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Ad Astra
Volume 15, Number 4 September/October/November 2003


Countdown

Hail and Farewell
By Frank Sietzen, Jr.

This issue marks my 29th as your editor-in-chief since taking the helm in the autumn of 1998. Much has happened across that half-decade, many of which we could have never imagined. But today, the American space program faces a new version of an old challenge-how to seek a new direction and a new goal that can reinvigorate our space efforts. While, at the same time, return the Space Shuttle to flight to complete the space station and get astronauts working on the experiments and research that will help inform whatever path we choose to follow in space in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Also emerging are new entrepreneurs with the cash, talent, and vision to establish a new element to the space program—an alternative to business as usual. Not all will succeed to implement their dreams. But some will—and those who do will literally change history.

Recently, I chose to join one of them. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, is building and about to fly a totally new partially reusable small satellite launch vehicle. That launcher, the Falcon, is poised to dramatically lower the cost of space transportation. If it is successful, it may well start a process that will lead to lower cost vehicles of larger and more capable sizes and abilities. The company’s founder, Elon Musk, made several fortunes in his two previous successful Internet businesses (ever use Paypal?) and is now devoting some of his financial rewards to opening the space frontier for the small user and the entrepreneur. This summer, Elon asked me to join his team as his Washington, DC representative. I have accepted, and we are now heading towards launch of our first paying customer in the early part of 2004. The demands of a true launch services company will make it impossible for me to continue to serve as your editor. Thus this issue is my last.

I owe many thanks to former NSS Executive Director Pat Dasch for the trust and confidence she placed in me, first in hiring me as editor-in-chief, and later in anointing me as NSS’ Director of Communications. I also owe thanks to Chris Pancratz, for helping me continue on an outsource basis in 2002 and 2003. Just days before he died, Chris had emailed me after I sent him details of our launch plans. When the Falcon 1 flies next year from our west coast base at Vandenberg, it will fly in your memory, Chris. Thanks are also due to Brian Chase, with whom I’ve worked during the past year, his first as Executive Director. Hats off as well to Vivian Silver and Sherry Wilson of NSS headquarters for making my time there a pleasant one.

The production team that actually produces your magazine is among the best in the publishing business. Andrew Ladson, Lenny Righter, and a superb team are to thank for taking Ad Astra to new standards during my time. The result has been an unprecedented four awards for excellence during my tenure.
With Mercury Publishing Services, Ad Astra’s appearance is in good hands.

We have been blessed above all with superb writers. Since I came aboard in 1998, we have had Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, and National Book Award winners in these pages. Such luminaries as William Burrows, Tom Heppenheimer, Arthur C. Clarke, and Joan Johnson-Freese have graced our pages. And we have opened the doorway to new writers, like Laura Woodmansee and Travis Kircher. We’ve devoted pages to lunar colonies, Mars bases, interstellar rockets, and new technologies like the Space Elevator. I was also the first editor to devote an entire issue to NSS Chapters. In the summers of 1999 and 2000 we also had a crop of super interns who worked hard to learn the secrets of good magazine design and content.

Ahead for the Society and the space program are challenges that will define us for years, perhaps a generation. We must craft a space program that builds on our current programs while petitions our leaders for additional advanced goals, goals that can only be realized by the next generation of space advocates and explorers. And there must be room in those goals and dreams for the new crop of spacers, like my new boss and others who will find and follow their pathway to space.

My thanks above all to the readers of this magazine. Your support and encouragement have made a hard job easier. I’ll be forever grateful for all of your many words of support.

And now, as someone once said during the 2000 Presidential campaign, it’s time for me to go!

May America ever sail the sea of space in a position second to none. And may the spirit of our founder, Wernher Von Braun, guide us in this exciting, never ending journey to the stars, a journey that in our time has only just begun.

Ad Astra-Per Aspera.
Semper Exploro.
-Frank


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