by Dave Dressler and Rod Pyle

Image: Jeff Bezos with Space Settlement Contest students at the 2018 International Space Development Conference. Credit: Keith Zacharski, National Space Society.

ISDC 2018 was seen by many as the “Best ISDC ever!” The conference kicked off with a colorful ceremony called Felicitation performed by Avinash Shirode, President of the NSS-Nashik India Chapter.

After this unique welcoming ceremony, Tom Mueller, Chief Technical Officer for SpaceX, made a rare appearance as our opening keynote. Tom shared his perspective of rapid developments from the origins of SpaceX, with just a handful of employees and a vision, to a busy Falcon 9 launch schedule and recent flight of the Falcon Heavy.

In a rousing youth plenary session, NSS Governor Geoff Notkin inspired hundreds of students to take risks and live an adventurous life. At the Thursday lunch session, Dr. Michael Watkins, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, graciously shared his view of discoveries made by the Voyager probes after 41 years, as they continue to communicate from the edge of the solar system.

ISDC 2018 challenged attendees to select from six parallel programs running simultaneously. There were sessions that focused on space settlements, development of the Moon, the exploration of Mars, living in space, space business, space solar power, asteroid defense, space elevators, Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), and NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Rooms were packed with the 1200-plus attendees.

Our morning plenaries were lively and entertaining. On Friday, Rod Pyle put together an eclectic mix of media, adventurous explorers, and artists called “Amazing Stories of Space: Selling the Final Frontier.” The panelists included: Michael Clark (TMRO), Calla Cofield (JPL), Dan Goods (JPL), Mat Kaplan (Planetary Radio ), Dr. Pascal Lee (Mars Institute), Geoff Notkin (Aerolite Meteorites, Inc.), and Rich Sternbach (International Association of Astronomical Artists). The experts shared personal insight on how they have successfully generated public enthusiasm for space exploration and development, and how we can more effectively engage our friends, neighbors and families.

And guess who came to dinner? Freeman Dyson, Frank Drake, Kathryn Sullivan and Jeff Bezos! Before dinner, people huddled around Bezos, and he talked with as many as time allowed. When asked if he was okay with the enthusiastic crowd, Bezos said he loves people and is grateful for the opportunity to talk with so many. As he later began his fireside chat with Alan Boyle, he took time to address the cast and crew of the SyFy TV hit The Expanse, which had recently been cancelled, to let them know that Amazon Prime would be picking up the series. The crowd went wild, and NSS and the ISDC was a hot press item in hundreds of papers and websites overnight. If that wasn’t enough, Bezos has also decided to save our planet.

Image: Jeff Bezos with cast members of The Expanse upon hearing the news that Amazon will sponsor a fourth season for the series. Credit: Keith Zacharski, National Space Society.

To our membership that could not be there, you missed a great ISDC, but next year will be another one for the books, so block out your calendar for the week of June 6-9 for ISDC 2019 in Arlington, Virginia! Planning is well underway and we will do our best to continue the upward trend of what is ISDC. Ad astra my friends. We hope to see you there.

Additional photos below by Keith Zacharski, National Space Society.

Cast of The Expanse at the 2018 ISDC.

Tasha O’Neill, wife of the late physicist Gerard K. O’Neill, presents the National Space Society Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award for Space Settlement Advocacy to Jeff Bezos.

The National Space Society’s highest awards were presented to Jeff Bezos and Freeman Dyson at the conference.

Jeff Bezos talks with Buzz Aldrin at the 2018 ISDC.



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