My husband Phil and I had a wonderful time at the International Space Development Conference (hosted by the National Space Society), where we met so many amazing people from around the world who share a common love for all things space and the betterment of humanity through space exploration. We had an exhibitor table for my books and as both an engineer and an author, I am grateful I was given the opportunity to speak and share my passion for how science fiction serves to stir us to imagine the possibilities about the future. Science fiction has influenced so many to enter scientific or engineering occupations and invent what was once regarded as fantasy.
Seeing all of the young people attending from other countries because they did research projects in line with space exploration was fun and it was also exciting to see their interest in STEM. The picture at the top of this blog post is of the Space Settlement Contest Grand Prize winners. You can also check out their model entry below:
Students from around the world made posters of their projects and we attended their presentations where they explained what their project was about. The projects ranged from living in space (with well-constructed means of providing for all of the needs people living there would require), to asteroid mining, and farming in space. Their projects showed both technical savvy and creativity. The students had the opportunity to show off their soft skills while they explained their research and they all did a great job.
I had several special moments with various groups of young people. Some boys from Romania were talking among themselves as they dropped a water bottle accidentally and one of them kicked it. It went towards the direction of our exhibitor table and I could tell by the boys’ expressions that they thought I would be getting on to them about it. Instead, I came from around my table and kicked it back to them and signaled for them to kick it back. In the middle of the space conference foyer, I had a impromptu game of soccer with a group of boys and the smiles and laughter were universal – although the game ended abruptly when one of the conference officials spotted our shenanigans and shut us down 🙂
We had a raffle every day and the students who won were so excited! The prize was an artsy canvas depicting Kepler-186f, which is the planet that the aliens are from in my science fiction novel, Alien Neighbors. One of our winners gave us some cute buttons she made to remember her by – which we will always treasure.
As I walked about the conference foyer that ran along the front of all of the session rooms, I waved and smiled and got many smiles and waves in return. Many of the young people came to our exhibitor table to say hello and we made many new friends among the adult conference attendees, fellow exhibitors and presenters, and students, throughout the four days.
I am so excited that I also got to meet one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Pascal Lee, and I was very honored that he wanted a signed copy of my science fiction novel, Alien Neighbors. Not only is he an amazing planetary scientist – he is also a talented artist and even more – he is a super nice guy. Celebrities are typically swarmed by people while also prepping for their presentations which has to be stressful, yet he still paused in the midst of it all to encourage me. Isaac Arthur, the president of the National Space Society, dropped by our table to say hello and chat a bit. We had a delightful conversation about the impact of science fiction on science. We got to know a fellow author named Alastair Storm Browne who has written a really good book, Cosmic Careers. His book was perfect for this conference, since there were so many young people attending interested in space careers.
The icing on the cake for me occurred in the afternoon of the last day. I got to meet Col. Eileen M. Collins. Among her many achievements, she is the first American woman to command a space mission, as well as the first to pilot the space shuttle. She shares her life story in a terrific book called Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars (which I got signed – Yay!) She graciously accepted a signed copy of Alien Neighbors in return 🙂 She made me feel truly valued during our brief chat – something I will always remember and cherish.
While we went to the conference intending to sell my books (and we did sell some – Yay!), something even better happened. We met some incredible people and made new friends, we learned a lot about space exploration and what is currently being developed, and we were also blessed to be able to encourage many of the next generation of scientists and engineers. Special thanks to my incredible, handsome husband Phil – I couldn’t do what I do without his love and help – and to Ken Ruffin and the North Texas Chapter of the NSS for their encouragement and support – it was an experience we will never forget!