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The Space Frontier Foundation's Fourth Annual
Return to the Moon Conference
"Crossroads to the Cosmos"

July 18 - 20, 2002 (33rd anniversary of the first Moon landing)
At the Hilton NASA Clear Lake Hotel, Houston, Texas

Conference Manager: Manny Pimenta
Honorary Co-Chairs: George Abbey, Wendell Mendell and John Young
Return to the Moon IV Report
by John Hanks, Space Frontier Foundation Communications Director

Return to the Moon IV
The Space Frontier Foundation's 4th annual Return to the Moon Conference, "Return to the Moon IV," is now history. Held July 18th through 20th, 2002 at the Hilton NASA Clear Lake Hotel in Houston, Texas, it brought together a cadre of space scientists, engineers and enthusiasts who wish to design a blueprint for joint government and commercial human settlements on the Moon, including commercial hotels, mining facilities and a planetary training base for future Mars explorers.

The Conference was led by three excellent co-chairs: John Young, an active astronaut, the first human launched seven times from a planetary surface (six from Earth, one from the Moon) and Associate Director at the Johnson Space Center; George Abbey, recently retired from NASA as JSC Director and formerly Senior Assistant for International Issues at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, and Wendell Mendell
, head of the NASA JSC Earth Sciences & Solar System Exploration Division.

Some of the prominent presenters included: Paul Spudis, Lunar Science Expert; William Burrows – Author of "This New Ocean" and "Deep Black"; James Oberg – America's Premiere Russian Space Expert; and Rick Tumlinson – Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation.

Following the Conference, Manny Pimenta, RTM IV Project Manager, on behalf of the Foundation, called on NASA to move ahead quickly with plans recommended by the National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Sciences, to include sample-gathering trips to the Moon as part of a master strategy for future space exploration. NASA commissioned the NRC study.

"This is a great sign that NASA may finally be reconnecting with the Moon after 30 years," said a delighted Pimenta. "We plan to meet with NASA and will be happy to work with them to catalyze the support of the private sector for the effort. The data that can be gathered and shared will be invaluable to the future settlement of the Moon as well as our knowledge base about the worlds around us, including Mars."

Foundation Chairman Bob Noteboom said, "The Space Frontier Foundation is ready to facilitate employing existing public and private sector technology to return to the Moon. We're pleased that NASA is looking at getting back into the business of lunar exploration. It's a great move."

Rick Tumlinson, Foundation Founder, also urged renewed emphasis on the Data Purchase program for lunar material recovered from such missions, saying, "The consensus here is that NASA can open the door to commercial Lunar development if they will implement a data purchase program to encourage the gathering of much-needed data from the Moon."

Manny Pimenta James Oberg singing Pat Rawlings artwork
Manny Pimenta,
RTM IV Manager.
James Oberg signs copies of his books at RTM IV. Pat Rawlings art
on display at RTM IV.

RTM IV was the first Lunar Conference to follow the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and became a uniquely memorable event – a touchstone for Lunar Colonization and Frontier settlement in general. We now have the answers to several questions that hung in the air as the Conference approached: Has the lunar settlement passion dimmed in the context of the national security threat? Would it attract the numbers it has in the past? Can we accelerate the movement with all the challenges we face?

The Foundation's quarterly journal, Space Front, put these and other questions to RTM IV Project Manager Pimenta:

SF: How would you rate the Conference's success?

MP: I am very pleased overall with what was accomplished. This year we seemed to have more than our share of fiscal, organizational and national security challenges. Thanks to the effort and dedication of the RTM Conference team, however, we were able to have a very successful event. The passion for lunar settlement is indeed alive and well.

SF: What was the impact of their involvement of your three incredible Co-Chairs, Young, Abbey and Wendell?

MP: We were honored with the participation of our distinguished Co-Chairs. Their presence alone made it an impressive and memorable event. The message from each of them was very clear: The Moon is the next logical step in human space exploration. And the time to act is now.

SF: How would you characterize the quality of the presentations?

MP: There was the customary array of highly professional technical and policy presentations from the various participants ranging from lunar based solar power generation to using the moon for nuclear waste disposal. One of the highlight presentations would have to be Dr. Paul Spudis with the L1 mission proposal. His is a real and detailed mission objective, which, if (or more optimistically – when) implemented will go a very long way in creating the infrastructure needed for long term lunar exploration and for the eventual establishment of a permanent human presence on the surface of another planet.

SF: The banquet speaker was author William Burroughs, who talked about his Alliance To Rescue Civilization (ARC). How was that received?

MP: The ARC is a project which embodies all the things that the Foundation stands for: it is focused on assuring the survival of human civilization by archiving all accumulated knowledge and safely storing it on the Moon, where it would be very well protected from deliberate or even unintended destruction. This represents our last chance to save civilization should one of the many unthinkable catastrophes visit us on this planet before we achieve our space settlement goals. We would like to work closely with ARC and find out how we can help their very worthy project succeed.

