Oregon L5 Society at
World Space Conference
Houston, Texas - October 19, 2002

The Wold Space Conference Exhibit Hall - Click for Larger ViewIn my last note I remarked that the chair of our session asked us, Tuesday night at the Poster Session, if we could make a five-minute presentation, if called upon. He did not do so on Wednesday, but by dint of an all-night session in PowerPoint, we were prepared. He did not call on us Thursday morning, either. So, at Cheryl's insistence, I approached him during the morning break just to assure him we were ready if he needed us. By this time he was pretty harried, and although there had been cancellations, he was more experienced now in how easy it was for other speakers to make up the time by going over. When you give folks only five minutes, or even fifteen minutes that some were allotted, it's all too short and you go past your time almost without noticing. He seemed apologetic and asked if we could do it in one minute. I couldn't help a rueful grin and answered, "I suppose we could point them to our poster in about a minute. Yeah, sure," and we left it at that.

Back at the seat I pulled our folder of overhead transparencies and took out about four, maybe five, that might help in a one minute presentation. I wished I could shorten the PowerPoint presentation, because if it worked, it would save precious seconds in switching slides over changing out overhead transparencies. No call during the second morning session, which ran over a bit anyway. During lunch, I was able to create a "Custom Show" subset of the PowerPoint presentation using the same slides I had picked for transparencies, so once again we were ready, even for the digest of the short version.

But alas, the afternoon session ran overlong as well, and we weren't called upon. I was more frustrated than disappointed -- after all, we hadn't been scheduled for an oral talk, so that was like extra credit, but I had lost a night's sleep over it, and lost time I could have been finishing up the paper.

There was one good thing that happened. The chair had asked everyone to attend to their posters one more time, after Thursday's session (which was the last session on the topic we were scheduled under), for about an hour in the poster hall.

Not many people were there, though I had a nice conversation with an east Indian whose paper was across the aisle, about the influence of the Moon on earthquakes and plate tectonics. Just a few folks had strolled down our aisle, looking at posters. Cheryl was ready to pack it in just after 6 p.m., but I thought we should stay a bit longer, at least until the end of the hour at 6:30. About ten minutes later one guy came down the aisle, looking at posters, and spent a couple of extra moments over ours. We hadn't said anything, but when he turned and started to walk on, I was able to glimpse his badge, and then run after him. It was Paul Blase, head of TransOrbital, one of the private companies planning to send their own small craft to the Moon, and tie into the Internet and educational activities. I pulled him back and engaged him in a spiel. He did seem interested, and asked who decides these things [i.e., definition and location of the lunar Prime Meridian]? I told him our coauthor Bob McGown and talked to a member of the subcommittee responsible, and he had said the best way to get it changed was for people to start using it. With TransOrbital's plans for lunar maps, we figured he was a good person to ask about using our system, at least as an alternative choice on digital maps. He then asked who would decide the exact placement of the P.M., the "center of Mare Orientale" being a rather broadly-defined area at present. It happens I had just been reading a paper that described the exact definition of Mars' Prime Meridian as a single pixel of a single Mars Global Surveyor high-definition image. That would be the standard until someone (possibly on Mars itself) would be able to narrow it down further. So I thought for a second, and answered Paul, "You will have the best images of the area, so it seems to me you would get to pick the exact point." I may have been wrong; but clearly the idea intrigued him. I left him with a copy of our abstract and a map.

We also had posted a copy of our abstract on our poster board, once we learned the abstracts were not being published in a conference book. Instead, they were all on a 2-CD conference set...but, they didn't have enough of them. We got one (and our abstract is in it), but since we can copy that ourselves for our co-authors, Cheryl let her copy go, so that some other attendee could get it. I think such limited copying would fall under "fair use," especially under the circumstances when COSPAR doesn't have enough copies in the first place.

Afterwards, we were finally able to relax back at our room, our work at the conference done. For the next day and a half we could go where we wanted at the conference without any scheduled appearances. That was when Cheryl started to feel ill.

By Friday morning, she felt terrible, "feeling sick" and having hot and cold alternations. She wasn't nauseous, and did not feel feverish, but she didn't want to budge from under the covers. She did roust enough energy to kick me out, though, and insisted it was my turn to go to the convention center without her, as she had done without me earlier in the week when I'd been working too hard. I took the bus in, and grabbed the only video we took at the conference, an hour of talks by Paul Spudis, Wendell Mendell, and (NASA's) John Mankins about going to the Moon. I expect to show the video as our program at some upcoming Oregon L5 meeting (hint, Bob). I unfortunately was out of batteries and so could not tape the late-morning plenary, featuring a representative from Japan, from Russia, and from the European Space Agency as well as astronaut John Young, Wes Huntress, and Robert Farquhar of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, on "Humans Beyond Earth Orbit: The Case for Powerful Deep Space Residential Laboratories." What made the news there was John Young, now Associate Administrator of Johnson Space Center, sounding a strong clarion to get off this world before something really awful happens. He is convinced the threat from either an incoming asteroid or an exploding supervolcano (like Yellowstone or California's Long Valley) is real and imminent. He was so vehement, and chilling, that now I wonder if he knows something the rest of us don't know? The story made the front page of the Houston Chronicle on Saturday (today).

I spent more time in the Exhibit Hall, picking up yet more "stuff" and meeting Larry Ahearn and Jim Plaxco at the NSS booth. Bruce Mackenzie was there too, on a food break, where I found him to say "Hi."

The last plenary on Friday was about the state of space in 2025, and included some comments from a representative of a U.N. youth congress about space. Afterwards, I had to go upstairs and remove our poster. I was reminded I was supposed to fill out an "I was here" form for COSPAR, so I went to their little office and did so. They wanted me to turn in four copies of our paper with it, if we wanted it considered for publication, but I could not. Luckily, they will accept late entries through November, that can still be considered for the omnibus publication of papers from this conference. Earlier is better, of course, and now we'll have to send our copies to the Netherlands on our nickel. But, it couldn't be helped under the circumstances, and I think the paper may be better for it, since we've gotten some feedback at the conference.

By the time I got out of there, the whole conference center was practically deserted. It was 7:10, and the last bus to our hotel had left at 7:00. Ouch! It was raining, too. There were taxis nearby, luckily, so I took a cab back. With the tip, that set me back $22. What a day!

Cheryl had stayed abed all day, and slept quite a bit, but was beginning to feel better, though still "drained." I think mostly it was exhaustion setting in, after our work was done. I offered to pick up Chinese food from about three blocks away, and she ordered a spicy Hunan Beef combo "to drive the germs away."

By this morning (Saturday), it seems to have worked and we both went back to the conference for one more program, on contamination issues arising both from us going to other worlds (contaminating them) and bringing back samples that may contain life (contaminating us). Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute was on that one, among others. Incidentally, when I stopped by the SETI Institute booth earlier in the week I identified myself as a member. When they saw where I was from, they asked if I knew Dareth Murray, which of course I did. Told them she'd set us all to work distributing their flyers. They regard you very highly, Dareth!

We made sure to know when the busses stopped running on this half-day -- 2:00 pm -- and went to the Exhibit Hall one last time. I'm enclosing an overhead picture of part of the exhibits (all that would fit in the frame). My brother complained about extra, unusable files being downloaded with my previous pictures to his PC. Cheryl and I decided it must be the icon and thumbnail files that show up if your machine supports them, but many PC's don't know what to do with them. They can be safely ignored, if you've got at least one file that does show you the picture. For the Exhibit Hall picture, I saved it at original size so those interested can zoom in on some of the details. I instructed Photoshop not to include any of the icon or thumbnail files, to reduce overall download size, but even at a higher (more lossy) JPEG compression the file is around 0.3 megabytes. Just remember, that's down from a 5.5 megabyte original, folks! And for those still suffering under a 28.8 baud modem connection, that's what I've got here at the hotel, so it hurts me just as much to upload them as it does you to download. This picture should take just over a minute and a half to download at that speed. I do expect it's the last picture I'll be sending, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I hope to have more pictures on the OregonL5.org website sometime after we return, and our webmaster Gus manages to get those more compacted to load faster for browser viewing (thanks again, Gus).

We only had a little while before our bus. We briefly saw Marianne Dyson at the NSS booth, and while Cheryl was picking up her souvenir conference shirt at the Countdown Creations booth we ran into Ronnie LaJoie from Huntsville. There had been an NSS Board meeting during the conference, and a dinner, neither of which we managed to attend (the dinner was on the night we had to defend our poster, and the Board meeting was Thursday morning when we were waiting to be called upon to give our little and shrinking talk). We caught the last ever bus back to our hotel, and fell over and slept the rest of the afternoon. This evening I walked a block through drizzle to get Cheryl some "Texas chili" from a 1950's style hamburger joint, "world famous", recommended earlier by our bus driver. Me, I had a cheeseburger with fries.

We're glad we scheduled an extra night at the end of the conference. Gives us more time to relax and to pack all our stuff before once again hitting the road, tomorrow morning. We've been watching the weather channel every couple of days. The snow we expected in Wyoming didn't materialize, apparently, but the route we've been planning just got five inches of rain in Texas. So, we're not sure which way we're going; we might return the way we came, if the weather looks OK up north. We're not going to be in such a hurry as we were getting here, so probably won't be home for another three days, I'm guessing. It may take us a day or two to collect our cats after that. Then we'll have to put up with "cat punishment" for "abandoning" them -- we've been through this before. It all settles down after a week.

This is our final report from World Space Congress 2002. Hope you enjoyed them. Signing off from Houston, Texas.

Bryce and Cheryl

The Planetary Society National Space Society

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