Happy New Year, Launch Pad readers! I hope that all of you (at least, all of you who follow the same calendar system as I do) closed out 2009 and the 200*s in style. I managed to find a pretty good way to do so: I got married to my lovely wife on December 29th.
Although I'm inclined to say that my fin-de-décennie was the best one possible (especially in any forum my wife can read!), I have to admit, the burgeoning NewSpace community--and the cadre of Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge teams in particular--did a pretty good job of it, too!
To begin with, Aviation Week and Space Technology, the highly respected space publication more commonly referred to as AvWeek, named "the Space Entrepreneur" as its person of the year for 2009. Dave Masten, the CEO of Masten Space Systems garnered a glamour shot on the cover of the magazine, posing with Xoie, the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge Level Two winning rocket. The article itself focuses primarily on Masten Space Systems, with additional attention for other companies in the NewSpace field such as Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and SpaceX.
As the article notes:
Collectively, they are in the vanguard of a new industry, poised to transform how humans venture into space in ways that most observers can scarcely imagine today. Space entrepreneurs had a big influence on aerospace in 2009, although it does not begin to compare with the impact they are likely to have in years to come. That is why Aviation Week chose this intrepid group of engineers and visionaries as the 2009 Person of the Year.
We'll raise a glass of leftover New Year's champagne to that!
As if that weren't enough, the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge is also performing quite well on a public poll being conducted by NASA in order to identify the top NASA story of 2009. In fact, while I was writing this post, the challenge (identified in the poll as "Lithe Lunar Landers Launch, X Prize Winners Take Home Cash") moved into first place--meaning that the voters in the poll have ranked this as the most important NASA-related story of the year! That's right, it's beating out the discovery of water on the Moon, the final repair of Hubble, the launch of Ares 1-X, the appointment of a new NASA Administrator, the naming of the final Shuttle crew, the Augustine report, the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, et cetera. At least for now.
Voting is still open for an unspecified amount of time. You can vote once per day. Make your voice heard.
Of course, given what we've learned from NASA this year, the final count may not matter all that much. Indeed, if recent history holds true, you can bet on "Tranquility selected as the name for the new Space Station Node" is the sure fire winner!
So, kudos to all you space entrepreneurs for some well deserved accolades at the end of 2009. But let's not rest on our laurels. Onwards and upwards!