The 28th National Space Symposium opened last night to a full house as the Colorado Springs Philharmonic played, what else?, music from Apollo 13 and selections from Horst's The Planets, ending with "Mars, the Bringer of War.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, science superstar, and currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, was on hand, along with the Space Foundation's CEO Elliot Pulham, to hand out four awards to people who are advancing humankind's reach into the universe. More on those folks is below.
I sat next to Bill Scott, former Air Force flight test engineer and Aviation Week writer, who will sign his books, Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III and Counterspace, from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday in the exhibition center pavilion.
After the opening ceremonies, Bill and I took a stroll through the exhibition areas, much expanded from past years, and were greeted by this little fella, Sprockit the Robot.
We also ran into a few local dignitaries who were taking in the exhibits, including Councilman Tim Leigh and El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.
And then we got really lucky. We stumbled onto DeGrasse Tyson. I had been instructed by my sister to do everything humanly possible to get his autograph. My nephew's girlfriend, Natalie Gosnell, is a PhD candidate in astrophysics at the University of Wisconsin and a DeGrasse Tyson admirer.
The author and host of TV show Cosmos graciously whipped out his fountain pen from its leather sheath, and penned, "To Natalie, the universe beckons." DeGrasse signs his book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the pavilion.
But geez, there sure were a lot of people. Pulham tells us more than 9,000 people will attend the symposium through the week. The first symposium drew only 247 attendees. This year, there are more volunteers than that, 340, helping the foundation with the symposium.
The symposium also drew the old standby protesters, who show up outside the International Center every year to remind people of how some of the marvels of space are deployed.
The foundation honored the following contributors to the advancement in space. Descriptions of the winners are provided by the foundation:
Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award: Dr. Cynthia D. Waters is director of aviation for The Aviation Academy at T.W. Andrews High School in High Point, N.C. She is an educator, FAA commercial pilot, flight instructor and member of the North Carolina Airport Economic Development Alliance. Waters uses her experience and contacts to provide the Academy's 140 students with career development opportunities in aviation, engineering and aerospace.
John L. "Jack" Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration: The NASA Kepler Mission is being recognized for the discovery of 61 confirmed extrasolar planets and over 2,300 planet candidates in the first 16 months of observations from May 2009 to September 2010. The Kepler Mission findings contain well over 200 Earth-size planet candidates and more than 900 that are smaller than twice Earth-size. Of the 46 planet candidates found in the habitable zone, the region in the planetary system where liquid water could exist, ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size. The cumulative catalog includes: 246 Earth-size, 676 super Earth-size, 1,118 Neptune-size, 210 Jupiter-size and 71 candidates that are larger than twice the size of Jupiter.
Space Achievement Award: Junichiro Kawaguchi, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), who was program director, Lunar & Planetary Exploration Program Group for JAXA, is being lauded for his engagement in planetary robotic exploration, science and technology since the late 1970s, including development and advancement of a series of orbital maneuvering technologies applied to planetary missions.
Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award: The NASA Social Media Team has been selected as the winner of the Space Foundation's Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award, which is presented annually to an individual, team or organization that has made significant contributions to public awareness of, and support for, space programs. "The NASA Social Media Team has been selected for this distinctive honor for creative and pioneering use of social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, actively engaging millions of people around the world, and even in orbit, in the exciting missions of discovery that continue to be pioneered by America's space agency," Pulham says in a news release.