Friday, February 5, 2016

Adventures in Tallahassee with Florida Space Day

For the fourth year, I drove up to Florida's capital, Tallahassee, on Tuesday for Florida Space Day. During this day, our group of space industry representatives meets with as many legislators as we can schedule in order to thank them for their support and to ask for their continued support. For the third year, I was a team lead for a small team of four people schedule to meet with six legislators and drop off information at a handful of other offices. Although I'm not part of a sponsoring entity this year, I drove up on my own dime because I believe in the cause – and it's fun!

The event begins with a light reception at the Challenger Learning Center the evening before so that teams can becoming acquainted with one another. This also means catching up with colleagues and meeting new people. This year, AIAA Executive Director and former astronaut Sandy Magnus joined us; she's astronaut #47 I've had the pleasure to meet. Typically, a large number of us go out to dinner after, usually to Harry's across the street.

Hello pre-reception, happy to be here! - February 2, 2016

My morning started early on Wednesday with a 7:30 breakfast at the Challenger Center to meet up with my team. Cissy Proctor, the new director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity spoke to us at 8:00. She quoted from their new marketing campaign: "Some states promise you the moon. Florida delivers it."

Florida's Capitol in Tallahassee. The dolphins are fitting. - February 2, 2016

A view of Tallahassee from the top 23rd floor of the Capitol - February 2, 2016

Our team's first meeting with Space Coast area Senator Thad Altman was scheduled to be at 8:30 but had to be rescheduled. I took the opportunity to admire a beautiful painting in his office of a rocket launch and my undergraduate university's campus. Our team then had lots of time to kill, so we hung out in the Florida Space Day exhibit hall in the 3rd floor of the Capitol building. It was then that I really got a chance to speak with astronaut Sandy Magnus. We spoke about travel, blogging, and why she loves Florida.

My alma mater Florida Tech in this painting with a space shuttle launch - February 2, 2016

Florida Space Day exhibits line the 3rd floor rotunda of the Capitol - February 3,2016

Meeting astronaut Sandy Magnus - February 3, 2016

I've never had a negative meeting during Florida Space Day. Generally speaking, Florida lawmakers are very supportive of the space industry. Most are very enthusiastic, even going as far as to say they wanted to be astronauts or they wanted to take a special trip from wherever their home is to see a rocket launch. One year I met a House Representative whose uncle was a private astronaut who flew to the International Space Station. You never know how the conversations will go.

Our team meeting with Rep. "Coach P" Rene Plasencia of Orlando - February 3, 2016

This year I had the most challenging meeting yet. This Tea Party-leaning Republican representative did not believe that any government spending should go to the space program at all, including grants and incentives to private industry. It is difficult to convince someone dead against all spending that some spending is not only beneficial, but necessary. The country's space industry wouldn't exist without government investment and infrastructure. Thankfully, he was very supportive of the commercial space industry and innovation.

Our meeting with Senator Altman was rescheduled to the late afternoon, so what was to be our first meeting became our last. The senator is one of our biggest supporters in the Florida senate and it's always a pleasure to speak with him. He took our team to see the Senate Chambers, empty at the moment. I hadn't been down to the floor before. It's such a grand room!

Senator Thad Altman kindly showed us the Senate Chambers - February 3, 2016

Florida Space Days always ends with a party, this time held at the Challenger Center. NASA's Spaceman was still around, so I got a picture. I swapped stories with my colleagues and met a few more people. Then, I was off again for a 4 hour drive back home. And thus concluded another great Space Day!

Hurrah for another successful Florida Space Day! - February 3,2016

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