The National Space Society was established in the United States in 1987/88, with the merger of two already very active space organisations; the National Space Institute (NSI) and the L5 Society. Both groups had been operating since the mid 1970's at a time in the U.S., when the space program was being dramatically scaled back. With the end of the Apollo/Moon program in 1972 and the one-off Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, the space program was seen as having no new goals to achieve, public opinion critical of continued space ventures. With a lack of clear political direction and with the space shuttle program still many years away from its first flights, numerous space 'activist' groups sprang up, to promote a new and more vigorous space effort and to highlight the benefits of space exploration, education and development to the public.

From among the many groups formed, the National Space Institute and the L5 Society emerged as two of the leading pro-space organisations. Both groups were well supported by members of the general public and had the backing of many well recognised professionals from the media, scientific, academic and astronautical communities.

Below is our history ...
  • 1970's - The earliest roots of the Society

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    The L5 Society was established as a result of the 1975 Summer Study'at Princeton University and M.I.T., where students and teachers participated in programs to develop concepts for the creation of space colonies. 'L5 emerged from the idea of placing large orbiting colonies at two of the Lagrange- points (L4 & L5), which are stable regions of gravitation within a planet's orbit (approximately 60 degrees preceding and following the body's path), where a colony could be placed with the correct initial location and velocity and literally stay forever. "L5" eventually became the nickname for any stable orbit above the Earth's radiation belts, and no farther away than the Moon, where a station could be placed. Becoming a citizens' group independent of any institution, the L5 Society formed to supply information on the new possibilities of space development (especially colonisation) and to publish commentary in newsletter form- Both the L5 Society and the NSI developed their own programs of space activism, promoting space research, development and exploration to the general public.

    Internationally (prior to the merger), the L5 Society had been developing chapters around the world, and in Australia, three chapters had been established. The 'Southern Cross L5 Society' was formed in 1979, with groups in Sydney, Adelaide (in 1984) and Brisbane (in 1986). The Australian L5 chapters pursued some public information activities to promote 'space', but for the most part were little more than 'space clubs' with a relatively small membership holding meetings and going on the occasional field trip, The three chapters operated independently of each other while sharing a national newsletter called 'L5 Space News' (produced in Sydney). This remained the status of the Society for many years, with little progress being made on the pro-active, pro-space front.
  • 1980's - Getting a foothold in Australia

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    In mid-1985, an internal shake-up within the Sydney chapter meant that several of the primary officers left the group and the Society (in Sydney at least) faced collapse. Fortunately, a recently joined member, Kirby Ikin, took up the challenge of leading the Sydney chapter, being elected as its President in late 1985. With the responsibility of publishing the national newsletter and for keeping the communications lines operating with the other chapters, Kirby forged strong links with Noel Jackson in Brisbane and Jane Brooks in Adelaide. These three chapter leaders began rebuilding the Society, setting new goals, with renewed vision and enthusiasm. In January 1986, apparent disaster struck with the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, and the Society faced a difficult period of reconstruction during a time when the public's focus was squarely on the pro's and con's of space flight and exploration, and questioning the need and wisdom of manned exploration.

    In hindsight, the following two years actually worked in favour of the Society, as many space enthusiasts came out of the 'woodwork' to join the various state chapters. This increase in interest allowed the Society to find new direction, and with the support of several pro-active members, the chapters began developing more aggressive 'public outreach events'. Many of these events helped to attract new members to the Society, and several turned out to be enthusiastic enough to volunteer their time and talents to help develop the Society even further.

    In October 1987, the Sydney chapter elected Glen Nagle (who had only joined the month before) as chapter Secretary and Michael Graf as chapter Treasurer, re-electing Kirby Ikin as President. Along with a few other members, a chapter 'Steering Committee' was formed to give the Sydney chapter new emphasis and for national activities such as the newsletter, new purpose.