SF: How did the media treat the Conference?

MP: I am most pleased with the media exposure generated for this event. I would like to thank and acknowledge John Hanks for single handedly seeing to it that this event received the media attention it deserved. His tireless and dedicated effort resulted in dozens of media impressions across multiple venues including a number of local radio and TV stations, Internet sites, up to and including the Associated Press, which led to local, regional and national articles. This media exposure, in my opinion, is key to building momentum and credibility for future RTM events.

SF: What would you say were the two most important outcomes?

MP: The most important outcome was, as always, the interaction among the attendees, and the unity to interact and network in different settings, both formal and informal. This is a key service that we are able to provide to the space advocacy community at large and to the lunar advocates in particular. It affords people an opportunity to cross pollinate ideas that advance the discussion and spark the interest and commitment of the participants.

Secondly, this year we also made major strides in establishing and strengthening relationships with the NASA and aerospace community in the Houston area. We believe that this new and more open climate of communications is exactly what was needed and we welcome NASA's willingness to engage the space advocacy community in discussing our common futures in space. We hope to capitalize on this by continuing to work on opening up new channels of communication and identifying possible areas of cooperation based on our shared goals of increasing human presence in space.

SF: What is happening now as a result of RTM IV?

MP: We are pursuing and offer by JSC to hold informal discussions about their future plans and
explore areas or possible cooperation with the private sector. A new era of open dialog and direct communication holds great promise for future progress in establishing a true partnership among NASA and private interests. The Space Frontier Foundation has consistently advocated this as the ideal method for achieving success in our expansion into space.

SF: Will we see anything different in the Foundation's relationship with other space advocacy groups?

MP: We are beginning to prepare in earnest for RTM V. An important part of that process is establishing closer contact with our sister organizations. It is very important to demonstrate a spirit of cooperation and harmony among all space advocates. We share very nearly identical visions of our collective future. It makes all the sense in the world that we work closely together to achieve that vision.

SF: What about the education community...the students of America?

MP: We would like every student in the U.S. to be aware that there are serious people with serious ideas about returning human beings to the Moon and to establish a permanent presence there. We should not only be able to inspire some of them to pursue space related careers, but equally as important, the more people we can reach and make aware of our efforts, the more accepting they will be of the concept of settling the Moon.

Spreading our message is something that we can definitely do right now and that it will pay enormous dividends as these school kids grow and start contributing to society. We should not only be able to inspire some of them to pursue space related careers, but equally as important, the more people we can reach and make aware of our efforts, the more accepting they will be of the concept of settling the Moon. If we had a knowledgeable and aware population right now, who accepted lunar and space exploration as a given, we would encounter much less resistance in getting initial projects off the ground. We would enjoy greater political support, there would be more investment capital available and more interest and participation in all space issues.

SF: What should we look forward to at RTM V?

MP: Our main focus for RTM V will be to demonstrate progress and tangible results. We intend to have RTM V surpass RTM IV in every aspect: sponsorship, attendance, media presence, and an increased number of substantial projects and action items. We also want to be able to report success in our ground breaking contacts with NASA and the aerospace community. And we would like to know that there are at least a few tens of thousands of school kids out there who are aware that RTM V is going on (and maybe even have a few of them show up at the event!)

We also want to be able to report progress across areas of technology that are likely to prove beneficial to our project. Areas such as robotics, materials, propulsion, life support, power generation, and so on. A main focus for RTM V would be to deliberate and reach consensus on a clear and detailed definition of the Return to the Moon Project defining our project goals, setting some milestones, and creating a project plan. We intend to begin to build an organizational structure that would pool the talents and abilities of our membership and leverage these resources to affect changes and spur progress in all aspects of space exploration but specifically, in those areas most directly related to establishing a lunar presence within our lifetimes.

SF: Was RTM IV a financial success as well?

MP: This outcome surpassed our expectations in the fact that the event was totally financially successful. As is the case in establishing a lunar settlement, economic viability is the sufficient but essential prerequisite for longevity and ultimate success. We are pleased to report a significant profit for the Space Frontier Foundation was generated in spite of the challenges previously alluded to.

Click Here for the Return to the Moon IV Teaser

Click Here for the Return to the Moon IV Call for Papers

Space.com's Leonard David wrote a very good review of the Conference:
The United States Has Unfinished Business on the Moon by Leonard David, Senior Space Writer, posted: 01:20 pm ET 23 July 2002 http://space.com/scienceastronomy/moon_return_020723.html.

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Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon is the definitive guide to the Apollo program. Click above to order from Amazon.com.

Robert A. Heinlein's classic, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, is a must read for all Lunar enthusiasts.

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