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Space Activism
Make it so ...

"...ordinary citizens elsewhere delighted in the great space dream, and carried rocketry during the late 1920s and into the 1930s through a network of societies. They showed, at least for a while, that a new technology could be forged by amateurs. Like their counterparts in astronomy, archaeology, and palenontology, they made notable discoveries..."
- William E. Burrows in This New Ocean

It is not enough just to read about space exploration, development, and settlement. You must help make it happen.

Today that means far more than simply writing a letter to your government representative at funding time for NASA.


For decades the press took it for granted that, while there was some general interest by the public in space, no truly enthusiastic, grass roots support of space exploration and development existed outside of the employees of big aerospace companies and NASA.

In fact, today there exist in the US and around the world hundreds of public organizations, large and small, with no government or corporate affiliation that actively pursue various strategies to support space exploration and development.

The number of participants in these organizations is significant and growing. The Planetary Society, for example, has over 100,000 members and the National Space Society over 25,000. The NSS, in particular, relies heavily on a network of local chapters whose members energetically pursue a wide range of projects and activities.

This page gives an introduction and links into this space activist movement. See also a short history of space activism.

Here we divide the public space organizations into two types:

  • Space advocacy organizations work to educate the public about the benefits of space exploration and to sway the government for greater support for space activities.

  • Space R&D groups work on real hardware such as advanced amateur rocketry or do in-depth studies into long term projects such as lunar and Mars colonization. Some of these project cross over from purely volunteer effort to startup business arrangements.

Note that there are organizations that combine efforts in both of these areas. Also, there are are local independent space clubs that pursue their own agendas outside of the large organizations.

In his article - The Accidental Space Activist - SPACE.com - Apr.27.06 - Ken Murphy gives an excellent overview of space activism and the kinds of projects.

Remember: It Is Not The Critic Who Counts

The Flyers Among Us
National Space Society - ISDC 2010

Activist News Sources

* daily updates

Space Activism News at

Previous news items are available in the archive ...


Upcoming Events

Prizes and Other Advocacy Programs

Arnie J. Abrahamson won the 2008 Space VidVision Contest.
Greg Zsidisin describes the contest in
Lessons from the 2008 Space VidVision Contest - The Space Review - Nov.24.08.
  • Space Contests - many of the competitions in this section are intended to promote interest and enthusiasm for space.

  • Heinlein Prize - $500,000 prize established by the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust to "be given as frequently as annually to one or more individuals who have achieved practical accomplishments in the field of commercial space activities": Heinlein Prize: Accomplishments in Commercial Space Activities - Heinlein Prize.

    • The goal is to encourage "human advancement into space through commercial endeavors" in honor of writer Robert Heinlein, many of whose books depicted a wonderfully exciting future for humanity in space.

Space Advocacy      
USA, World

Space advocacy organizations push the development of space by means of political action (e.g. lobbying Congress), public education, magazines, conferences, special events, and any other technique they can dream up.

Space advocacy spans a wide range of approaches and philosphies. Many US space advocacy groups, for example, believe that true development of space will occur only with private enterprise. Space is, in fact, increasingly becoming dominated by commercial business (See Space Investing.) Most of the annual worldwide expenditure (around $90 billion) on space related activities is now for commercial enterprises such as communications satellites, commercial launchers, ground stations, remote sensing data processing, etc.

While most of the public still see space exploration and NASA as one and the same, some space interest groups go so far as to push for the elimination of NASA, citing its failure to produce an economically viable shuttle and the instances where it has interfered with commercial activity. (See NASA in Space Controversies.)

The mainstream space advocacy groups, though, see NASA as still the leader in space exploration and instead urge it to concentrate on research and basic science and leave development to the commercial sector.

NASA and other US government involvement with space is and will likely remain very significant. The percentage of public funding going to space endeavors in the US has fallen to a fraction of the levels in the 1960's. In absolute terms, though, the billions spent by NASA and the military still add up to real money.

So many US space advocacy groups therefore try their best to influence how the government spends this money. This can be by direct lobbying or by convincing their own members, as well as the general public, to contact their representatives in support of space funding and particular projects of interest.

In addition to funding, governments have tremendous influence on the course of commercial space development with the laws and regulations under which the commercial sector must operate.

Influencing these space laws and regulations is becoming an increasing emphasis for space advocates. The 1998 Commercial Space Act passed by the US Congress, for example, occurred primarily because of the efforts of the space advocacy movement.