    It was at this time that the National Space Institute and the L5 Society in the United States were beginning their merger. Two names were being considered for the new Organisation, and were to be voted upon by the membership. The 'National Space Society' and the 'Space Frontier Society' were the choices up for consideration, and from all indications that the Australian chapters of the L5 Society were receiving, the name 'Space Frontier Society' was going to be chosen. In advance of this decision, the three existing chapters of the L5 Society made the name change to 'Space Frontier Society' (ie: Sydney Space Frontier Society, Adelaide Space Frontier Society, & Queensland Space Frontier Society). However, as events turned out, the name 'National Space Society' was chosen instead. By the time the results of the vote came out though, the new Australian chapter names were well in place, and it was considered inappropriate (at that time) to change to the National Space Society, as the name (from the Australian perspective) didn't reflect the 'international' nature of the new Organisation.

    The choice of National Space Society was made by the majority of the then 20,000 members of the newly merged Organisation, and met with the same questions about its suitability for an international group. However, the choice of NSS was made over the name' lnternational Space Society' because of U.S. taxation laws, where a non-profit Organisation with tax deductable status cannot be an "international" Organisation for auditing purposes.

    The name National Space Society stuck, and for a time did cause confusion for new members and the public when we tried to explain that although our parent organisation was called National Space Society, we were in fact part of an 'international' society, but at the same time our chapters were called 'Space Frontier Societies' (SFS). As the Society in Australia developed and our chapter membership numbers grew, the need became apparent for a greater national structure to be developed to coordinate the many activities of the Society. To this end, following discussion with all chapters, it was decided in late 1989 to create the National Space Society of Australia which could act as an umbrella Organisation under which all chapters could operate, providing a single identity for them to be recognised by, and through which resources, finances and administration could be pooled for the better operation of all chapters. The change to the National Space Society of Australia (NSSA), while linking us to our parent Organisation, helped to further strengthen our own independent, self-governed identity in Australia, and allowing the SFS chapters to continue activities under their own names, and using the NSSA banner when and where it was more appropriate to show a national front.

    As an independent body from the US, the NSSA now began setting its own direct pro-space goals, that while particular to Australian needs and conditions, ran in parallel to the overall NSS goal of 'creating a spacefaring civilisation'.

    As the NSSA grew, new chapters in Canberra, Perth, Western Sydney, Newcastle, and Melbourne were established over the next two years. All chapters continued to develop their own individual styles and 'outreach' programs, while setting up good interal links and communication lines with the other chapters and the national body. By early 1990, the planning for the establishment of the NSSA was sufficiently well advanced that it began considering the benefits of a more formal structure and developing ideas for organising its own Australian space conference. A Board of Directors was formed with representatives drawn from each of the chapters, and this Board was tasked with developing the NSSA, increasing membership services and expanding activities.

    In the United States, the NSS had been continuing the series of International Space Development Conferences (ISDC) that had been run by the NSI since 1982. These conferences were designed to bring together delegates from nations around the world to discuss the future of the international space community. As a forum for developing a greater understanding of the issues required to develop the space frontier, the ISDC's have grown into a major international event on the space calendar.

    Through connections that had been developed by Kirby Ikin in his work for the space insurance market, the plans for holding an Australlan Space Development Conference began to take shape. The Australian conference was designed to be a forum for domestic companies to come together to learn more about the many issues facing the local space industry, and to hear from other Australian and international companies working in the same market, developing new contacts, and expressing their concerns to representatives of the Australian Space Office and Government. The conference was also to be an event to promote space development and Australian space activities to the general public and Australian media.

    To help attract that public and media attention, it was planned to have a major personality from the space community attend as our special guest. Already a vocal supporter of the activities of the NSS and a member of its Board of Governors (later to become Chairman of the NSS Board of Directors), Apollo XI astronaut-, Buzz Aldrin accepted our offer to come to Australia for the 1990 conference.
    For the NSSA to be able to effectively run the Australian conference, it was realised that to raise sufficient financial support and to be taken seriously as a pro-space organisation, that we would have to cease being known as only an 'amateur' group and make the move towards becoming a registered company.

