Semi-live bloggin'

I'm here at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington DC after an afternoon of interesting offerings at the FAA/AST 9th Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference. (I did not bring a laptop but I borrowed one for this quickie, name-dropping post.)

Patti Smith and the gang's all here from AST of course. Ms. Smith finally answered the eternal question, are we alone. No we are not, she said. By which she meant, we are not alone in the space business, and spoke of Canada, China, Europe, India, South Korea, Brazil, Russia, Japan and others who are in the business too. And, she said, "It's more than a race, it's a business."

Impressively, AST has a lot of friends in high places. Dignitaries joining Patti today included DOT Secretary Norman Mineta and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. They both appear openly and stridently supportive of commercial space transport. Secretary Mineta said he has now added spaceports to his list of "essential infrastructure" for moving the US economy. And he said, "We will move quickly to greenlight flights that we know are safe." He predicted the first commercial flights for passengers will be in 2008.

Disappointingly, Elon Musk could not speak as planned, but everyone understood why. (Go Falcon!)

During lunch the one-and-only Dr. Peter Diamandis treated us to an overview/preview of some spicy rocket racing. Nothing is hotter.

Other presenters from industry were on hand with cool slides and the occasional promo video -- from Bigelow (Mike Gold, Esq. spoke but didn't sound too much like a lawyer so he was engaging), Sea Launch, AirLaunch, Rocketplane (featuring real live test pilot John Herrington) and more.

Here's one hot tidbit that got a lot of attention from the new AST study released today,
The Economic Impact of Commmercial Space Transportation on the U.S. Economy - 2006 : "In 2004, commercial space transportation and enabled industries generated a total of nearly $98.1 billion in economic activity, over $25 billion in earnings, and over 550,000 jobs." Really!? Check out the whole study.

Wish you were here. (And yes, many of you are. In fact, Ms. Smith and the Secretary both noted how large the conference has grown.) Hi to all my new pals, including Naoyuki Fukuda of JAXA, and Lou Gomez from New Mexico (Southwest Regional Spaceport).

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