Thursday, March 19, 2015

Space Enthusiast Set to Invade Tallahassee: Florida Space Day Prep

At the end of 2012, I was a planetary science doctoral student eager to spread my wings in the space policy arena. I had been interested in policy for a while, but it wasn't until I heard a talk by an astrophysycist-turned-policy guy when I started grad school that I realized that the field wasn't beyond me. In fact, my science background gives me an advantage. I had started getting involved two years prior, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to make a difference in my community.

I had heard about Florida Space Day earlier in the year. The space and aerospace industry in the state collectively visits legislators in Tallahassee each year to promote the industry as a whole and to thank the legislators for their support. According to the website, “Florida Space Day was developed to ensure that Florida remains at the forefront of the nation’s space program.” I really wanted to get involved, but I didn't know how. I wasn't working for any of the companies involved.

At the time, I was president of the Florida Space Development Council, the local chapter of the National Space Society. My fantastic VP got us hooked up with the right people so that we could participate. I was so excited! I joined the Implementation Committee and organized meetings with several state senators and representatives for my team. I research our targets' biographies and read up on some of the proposed bills and funding priorities. I was ready!

But I was also a tiny bit shy, not having the confidence that I have now. I let the more experienced members of my team do most of the talking, and I learned. I learned a ton! I also snuck into a closed meeting of the Steering Committee to meet the pro-space lieutenant governor at the time. I got in trouble for it after, but it was so worth it. She's a neat lady, very knowledgeable about space, and she was wearing purple pumps (my favorite color).

I sat in on a senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee meeting where the Space Day co-chair was giving testimony. I posed with a guy in an astronaut suit. We wrapped up the day with a reception at the top of the capitol building where at least three astronauts were in attendance. I was in love. I was on a high for the entire drive back home.

I was so impressed with the knowledge and support of our state legislators! Everyone who my team spoke with was pro-space. We met with a senator who is a leading space advocate in the state, a senator who wants to be an astronaut, and a representative whose uncle flew on the International Space Station as a private astronaut. The reception that we received from our state legislators really made it clear to me why Florida is one of the top states in the country for the space industry.

The following year, I returned as a member of the Implementation Committee, but also took on a new role as the Partnership & Outreach Subcommittee. It had been a few years since the group had recruited new partners in an organized effort, so I assembled a team to help me do that. We invited several new partners to join us! Fresh faces are always great to see, especially with newspace companies emerging and setting up business in Florida.

For last year's Space Day, my team successfully met with 12 legislative offices, the most of all of the Space Day teams that year! Again, everyone we met with was pro-space, a heartening experience. I attended a House session where our Space Day teams were introduced. I enjoyed the evening reception at the top of the capitol, this time participating in the race to the top using the stairwell (I was not the fastest by far). Once again, I returned home exhilarated from the experience.

It is time again for Florida Space Day to return to our state capital, and this time I'm representing my new company Swiss Space Systems. Today was the last planning meeting before next Wednesday's event. I'm in the process of scheduling appointments with legislators for my team. We discussed agendas and last minute items. We were given tips on how best to present ourselves and communicate with legislators. We were shown a beautiful new NASA banner that will hang with the Florida Space Day banner in the rotunda of the capitol. We received final team assignments. I'm all set to move forward and I can't wait until I drive up to Tallahassee on Tuesday!

More information about Florida Space Day can be found at


  1. Good luck with Space Day this year! It's weird not being a part of it anymore.

    1. Thanks! I was just thinking today that I miss you and wish you were still involved. Hope all is well with you and the family!

    2. Thanks Laura! One of these days I'll have to tell you the whole story behind that.