    The Board of Directors began laying the groundwork for the establishment of the NSSA as a company, and with the assistance of several members who worked in the legal field, the Chapters were formed into the National Space Society of Australia Limited on the February 23rd, 1990.
  • Early 1990's - Making our mark with the ASDC

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    With the financial support of GIO Reinsurance, OTC Australia, Baker & McKenzie, the Cape York Space Agency, Australian Airlines and American Airlines, and the Australian Space Office, the 1st Australian Space Development Conference (ASDC) was held in August 1990. The conference was an enormous success, and secured the NSSA's place as a recognised and credible pro-space Organisation. Almost immediately following the 1990 ASDC, planning began for the 1992 conference.

    It was recognised by many delegates from the first conference that there was a need for the business community to continue the exchange of information and ideasthat had begun at the ASDC. To this end, the NSSA introduced an informal series of meetings called 'Space Business Discussion Groups' (SBDG).

    These meetings were designed to allow representatives from the space industry to meet together and discuss in an open atmosphere, the many issues that face the industry and the barriers preventing Australia from moving forward with an active space program.
    The SBDG 's began in Sydney in November 1990. Interstate groups developed over the next two years, with meetings being held in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane. In addition to these meetings, the NSSA also began co-sponsoring the 'Australian Space Business Forum Luncheons, with the Australian Space Office (ASO).

    By the time of SBDG meetings in late 1991, discussions were already taking place to develop a more formal structure to the national meetings. The ASO co-sponsored meetings had become irregular events and the NSSA's SBDG's were gaining increased interest and importance with the space industry- In parallel to the planning for the 1992 conference, the NSSA began development of Plans for a new industry based organisation that could act as a voice for the Australian space community. At a meeting in April 1992, the idea was formalised for the introduction of a new industry group to be called the 'Australian Space Industry Chamber of Commerce' (ASICC).

    In the meantime, the chapters of the NSSA had been going through a period of growth and development, Since 1988, the Sydney chapter had been producing a national newsletter called Space Frontier News (SFN) which had replaced the old 'L5 Space News'. SFN was a 20x A4-page magazine-style newsletter which covered news, reviews and views on space related issues and updates on the activities of the Chapters. SFN became a valuable tool for the Chapters to use to attract new members and for the NSSA to promote information about space and its own activities. Following the 1990 ASDC, the NSSA was approached by an independent publishing company that wanted to launch an Australian space magazine. The publication called 'Space Digest Australia' was designed to be marketed to the local industry, but to also be general enough to be distributed through newsstands and on subscription. The NSSA supported the introduction of this new magazine, and through a cooperative arrangement, the membership of the NSSA were to receive a copy of this new publication as a replacement for Space Frontier News. The first edition of 'Space Digest' in February 1991, signalled a major upgrade in membership services, with the introduction of a colour, glossy magazine. Many of the chapters were now also in a strong enough position to produce their own local newsletters and able to increase chapter activities and public outreach programs.
    However, as events turned out, 'Space Digest' did not find sufficient support from subscriptions to continue publication, and so the magazine ceased production in May 1992. This suddenly left the NSSA without a magazine or national newsletter service- During the next six months, the administration of the NSSA conducted talks with the publishers of the magazine 'Southern Astronomy'. The editors of Southern Astronomy had been developing plans to change their already well subscribed astronomy magazine into a more wide ranging 'space and astronomy' publication, introducing a new format, articles and contributing authors, including a number of space clubs and related organisations. At the 1992 ASDC, the new magazine called 'Sky & Space' was launched, and made available to all members as a part of their membership benefits.

    The 2nd Australian Space Development Conference was held in October 1992, and came at a time in the Australian economy of deep recession. However, to the surprise of many, the conference still attracted a respectable audience and even though the costs for running this conference were much higher, the 1992 ASDC still returned a good financial outcome for the NSSA, and established many new contacts between the 150 national and international delegates in attendance. Our special guest to this conference was three time space shuttle astronaut and NSS President; Charles Walker. Also attending her second ASDC was NSS Executive Director Lori Garver and NSS Program Manager; David Brandt (David and Lori are married).
    At the 1992 ASDC, the establishment of Australian Space Industry Chamber of Commerce was announced with the starting date of July 1, 1993 to begin full operations. Through the financial backing and support from an industry entrepreneur, the first year of ASICC's operation would be secure, enabling the NSSA to act as the full-time secretariat to ensure its continued administration and development.

    Following the 1992 conference, planning for the next ASDC got underway, and work towards the establishment of ASICC continued. Among the first activities of ASICC, was the establishment of an Executive Council which would help to coordinate the national SBDG meetings. An interim council of eleven members was formed in August 1993, with representatives from companies like Optus, Telecom, GIO Insurance, Auspace Limited, legal and insurance firms, universities, private space launch companies, and others. In September 1993, the Federal Minister for Science, Senator Chris Schacht agreed to act as patron to ASICC, providing increased credibility and recognition from the Government and domestic space community.
    Apart from the establishment of ASICC on July 1, 1993, the NSSA gave birth to a new chapter based in Tasmania. The Hobart Space Frontier Society joined the other mainland states, bringing us up to nine Australian chapters and by far the largest NSS chapter structure outside of the United States.
    Following the May 1993 international NSS conference in the U.S., the NSSA was able to get the agreement of the U.S./NSS Board of Directors to extend to Australian members, a greatly reduced international membership fee. This new membership fee structure (begun November 1, 1993) made it possible for the NSSA to introduce the Society's international magazine, AD ASTRA (Latin for 'To The Stars'), for ALL Australian members, replacing Sky & Space magazine.

    With the introduction of Ad ASTRA, the NSSA decided to re-introduce a national newsletter service for all chapter members, hence the (re-) establishment of' Space Frontier News.

    In a major departure from regular newsletter formats, it was realised that Space Frontier News (SFN), could become a real 'tool' for the NSSA and its members to use. Instead of the usual folded or stapled publication, SFN was designed to provide members with a news and information service that could be built into a valuable source of space data and Society information. Presented in its own folder, SFN would include additional sources of information about the NSSA, including a short history of the NSS and NSSA, and extra resources such as spare membership and change of address forms for members to use.
  • Late 1990's - the new era of space commercialisation

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    The 3rd Australian Space Development Conference was held in Sydney in 1994 and was used by the then Australian Space Office to launch it's five year plan for the Australian space industry. Guest Speaker was Apollo XV astronaut; David Scott who spoke to a large audience at the Powerhouse Museum, in Sydney. The museum had earlier that year welcomed the NSSA as an affiliated society to the museum, in recognition of the NSSA's public relations work on Australian space activities. The Society and the Museum would go on to forge strong ties and equally benefit from the many space events held at there.

    The three ASDC's to date had been aimed specifically at the business community, and whilst rewarding for the industry, were limited in their appeal to the general public and society membership. Also a platform was needed for the more far reaching and long term topics that could not find a place in the program of the ASDC. Space colonisation, interplanetary exploration, and future human existence, are just some of the subjects. With that view in mind, then Sydney Chapter President; Martin Thorne proposed and chaired the 1st Space Frontier Conference (SFC).

    The first annual SFC was first held in July 1995 at the Powerhouse Museum. An exciting mix of talks and videos saw the event well attended. Students from the Australian International Space School were in the audience, as were other members of the Australian Space Research Institute, the Planetary Society and other groups. One aspect of the success of the SFC is the coming together of other similar minded groups and individuals. It is an acknowledgment that there are indeed societies other than the NSSA who are also working towards a spacefaring civilisation.

    1996 was a turning point for the NSSA, two conferences and board reshuffle. The year began with a social cricket match in Gosford north of Sydney, between several NSSA chapters and space groups, namely the Science Technology and Research Party. We even had visiting Russian Scientists to the Powerhouse Museum have a bat. The match was on the anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, and was dubbed the 'Challenger Memorial Cricket Match'. The enjoyment of friendly competition in the outdoors, with BBQ and model rocket launches, called for outing to become a annual event. Unfortunately the 1997 match was rained out.

