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Spaceflight symposium will cover all facets of 'our next giant leap'

Veteran space travelers and leaders of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry will gather in Las Cruces, N.M., Oct. 24 and 25 for the third annual International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight (ISPS 2007).

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Two days of presentations, panel discussions and interview sessions will cover topics ranging from vehicles and launch systems to space tourism and spaceports. The theme of the symposium, presented by New Mexico State University and the X PRIZE Foundation, is "Our Next Giant Leap: Progress and Next Steps."

"The symposium is the best way to meet the space explorers and the people developing the vehicles and systems to launch this next giant leap in transportation." said Patricia Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at NMSU and organizer of the symposium. "Here in New Mexico we have begun the first steps toward creating the platform for the success of commercial spaceflight in Spaceport America."

Robert A. Dickman, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), will serve as master of ceremonies for the event. The AIAA is a professional technical society with more than 35,000 members in 79 countries. Dickman is a retired Air Force major general.

Confirmed participants include Anousheh Ansari, who became the world's first female private space explorer when she spent $20 million to fly to the International Space Station last September. She will discuss her experience in a session on space tourism.

Ansari provided the title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first nongovernmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks - a prize captured in 2004 by aerospace designer Burt Rutan.

The symposium's opening session will feature Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which is designing and building a launch vehicle and spaceship to transport cargo and then astronauts to the International Space Station; Clayton Mowry, president of Arianespace Inc. (USA), the world's leading satellite launch company; and Alex Tai, vice president for operations for Virgin Galactic, which will use New Mexico's Spaceport America as a base for space tourism flights.

ISPS 2007 will be held at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, which proved popular as the venue for last year's symposium. The Wirefly X PRIZE Cup "rocket festival" will follow on Oct. 27 and 28 at nearby Holloman Air Force Base. This is the third year that the symposium has preceded the annual X PRIZE competition.

Arianespace is the event's title sponsor. In addition to participation by Mowry, "Arianespace will bring one of their launch operators from French Guiana to speak in the session on spaceport development," Hynes said. "We need to understand that growing the spaceport network is important for us. There are no competitors, really. New Mexico's Spaceport America will thrive only if there is a network of spaceports across the globe."

Co-sponsoring organizations, in addition to the university and the X PRIZE Foundation, include the AIAA, the Association of Space Explorers, Space News and the Space Foundation.

Topics for the symposium's first day include progress on vehicle systems; the synergy between government and personal spaceflight; developing space tourism; an interview session with space tourists conducted by David Livingston, host of "The Space Show," an Internet radio program; and marketing the "new space" business.

The second day's schedule includes sessions on Spaceport America, which is under development in southern New Mexico; building a global network of spaceports; the impact of spaceports on communities; "Staying Alive in a Growing Market," a panel of successful space entrepreneurs; "When All You Need Is Cash," covering financial issues; and a question-and-answer session with astronauts and space tourists.

Each of the symposium's panels will include a veteran astronaut to provide the perspective of someone who has flown in space.

Early registration through Sept. 1 is $285, after which the fee goes to $325. Meals are included. Registration information is on the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Web site at http://spacegrant.nmsu.edu/isps/.