Space hackers unite. Seriously, they did.

[May 12 — Since I originally wrote this post, a couple of media follow-up articles has been written about the Space Hacker Workshop.  I’m adding new references below.]

About now, some people are thinking, gosh, Rick has been awfully quiet.  Yeah, that happens… particularly when things get extremely busy for me.  I am finally starting to come up for air.

2U Ardulab

Last weekend (May 4-5, 2013), I attended the Citizen Astronaut and Space Hacker Workshop, in Mountain View, just across the freeway from NASA Ames.  Actually, I did a bit more than attend it. Because I know some of the organizers, I was asked to lend a hand, a laptop, and a projector for some parts of the workshop. Attendees became familiar with me famously dashing around with a mic during Q&A sessions. 🙂

[At right: 2U ArduLab]

The event was co-sponsored by Citizens in Space (CiS) and Silicon Valley Space Center (SVSC).  CiS had somehow purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx.  This means they will sponsor 10 citizen astronauts.  SVSC has been pushing the creation of small payloads, co-sponsoring talks with AIAA San Francisco on the types of projects people had managed to design and build; the next step would be a hands-on workshop using the types of components that might go into a low-cost space payload.  Entering into the picture is Infinity Aerospace, with the ArduLab they had created for NanoRacks for use on the International Space Station.

From there, the creation of the workshop began to snowball.  Speakers on a variety of space subjects — biology, radiation, mesospheric phenomena, 3D printing, flight opportunities, etc.  Planning for the hands-on sessions.  The point for SVSC was to give the attendees the knowledge and skills to create low-cost space payloads.  The point for CiS was to fly payloads created by citizen scientists, and find a few to serve as citizen astronauts.

The workshop was sold out.  About 100 people showed up.  I was expecting the vast majority of attendees to come from Silicon Valley.  That might still be true, but I was surprised at the number of people I met from out of town.  The attendees included aerospace professionals, researchers, college and high school students.  In one case, I think a mom brought her young son to immerse him in dreams but use his hands to make them real.

Rather than tell you what happened, I’ll refer you to articles that were written about the workshop before and after the event.  CiS released an announcement of the workshop on April 2.  Shortly after that, an article about the workshop appeared in the on-line Citizen Science section of Scientific American.

In the days before the event, we started to see these articles:

Among the articles written by journalists attending the event:

Freeman and Messier wrote a couple of follow up articles about a week after the event (added May 12).

We also got photo coverage of the event:


Of course, there were some people who wanted to come who couldn’t.  One of them was a partner with SVSC in building a bioreactor module.  To take his place was a telepresence robot which he could control from over a thousand miles away.

[At left: telepresence robots join discussion.]

I have followed up with a few people as a result of the workshop.  Hopefully, some teams have formed and payload designs are emerging.

One additional note:  On Saturday, as we were starting up, we were reminded that the workshop started on Star Wars Day.  We were greeted with “May the Fourth be with you.”  For some, this was particularly fitting.  For others of us, we just want to open up the space frontier, and are taking action to make it happen.

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