The Space Foundation just wrapped up the National Space Symposium — the 27th held here in Colorado Springs — and, although I didn’t think it possible after last year, we outdid ourselves again.
The potential government shutdown cost us a few government speakers and attendees, but everything else came off spectacularly.
We had record attendance and an agenda that was off the charts with senior leaders from around the world.
More than 9,000 people were involved, including speakers, attendees, exhibitors, staff, our 100+ co-sponsors and our wonderful volunteers, most of whom come from the local community. We had representation from at least 20 countries, including China, the Ukraine, Germany, the Netherlands, Nigeria and even Japan, despite the devastation of last month’s earthquake and tsunami.
More than anything, the National Space Symposium is a place where business gets done. Although we never know the full economic impact of the conversations that go on at the event, attendees told me that they held many productive meetings and several transactions were consummated onsite.
One of the most obvious signs of growth was that we had four exhibit center areas — up from two in recent history. If you drove by The Broadmoor during set-up and tear-down, you might have even caught glimpse of the five large displays we had on site: models of potential crew vehicles for use after the Space Shuttle program ends and an actual capsule that has orbited the Earth and been recovered for re-use.
We had a decidedly youthful flair, with programs for “new generation” attendees and many young faces on the agenda. We hosted 91 teachers from all over the nation and about 1,800 Front Range students who participated in sessions with astronauts, tours and a program for local students studying Mandarin featuring a Chinese space program speaker.
If you were to analyze our agenda, awards, exhibits and special programs, several themes would emerge: globalization, the bittersweet end of the Space Shuttle program, the shift to more commercialization, the broad applications of space technology in our everyday lives, an emerging new generation of space professionals and the educational challenges we face in developing tomorrow’s scientists and technologists.
The National Space Symposium has major impact on our community — well over $25 million financially, national media exposure and huge local involvement. The Space Foundation greatly appreciates everything Colorado Springs has done — and continues to do — to make this event successful.
Elliot H. Pulham is chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation.