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Meet space heroes and space entrepreneurs at international symposium

It's not too late to tap into the action as heroes of the first Space Race and frontrunners in the new one gather in Las Cruces Oct. 17 and 18 for the second annual International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight.

A NASA spacesuit worn by an astronaut in space was on display at the White Sands Test Range information booth at last year's International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight. This year's event has been expanded to two full days of sessions on various aspects of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry.

"In fact, we will take registration at the door," said Patricia Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium and co-chair of the symposium, which will be held at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

"This is going to be a historic event and we would like to see the community take advantage of it," Hynes said. "There are going to be some amazing people at the symposium and you can meet them and hear their ideas about the challenges and opportunities of commercial spaceflight."

Among the astronauts expected at the event is Buzz Aldrin, who accompanied Neil Armstrong on the historic Apollo XI moon walk in 1969. Speakers and panelists for the two-day event will include more than 30 aerospace industry leaders and pioneers - CEOs and top managers of new enterprises such as Virgin Galactic, Rocketplane Kistler, SpaceX, Starchaser Industries and the Rocket Racing League, as well as established companies such as Lockheed Martin and government agencies such as the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA.

ABC television newsman Sam Donaldson will be the master of ceremonies for the first day of the symposium.

"Making Spaceflight Personal" is the theme of the symposium - and "personal" is meant in the broadest sense of the word. In addition to business aspects of the commercial space travel industry, the symposium will include sessions on launch vehicles, space tourism, the medical considerations of suborbital and orbital flight, and the development of Spaceport America and spaceport networks.

One of the sessions, titled "Up Close and Personal with Space," will be a panel discussion and question-and-answer session with astronauts who have experienced the risks and rewards of spaceflight.

The symposium is presented by New Mexico State University, the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium and the X PRIZE Foundation. It is supported by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Association of Space Explorers and the National Space Society.

The symposium is held annually as part of the X PRIZE Cup competitions. The X PRIZE Cup - featuring Lunar Lander Challenge and Vertical Rocket Challenge competitions, Space Elevator games and other attractions - will take place Oct. 20 and 21 at the Las Cruces International Airport.

The symposium is an opportunity for New Mexicans to learn more about the industry that could have a transforming impact on the state's economy, organizers said.

"This kind of economic development comes along very rarely," said Bob Sweitzer, southern New Mexico director for Technology Ventures Corp. and co-chair of the portion of the symposium that will deal with the business and economic development aspects of the new industry.

"Economic impact takes place in waves," Sweitzer said. "The primary wave is the people involved in new technologies, but for every one of these businesses engaged in exotic technologies, there are support activities and services that are needed. So we can see a whole second wave of economic impact that will take place. That's why this is of interest to everyone in southern New Mexico."

Detailed information about the symposium, including an online registration form, can be found on the ISPS Web site, http://spacegrant.nmsu.edu/isps/2006/. For assistance with registration, contact Joylynn Watkins of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, (505) 646-6414 or nmsgc@nmsu.edu.

Information about the X PRIZE Cup activities scheduled for Oct. 20 and 21 can be found on the Web at http://www.xprizecup.com/.