Passage of this bill illustrates how the political sophistication of space advocacy groups has grown over the years. Many of the groups were heavily involved, for example, in keeping the International Space Station (ISS) project alive and in pushing NASA towards greater support for new launch technology, especially Reusable Launchers. (See the Space Legislation section for more resources concerning legislative efforts of space activists.)

Note that the battle over the ISS, the largest space project since Apollo, further illustrates the wide diversity of opinion in the space advocacy community. Many space groups, in fact, opposed the ISS. They see it as a flying white elephant that benefits NASA institutionally but does little to address the real roadblocks to space development, namely the high cost of access to space and to working there.

The mainstream groups, though, see the ISS, despite its cost and shortcomings, as necessary for the continued development of a space infrastructure. This includes the research and development of microgravity processes and industries, studies into the adaptation of humans to the space environment, testing and development of tools and techniques that will be needed for exploration of the Moon and Mars. (See the ISS entry in the Space Controversies section.


USA Space Advocacy

The Largest Public Membership Organizations

National Space Society-NSS
NSS is one of the largest general space advocacy groups and emphasizes human space exploration. It pushes for increased space funding, publishes the space magazine Ad Astra, organizes public events, including one of the largest annual space conferences, and carries out numerous other space related activities.

NSS has its headquarters in Washington D.C. and also has 95 local chapters around the world.

Planetary Society
The Society was founded in 1980 by the late Carl Sagan and the JPL scientists Bruce Murray and Louis Freidman. It originally was intended to raise support for unmanned space science exploration. However, the Society has since become a strong supporter of manned exploration of Mars, even going so far as to support the Space Station (anathema among most mainstream scientific organizations) as a staging base for Mars missions.

Also, the Society gives strong support to SETI and other astrobiology research. It is the largest of the space interest groups. 
100k members 

The Planetary Society sponsors a number of projects. Here is a partial listing:

Mars Society
The Mars Society was organized in 1998 by Robert Zubin, Kim Stanley Robinson, and other Mars exploration enthusiasts. Patterned after the Cousteau Society and National Geographic Society, it will attempt to raise public interest in Mars via magazines and other educational activities. It will also push for increased public funding for Mars exploration and development and.

The Society reportedly has about 7000 members as of 2005.

However, like these organizations, the Mars Society will also fund projects on its own. These include technology development and, eventually, low cost robotic missions
New Mars - A Journal of the Martian Frontier

The Mars Society, though much smaller than the Planetary Society, still manages to sponsor a number of projects. Here is a partial listing:

Moon Society
The Moon Society is "a non-profit educational and scientific foundation formed to further scientific study and development of the moon." It is a spinoff of the Artemis Project , which is focused on the development of commercial ventures on the Moon.

The groups also work closely with Lunar Reclaimation Society, which publishes the Moon Miners' Manifesto.

Students for Exploration and Development of Space is the leading university student activist group. It has nearly 30 chapters at universities around the world.

This organization holds "unconference" events on space in different locations.

SpaceUp is a space unconference, where participants decide the topics, schedule, and structure of the event. Unconferences have been held about technology, science, transit, and even cupcakes, but this is the first one focused on space exploration.

World Space Center
Long time space activist Jeff Krukin and a group of notables including actor Walter Koenig and journalist Lloyd Dobyns have formed this organization. The groups says,

Our goal is to connect the general public with the imminent beginning of the second space age, the age of personal space travel and its effects on all our lives!
The group had its initial meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina on January 30th, 2006.

Special Focus Organizations

The Archimedes Institute
The Archimedes Institute is a non-profit organization devoted to the study of the legal framework of space development. This includes everything from government policy effects on commercial space activities to the effect of international treaties on asteroid mining.
[2008-08-07 - Currently the primary address - www.permanent.com/archimedes - is inactive.]
Use their extensive Library for Space Law and Policy Research for your space law studies. Participate in space law and policy discussions at the The Archimedes Institute Forum.

Association of Space Explorers (ASE)
Association of over two hundred astronauts and cosmonauts who

"... have flown in space, promote space science and exploration for the benefit of all, enhance education, foster environmental awareness, and encourage international cooperation." Goals


Astronauts Memorial Foundation
Established after the Challenger tragedy, this private, non-profig organization seeks to honor those astronauts who have died with educational programs about space.

