also a great place to get SF story ideas without having to know or learn a lot of equations–something this English major has found particularly helpful.

So who shows up to one of these events? The people making space happen now. The 2011 featured speakers include:

• Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator
• George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic
• David Neyland, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Office (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office
• George Nield, Associate Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation
• Dennis Stone, Manager, Program Integration, Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, NASA
• John Logsdon, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University
• Simon ‘Pete’ Worden, Director, NASA Ames Research Center
• Tim Pickens, Chief Propulsion Engineer and Commercial Space Advisor, Dynetics, and Team lead, Rocket City Space Pioneers
• Phil McAlister, Acting Director, Commercial Human Spaceflight, NASA HQ
• Buzz Aldrin, Former Apollo 11 Astronaut, Author, and Founder, ShareSpace Foundation
• Michael Griffin, UAHuntsville Eminent Scholar and former NASA Administrator
• Michael Simpson, President, International Space University
• Ken Money, President, National Space Society and former Canadian astronaut
• Klaus Dannenberg, Deputy Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
• Robert Zubrin, Founder and President, Mars Society
• Les Johnson, Deputy Manager, Advanced Concepts Office, NASA MSFC, and Author
• Deborah Barnhart, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center

These folks and others will cover the broad waterfront of space activities, including the following tracks/sessions:

• “Getting Things Done” Panel: Everything you always wanted to know about how about the sausage-making process that is space policy in Washington. We’ll be featuring legislative, administration, and other people responsible for getting space issues and budgets signed into law.
• Building Sustainable Support for Space: Is it possible to obtain long-term political support for space activities? If so, how?
• The Google Lunar X Prize: Teams from across the nation and around the world are competing for a $30 million prize to place a working lander on the Moon. Learn from the teams themselves what they are doing and how.
• Space Based Solar Power Symposium: Learn the latest developments about SBSP–an energy technology that becomes ever-more relevant every time the price of gas increases!
• Military Space Track: What’s happening in military space–from space-based surveillance to orbital debris and planetary defense? Learn from the officers making it happen.
• Space Launch System Mission Planning: The US is on a course to build a heavy-lift launch vehicle. What is its status, and what will we do with it once we build it?
• Earth and Planetary Science: Learn about the latest developments on Earth, the Sun, and other bodies in our solar system and how they could affect our future in space.
• International Cooperation: How will the ISS expand in the coming decades as we work more closely with international partners? What more needs to be done?
• Education and Outreach: What can the space community do to engage young people and the general public in humanity’s greatest adventure? What works? What doesn’t? What hasn’t been tried yet?
• Living in Space: How will people live and work in low-Earth orbit? On other worlds? What constraints will shape their lives? This track covers the cultural side of the future of space.
• Book Fair and Author Discussions: Renowned space authors talk about their latest works and share their thoughts on the future of space–10 years or 100 years from now!
• Governors Dinner and Gala: It’s not often that you get to dine beneath an actual Saturn V–Huntsville has two! Join us at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center as we celebrate the latest achievements in space.

…and of course these events wouldn’t be complete without hospitality suites, where the really interesting conversations happen!

Interested in attending? Sponsoring? Exhibiting? Email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Bart Leahy
Conference Chairman
ISDC 2011

1 comment

  • A recent class I took on Numerical Estimation took a turn for the useful when we got into discussions about taking fuzzy data from long-range sensors and ~automatically~ doing a wide range of “curve-fit” correlations in order to make assumptions about “what the heck is/was THAT?”

    Particularly meaningful when you’re talking three-dimensional dynamics for which we-who-evolved-from-monkeys never had to develop any “gut-feel”, especially if we have to add in anything remotely relativistic, with light-cones and meaningful light-speed delays…

    I.e., the kind of thing you would want your Sensor Ops specialist on the bridge using, to be able to say “Cap’n, we’re picking up what appears to be a freighter entering orbit” or, even better, “we’re plotting the swarm trajectory now, sir.” USEFUL info. Completely feasible.