There has never been a better time to become involved in policy as a citizen.
Access to information has never been greater, and the ability of the motivated person to share a message is unprecedented. From municipal levies to national reform, Americans benefit from active participation in public policy. For those interested in space industry and science, the ability to promote measures of protection for research or ensure funding for programs is incomparable.
The National Space Society is America’s largest public space advocacy organization. There are chapters in every state, and in many cases, one in each metropolitan center. NSS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and therefore is not an entrepreneurial venture. Under NSS’ 501(h) regulations, NSS is allowed to conduct grassroots lobbying, which permits a limited amount of activity aimed at influencing U.S. legislation.
Unlike a number of other space-oriented associations, the NSS takes a broader approach to the various topics encompassed by the space industry. While some organizations focus their energies to promote aerospace engineering, Martian colonization, or satellite technology, NSS looks to bring together all proponents looking to further space exploration and utilization. The advent of commercial space enterprises has provided NSS with a boon for promoting nascent launch opportunities.
NSS was formed in 1987 after two previously established space advocacy groups, the L5 Society and National Space Institute, were merged. While the initial intent of the society was aimed at promoting space settlement, it has evolved into something more. The organization states it’s mission to be: “to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity.” The vision of NSS is: “People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.” The society also publishes a monthly periodical, Ad Astra, which members may contribute to.
Each May, NSS hosts one of the largest space-oriented conferences: The International Space Development Conference, or ISDC. As stated on the NSS website, “The annual conference of the NSS, bringing together NSS leaders and members with leading managers, engineers, scientists, educators, and businessmen from civilian, military, commercial, entrepreneurial, and grassroots advocacy space sectors”. For space professionals and enthusiasts, ISDC offers an opportunity to learn from and network with those who practice in the industry.
ISDC 2017 will be held in St. louis, Missouri, May 25-29. Organized by the St. Louis Space Frontier (the local NSS chapter), this year’s event is conveniently located in the Central United States, within minutes of Lambert Field. While living in St. Louis last year, I had the privilege to take part in the planning process for the conference. What I found most remarkable about this was that this enormous challenge, all of the logistics and fundraising, was being conducted by space enthusiasts like myself. Professionals in their fields for sure, but not one of the individuals involved was being compensated for this effort. Instead, these were dedicated volunteers, working every week to ensure that this event is organized thoroughly.
Members of NSS are encouraged to provide input regarding their opinions and interests for the exploration and/or utilization of space. Few advocacy organizations provide opportunities for their membership to shape policy to the extent NSS does. From regular surveys to gauge interest in contemporary NASA and commercial space concepts to inviting members to participate in visits to the legislature in Washington DC, NSS desires proactive involvement. The space message boards, letter-to-the-editor, and social media sites are inundated with the opinions of space enthusiasts. So many people with so many ideas and thoughts on the direction of national space policy- but few who make any effort to effect that policy.
Like any grassroots initiative, the National Space Society’s efforts to effect policy by advocating STEM initiatives, supporting tech development, and contributing to legislative process requires proactive participation. It is never enough to cynically call for change without offering to be an engine for said change. NSS Chapters lead local efforts to promote space policy, both regionally and nationally. By taking advantage of this organizational framework, the membership is given a voice. And while citizen petitions, legislative blitzes, or other forms of advocacy may not change the direction of congressionally derived authorizations, it certainly won’t without trying.
Wherever you are, there are ways to take part in the efforts to explore and utilize space. I encourage you to follow the links below and read about the NSS. Decide for yourself if this is an organization that you would like to take part in. Why not be a participant instead of an observer?
To learn more about ISDC and register for the conference, follow the link before:
To Join NSS, follow this link: https://www.nss.org/membership/new_member_form.shtml