Lunar Explorers Society
This new group

"...was founded by members of the International Lunar Explorers Working Group (ILEWG) and other attendees of the 4th International Conference on the Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon (ICEUM4). The new society strives for a human return to the Moon. Its goal: to expand the presence of humans to the Moon permanently for the benefit of mankind and the progress of our species as a space-faring civilisation."

Moon Society
See entry in R&D/project groups section.

ProSpace ".. is a grassroots organization of American citizens dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to ALL people as rapidly as possible..." - ProSpace web page.

Space Access Society
SAS, organized by Henry Vanderbilt, is devoted solely to supporting efforts to reduce the cost of reaching space. Although a relatively small group, SAS was quite influential in obtaining funding for the DC-X, DC-XA projects and later for the X-33.

SAS has organized a series of informal conferences each April for the past several years in which many of the leading individuals and companies developing reusable launch vehicles have reported on their latest work.

Interview with SAS chief Henry Vanderbilt on the SpaceShow March 9, 2004

Space Connection
Raises public awareness of space exploration with many educational activities. For example, the Space Benefits program includes such initiatives as awarding the use of a special logo that indicates a product was certified as a spin-off of space development. This group has strong aerospace industry support.
Space Day
This group organizes the yearly Space Day celebrations in May to raise public awareness of space. It has strong aerospace industry involvement.

Space Frontier Foundation
(New site at SpaceFrontier.org is in development.) The SFF is an

"organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System." 

This group is extremely active with many projects in the fire. Its leader Rick Tumlinson is a long time activist who, for example, helped to form MirCorp and was the first to approach Dennis Tito about a possible trip to space.

The group is closely affiliated with the FINDS (Foundation for

Earth and Space Foundation
The Earth and Space Foundation (formerly the 2111 Foundation) provides grants for research related to space exploration, remote sensing, earth ecology, and other areas. The foundation

"funds scientific exploration that both helps us to understand the Earth's environment and explore the frontier of space. ...

This work includes field research that uses space technology and information to help protect and understand the Earth's environment and field research that applies environmental knowledge to help us to explore other planets. Through its work the Foundation seeks to fulfil the vision of the Earth as an oasis cared for by a space faring civilization.

Since its establishment the Foundation has helped support over 40 projects around the world." - Earth and Space Foundation web site.

The Foundation resides in Britain and is registered as a non-profit organization.

United States Space Foundation
The based in Colorado Springs, the US Space Foundation "promotes national awareness and support for America's space endeavors...".CountDown Conferences

Other U.S. Space Support Organizations

World Space Advocacy Groups

See list on Next Page

Professional & Industry Organizations

Here are some other leading space advocacy organizations whose membership is primary of professionals in space industry and government agencies:

Space Angels

Innumerable space novels and movies over the years employed the plot device of the eccentric millionaire/billionaire (depending on what period and inflation rate you assume) who pays for the space enterprise on which the story builds. This device both simplifies things so that the author can get on with the plot and it humanizes the endeavor.

In the Apollo era, such notions seemed quaint and silly. Everyone knew you couldn't do anything in space without tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of government employees to carry out space missions.

Over the years, however, reality and, at a much slower rate, perceptions have changed. Commercial space endeavours, especially in telecommunications, grew to surpass government funding for space. Not only satellites but also new rocket projects have been fully funded by private businesses.

Meanwhile, super-cheap amateur satellites and COTS (Cheap-Off-the-Shelf) exploration probes like the Lunar Prospector demonstrated that low cost space enterprises could accomplish substantial tasks in space.

From these developments, we have seen the proverbial rich space mogul emerge and begin to fund projects that can make a real difference in the development of space.

In the world of business startups, funding often cannot be found from conventional sources such as banks and venture capital firms. Instead, a so-called angel investor is found who supports the initial costs out of his or her own pocket.

Similarly, "space angels" are now putting serious money into innovative space endeavours. Using very low cost approaches, the projects can carry out exciting projects that NASA does not have the money for or, as in the case of space tourism, has stood in the way of.



The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey





Space inspires awe but also many arguments!

Check out
Space Controversies
for overviews and resources on such issues as:
Humans vs Robots
Int. Space Station

Mars Bio-hazards
Space Nuclear Power

Space & the Military
Space Spinoffs
Space Settlement




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