Oregon L5 Society
ISDC 2000
Tucson, Arizona

Oregon L5's Cheryl Lynn York and Bryce Walden attended the 2000 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Tucson Arizona, May 25-29, 2000. Twenty-five years ago the original L5 Society was founded in Tucson, and this year's ISDC was a reunion of sorts and commemorative of that event. In 1986 the L5 Society voted to merge with the National Space Institute to become the National Space Society.

This year the ISDC started early with tours of local sites of interest. For two days tour busses fanned out from the City Center Holiday Inn, the convention hotel, to such attractions as Kitt Peak Astronomical Observatories, Biosphere II, Kartchner Caverns, Pima Air and Space Museum, the last remaining Titan Missile Silo, and others. There wasn't enough time for everything. Luckily, Cheryl and I had visited Kitt Peak and Biosphere II last year on our way home from the Houston ISDC.

Cheryl Lynn York, Richard and Pat Richardson
Cheryl Lynn York, Richard and Pat Richardson (L-R) meet at Kartchner Caverns.
We were particularly interested in Kartchner Caverns. Its discovery was kept secret for 11 years, until finally The Nature Conservancy was able to broker an arrangement between the land owners (the Kartchners) and the Park Service. There followed years of careful study, the digging of a walk-in entrance, and building a visitors center. Show cave experts were consulted about problems and solutions to opening a cave to the public yet keeping it in good health. As a result, Kartchner Caverns, which just opened in November 1999, represents state-of-the-art in show cave development.

Unfortunatly, pictures were not allowed inside the cavern. But outside we got a shot of Oregon L5 benefactor and Moon Miners Manifesto columnist Richard and Pat Richardson, sometimes of Bend, Oregon, on a rare visit from Alaska, (left).

Entrance to the caves was by a three-tier airlock system, each section dimmer and more humid than the last. Trails in the cave were paved, with a low guard wall and stainless steel rail. Lights were activated section-by-section and extinguished as we left. The cave is "alive," still forming stalactites and stalagmites. Because tourists remove moisture from the cave in their hair and clothes, a mister in one section helps maintain proper humidity. The cave fits the classical image of a "hollowed-out hill" and has many beautiful "decorations." Because of its relative height above basal ground level and its location in the desert, it was quite warm. Early explorers acted in the best traditions of caving: there was only one trail through the cave.

Although the tourist trail could not follow the mud wallows and tight squeezes of the original trail, that trail is visible and the rest of the cave has been untouched. Tours of Kartchner Caverns are by reservation only and the cave is still under study. The guide said if analysis showed tourists were harmful to the cave, tours would be discontinued. We may have been lucky to get in.

Titan Launch Control
Titan Launch Control. Note girl in Launch Director's chair and big spring behind guide's arm.
The next day we toured the Pima Air and Space Museum, which included a bus tour of the famous "Aircraft Boneyard" where thousands of out-of-service military and commercial aircraft are stored on the hard caliche desert surface. Row after row of planes from fighters to transports stretched as far as the eye could see.

That afternoon we rode the bus to the Titan Missile Silo Museum, the last intact silo of its kind. After a brief surface tour we descended into the underground facility. At the bottom of 52 stairs, through a couple of foot-thick steel doors we entered a T-intersection with a spring-suspended walkway between the silo and the launch control center.

A decommissioned Titan resides in the silo, visible through windows. At the launch control center the guide demonstrates that many of the systems are still functional. A young girl he seated at the operator's console is allowed to turn the key that would launch the missile. We weren't sure she understood what she was doing, but later she signed the guestbook, "I launched the missile," (right).

Buzz signs Cheryl's BookBack at the conference hotel, Buzz Aldrin was signing copies of his new book, "The Return," co-authored with John Barnes. Cheryl bought a copy, which he signed for us, (left).

David Stuart
The opening plenary Friday night featured a welcome from conference chair Bill Weigle and a talk by Buzz Aldrin, open to the public. Afterwards we caught a shot of Seattle's Dave Stuart, who videotaped many conference events, (right).

Coming Up: Conference Panels, Dinners, Parties, and more!

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