Thursday, May 30, 2013

My God... It's Full of Astronauts!


What a week! Spacefest V was a complete whirlwind of space missions, science, astronomy, social media, moon walkers, brilliant space art, and people from all around the world. And I truly do mean all around the world. I met one woman who flew from Australia just to be here for these 4 days.

Astronaut Gene Cernan
Sitting in Gene Cernan's lap... oh, those flyboys!

The highlight of our last day with the astronauts was getting to meet the "Last Man on the Moon", Apollo 17's Gene Cernan! (For the record, before anyone starts quibbling, Jack Schmitt was the 12th man on the moon, Gene was the last one in the LM before ascent to rendezvous with the orbiting CSM).

Friendly and quite game for anything, Gene recorded messages for children who could not be in attendance, and in one situation, even spoke to someone's mother on the phone!  Talk about accommodating. Sure, let me just dial my friend and hand you the phone...

Another huge highlight was visiting the booth of the Meteorite Men, for books, rocks, autographs and pictures!  One conference attendee even purchased from them a small fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that fell in Russia this past February.  Amazing to think they travel the world to get their hands on such things!

Geoff Notkin Meteorite Men
Geoffrey Notkin and his Rock Hound Fans

Sunday was panel day at SpaceFest 5; after we all learned about meteorites, we could also choose lectures about Mars issues, the outer solar system, volcanism on distant moons, astrobiology, asteroids, and even spacecraft modeling.

The packed house of the day was the Apollo Panel, where all the Apollo astronauts (missions 7 through 17 were represented by multiple crew members!) and one Apollo mission controller came together to answer crowd questions about mankind's most ambitious project in history -- landing 6 times on our lunar satellite. It was amazing to watch them bask in Apollo glory, though a bit sad to hear their worried commentary about the state of NASA exploration plans today.

However, my favorite was the Comets Panel. A personal hero of mine is David Levy... and as anyone who comet-hunts through telescopes these days know, just about every comet we've seen from Earth in the last era is named after Levy somehow! The sheer list of how many comets he has discovered is incredible!

Comets Panel
COMET Panel: Hergenroether,Skylab astronaut Ed Gibson,
astronomer Nick Howes, Kitt Peak Spacewatch's Jim Scotti,
Hale-Bopper Tom Bopp, and industrial-strength Cometeer David Levy!

There's entirely too much to describe, even across a blog-post-per-day! However, I hope people enjoy these small descriptions enough to consider attending a Space Fest Conference in the future! If you were unable to make it this year, I'll definitely be promoting next year's conference as soon as I know the location has been settled. Seems it's between Las Vegas, Nevada and Pasadena, California.

The web sites to watch are the SpaceFest home (where you can see the history of the past 5 conferences) and Novaspace, the organization of people who plan the festivities each year.