Friday, February 19, 2016

My Personal Journey into Space Policy Geekery

Politics – a topic everyone loves to argue about. However, space is generally a universally loved subject. We can disagree about how much money is spent on it, who pays, and what actions are taken toward what objectives, but we all love that work is being done in space. This is seen when we achieve big discoveries: gravitational wave detection, Pluto fly-by, humans landing on another world. Here in Florida, space is especially beloved.

Earlier this month, I participated in my fourth Florida Space Day. Yesterday, we held the wrap-up meeting. Our goal is to effectively communicate with state legislators to promote space. After each annual event, we go over our lessons learned to improve the process for the next year. We try to make each year better and more impactful than the previous.

To understand why Space Day is so important to me, I need to go back in time four years. I was a doctoral student, enjoying my studies but wanting very much to get involved in space policy. I was President of the Florida Space Development Council, a National Space Society chapter, and was able to participate in Space Day thanks to FSDC sponsorship. I was thrilled to take part. When up in Tallahassee for the event, I was sitting on a job offer from CASIS, contemplating taking it (I did), but also wondering what a career in space policy would look like. As a student, the legislators loved meeting me. I felt like a sponge, absorbing everything.

The following years, I became a team lead and a subcommittee head, and I left my studies to enter the professional world. It really wasn't until this year that I felt that I could hold my own among the seasoned professionals advocating with me. Spreading the love of space is easy. Giving specific examples and answering the questions of busy and over-scheduled part-time state legislators is complex. This year, my fourth, I feel that I finally have the process down.

Building that confidence and expertise prepared me for my second space policy meeting yesterday: Congressman Bill Posey's Space Advisory Council. Twelve of us gathered with the Congressman to discuss relevant space topics of interest. In no particular order, this included: Orion and the Space Launch System, NASA commercial cargo and crew, education and public outreach, asteroid mining, launching from the United States versus elsewhere, certifications, the FAA's role in spaceflight, federal research grants, the presidential candidate's opinions on space, Air Force range, gravitational waves, the Chinese space agency, RD-180 Russian rockets, and NASA's budget planning.

I'm the only woman on the council and was the youngest by far. It was an honor to serve on the council with such a distinguished crowd. I proudly contributed to the conversation with my informed and sometimes unpopular opinions that I hope challenged some of the perceptions in the room. I've been doing quite a bit of research and self-study lately, and I'm hoping that my fresh look at the issues can be of use to the Congressman and even others on the council. It was a fun afternoon!

It amazes me to see how much I've learned in four years. And this is just the start of my space policy journey. What comes next, I can't wait to see!

Congressman Bill Posey's Space Advisory Council - February 18, 2016


  1. Adrian looks very happy to be there!

    1. Ha! Maybe not in that shot, but in the April 2014 group photo he has a pretty big grin.