    The 4th Australian Space Development Conference was held for the first time outside Sydney, in Canberra, ACT. In conjunction with the 8th Australian Remote Sensing Conference and the 10th National Space Engineering Symposium under the banner of SPACEWORKS '96. The three day merged event included a prestigious dinner at Parliament House, and substantial media attention. Headline guest speaker was NSS Executive Chairman; Robert Zubrin, who also spoke in Sydney on his 'Mars in 10 years' plan.

    Later in the year was the 2nd Space Frontier Conference, this time hosted by the Queensland NSSA chapter in Brisbane. The event showed the importance of having a team working together and it was decided to adopt a procedure similar to the NSS ISDC where host chapters will bid to hold the conference, like a city bids for the Olympics. Whilst in Brisbane the board of directors met to reshape the executive committee of the NSSA. Drastically cutting the cumbersome board of over 15 directors down to a core group of 8 each with a particular area of responsibility. The AGM later in the year confirmed these offices and voted the members to be responsible.

    1996 also saw the demise of the Australian Space Office. More than ever the NSSA recognised the importance of having a body separate from government, but responsible to the people, that would help guide the Australian space industry. Along with ASICC, the NSSA called for the establishment of an Australian National Space Agency (ANSA) and, through the efforts of Philip Young, released the white paper "Space Australia" to the government. ANSA has not been established but the Society will be pursuing this goal in the years to come.

    The 3rd Space Frontier Conference, was held in Sydney during July 1997 at the Powerhouse Museum, was noted with its guest speaker being Dr Seth Shostak, a leading researcher into the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The NSSA as an organisation now had the credibility to attract people of note in the scientific community to its conferences. With this conference came the inaugural NSSA Awards, similar in concept to the annual awards presented by the NSS at their ISDCs. Awards were presented for Chapter of the Year, Space Activist of the Year and the special Space Pioneer Award for service to the space industry. The inaugural award went to Mr Gordon Pike, a senior OPTUS telecommunications engineer.
    1997 also saw the establishment of two new Chapters and with them new ideas and projects. The University of NSW Chapter was established by then SSFS member Jeffery Candiloro who was attending the University as an undergraduate. Tony James, an NSSA Director at the time, was able to establish the Central Coast Space Frontier Society following at special talk given at the Gosford Community Centre by Apollo 15 astronaut, Dr. David Scott.
    1998 marked the introduction of a new-format Space Frontier News. The magazine format was expanded to a newspaper-style with bold new layouts, articles and features. Current Editor Glen Nagle has intentions to widen the magazine's subscription base through creating a magazine for the Australian Space community at large, in addition to being the NSSA's own newsletter.

    With the creation of the UNSWSFS Chapter, its new committee was able to attract a core of enthusiastic university students who felt that their Chapter's main mission would be to embark on a project which they hoped could launch their future careers. Thus in 1998, the Basic LEO Experiment Satellite was born - BLUEsat for short. This project for building an amateur communications microsatellite was able to impress academics and Departments within the University to such a degree, that research funds would be made available to assist with the project.

    The 5th Australian Space Development Conference held in Sydney in July 1998, proved to be the most successful to date; highlighted by excellent media coverage and attendance by the then Science Minister, Hon. Mr John Moore and NASA Associate Administrator Mr Alan Ladwig.

    In September of 1998, the 4th Space Frontier Conference was held in Melbourne. Led by Mr Richard Tonkin, the conference was held at the Scienceworks Museum. The weekend also featured a public talk at RMIT, by NASA astronaut Dr Andrew Thomas outlining his time spent on the MIR space station in 1998. With this success and having found a strong committee; the Melbourne Space Frontier Society was once again meeting on a regular basis following a hiatus of a couple of years.
  • Into the 21st Century

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    To be continued ..
  • 2006 to Present

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    To be continued …