By Burt Dicht, NSS Managing Director of Membership

The recently concluded ISDC 2023 featured a wondrous collection of presentations on all things related to space exploration, development and settlement. Whether you were interested in the Moon, Mars, technology, and even space policy and law, there was something for you. But a highlight of these conferences is also connecting attendees with space explorers, those select few who have rocketed into space, experienced microgravity, the amazing views and have lived and worked there. This ISDC featured three such individuals: Jared Isaacman, Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, and Col. Eileen Collins (USAF- Ret). Photo credits above: Daniel Fox/NSS (left), Burt Dicht/NSS (center and right).

Jared Isaacman, the commander of both Inspiration4, the first private spaceflight, and the upcoming Polaris Dawn mission, shared his life story and what led him to be a space pioneer. Isaacman is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and pilot. He discussed dropping out of high school to start his own business which led to his current company Shift4. He considers himself very lucky and his lifelong interest in aviation and space led him to develop his historic private space flight with SpaceX. He hopes his work will pave the way for his kids and others on a path to us becoming a spacefaring civilization. For his achievements NSS presented Isaacman with the Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurship.

Jared Isaacman with studentsJared Isaacman with students at ISDC. CREDIT: Daniel Fox/NSS.

Greg-Autry-presents-NSS-award-to-Jared-IsaacmanNSS Vice President of Space Development Greg Autry presents NSS Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurship to Jared Isaacman at ISDC. CREDIT: Daniel Fox/NSS.

Bonnie Dunbar is a veteran of five space shuttle flights and is currently a professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University. Dunbar described her childhood growing up on a farm in Washington state. She credits an elementary school principal who encouraged her to study algebra when she expressed an interest in space and her high school physics teacher who guided her to engineering. She also described her work on the shuttle’s thermal protection system tiles while working at Rockwell, which led her to NASA and being selected as an astronaut. During her talk Dunbar shared photos and videos of her spaceflights. By sharing her story and working with the next generation of engineers that will take us back to the Moon and on to Mars, her ultimate message was to dream big.

Bonnie-Dunbar-at-ISDCAstronaut Bonnie Dunbar at ISDC. CREDIT: Daniel Fox/NSS.

Eileen Collins is a retired USAF test pilot and veteran of four space shuttle flights. She made history twice as the first female shuttle pilot as well as the first female shuttle commander and also commanded the “Return to Flight” mission after Columbia. Collins, in her presentation, veered from her history to share the “Ten Top Questions” she is asked, which she curated from her many public appearances. It was an entertaining and fun presentation, which covered many different aspects of spaceflight. Collins also had a book signing for her autobiography “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars,” which provided attendees with a chance to meet her and even get a photo op. A highlight for Collins was also the opportunity to share her inspirational story as she met with the students during their recognition ceremony.

Eileen-Collins-signing-bookEileen Collins signing her book at ISDC. To her left is Hannah Rens, former NSS Regional Board member. CREDIT: Daniel Fox/NSS.

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