Spaceweek


The attacks (from various fronts) on space programs like the Shuttle and Galileo (Jupiter orbiter and probe) and reactions to the Challenger tragedy and controversy over military programs like Star Wars identified a need for spokesmen for space advocacy. I didn’t see many people doing anything about it, so I attempted to fill that role, and had some success, at least in the St. Louis area.

My personal involvement began in April of 1981 with the battle for Galileo and my discovery of Spaceweek. The Spaceweek movement was a public outreach centered on the July 20 anniversary of the first moon landing. It was too late to pull off a Spaceweek event in the summer of 1981 but this was the start of organizing the space activist community in the St. Louis area. I made contacts with the St Louis Science Center and the local AIAA section and we planned events for July of 1982. I found some members of the L-5 Society at Washington University and they put me in touch with a reporter at a St. Louis television station which really helped our initial publicity campaign. Eventually I found other like-minded people and we formed a local chapter of the L5 Society, later part of the National Space Society.

Through these organizations, we sponsored many public displays, put on special events, held seminars, wrote letters to the newspaper, did television and radio interviews, and gave numerous talks to schools and civic groups. The goal was to have the St. Louis Space Frontier Society (SLSF), and its technically knowledgable members, be the resource the media would contact to get an independent opinion on space topics. The tricky part was establishing our technical credentials without speaking on behalf of our employer (this was reserved for the public affairs department). It turned out to be a win-win. McDonnell Douglas happily sent requests for speakers our way, and we could provide the media with info and opinions independent of the constraints of a large government contractor.

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Spaceweek mall display, 1983

The first St. Louis Spaceweek (1982) was a week long series of events that came off nicely with decent attendance. For that first effort the biggest problem was paying for speakers and other expenses. The Star Trek II movie came out in June and we did an advance screening as a fund raiser. We also made t-shirts and sold those. The resultant media coverage, the real goal of the program, was a bit disappointing but we were happy with this first effort.

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Meanwhile the national L5 Society held their first Space Development Conference in April and I was able to attend several of those over the years. Occasionally I was able to get McDonnell Douglas to sponsor my expenses. Through these conferences and our associations with the national L-5/National Space Institute, AIAA, and Spaceweek organizations, we made a lot of contacts and established a good reputation for putting on successful outreach programs in St. Louis. The subsequent years were more successful in terms of publicity. We were learning how to do this, how to be promoters.

The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 16, 1983 - "Space Activists Go into Political Orbit, with Far-Out Goals"

During the 1980s we had some fairly successful Spaceweek programs. Speakers included John Yardley, Charlie Walker (MDAC astronaut), Torrance Johnson (JPL Voyager scientist), Bruce McCandless (astronaut), Wendell Mendell (planetary scientist), Bob Overmyer (astronaut), Rep. Harold Volkmer (NASA appropriations committee), Kerry Joels (NASM), Warren James (JPL), Marcia Smith (CRS), Charlie Duke (astronaut), and many others. This continued for ten years or more, into the early 1990s.

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Astronaut Robert Overmyer at a 1983 Spaceweek event