Outreach Focused on the Moon

by Ken Murphy 11/09/2004
report to Moon Society President Peter Kokh

Moon Outreach as a personal project

To give y'all a better sense of what I'm doing, let me start by saying that I'm currently serving as the Vice-President of the North Texas Chapter of the NSS here in the D/FW metroplex. I have long held a fascination with our Moon, and I want to get us back there.

By us I mean the working men and women of the U.S. of A. I want to go there to get hydrogen and oxygen for cislunar fuel. I want to mine the aluminum and silicates for vast solar arrays for the permanent power of tomorrow. I want access to new supplies of titanium, rare earth elements, SWIEs, and all the other elements of an advanced technological society. I want to grow specialty spices in regolith soils. I want to export the regolith to Earth to sell at ridiculously high prices to Japanese gardeners (i.e. lunar bonsai [getsumensai?]). I want to manufacture high-precision anhydrous optics and REAL glass (doped with rare earth elements and aluminum) which may give us the capability for tunable lasers. I want tourists to fly in vast underground lava chambers. I want old folks to be able to fall and still get back up. Business and commerce. Industry and trade.

So, how do I carry my message to the masses?

First is the display board. It's black in color, versus the usual white. I cut out the map of our Moon from a National Geographic poster and pasted it on. I then used small graphics and illustrations to flesh it out, from historical missions to possible future ones. Oh, and I used a really cool graphic from a SFF Return to the Moon poster for one of the lower corners. Not too much text, which gives you a greater chance to interact with the viewer.

I got some genuine fake Moon rocks from Jensan Scientific at SCI-Mall online. They're great as they allow the visitor to directly see that the dark vasicular basalts make up the dark mares they can see on the display board, and the anorthosite is generally the whiter areas. (and then you've got lots of breccias, the result of...). You even get a bit of lunar regolith simulant (I don't remember from which source).

I have one of the small copies of Michael Light's "Full Moon" that I usually open up to one of the 360 degree perspectives at the front of the display.

I also have scale spheres I got at one of the local crafts stores. An 8" styrofoam sphere for the Earth and a 2" styrofoam sphere for our Moon. I cut up a coat hanger to serve as axes for the spheres, and drew an equator and meridian on each one. Makes it easy to show the comparative tilts of the bodies (and that's why we want to put our bases there, so we can build power towers to get constant power). It takes me about seven good strides (your results may vary) to show the scale distance. When you hold the two close together it's easy to visualize a piece of the Earth's crust coming splashing up into orbit and forming our companion.

We're so lucky. We even get a convenient access point to the Interplanetary Superhighways via EML-1. I took a graphic from a NASA website that shows the gravity levels in cislunar space and used 8"x11" thin black foam pads (also from the crafts store) to build a topographical model that clearly shows the saddle point of EML-1 and the plateaus of EML-4 and EML-5, but also helps to illustrate the gravity wells that have to be climbed up out of and the concept of energy levels.

So how do I get to show it to the public?

Four weekends ago the NSS-NT Chapter bought a table at a Sci-Fi Expo. A little Sci-Fact with your Sci-Fi? By buying the table we were allowed to sell merchandise, but we couldn't have a raffle (gambling rules). We used my display as a backdrop and had a small TV/VCR and a DVD player to show the Apollo 11 movies. I'd lure them in with a small Ni-Fe meteorite from the Sikhote-Alin fall (Psst! Hey kid, you ever held a genuine rock from space before?), move on to the genuine fake Moon rocks (NASA won't let us have real ones, but chemically...), and sometimes they'd linger to pick up some merchandise. Our "Save the Earth ... Develop Space" T-shirts did remarkably well (6 sold @ $10). We easily had 150 visitors that weekend.

Three weekends ago, the NSS-NT Chapter hosted a display at the Science Place in Dallas right by the front entrance (they really like us). Since it was the first weekend of the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission We again used my Moon display (as well as an X-Prize display). The space blanket was particularly popular. We had a few more giveaways like coloring pages that time around, and we had the bonus of it being TI Weekend. We did do a raffle that time around, but couldn't sell anything because of the gift shop. We easily had 350 visitors that weekend.

Two weekends ago the NSS-NT Chapter hosted a display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, home of the Apollo 7 capsule. This time around my display was on the floor, but the video was still up on the table. We just had too many giveaways. Easily over 100 visitors that weekend. 600-700 persons in a three-week period.

As far as giveaways goes, what I did was contact some of the regional science museums and JSC, as well as folks like Space Camp, the NASA Academy, ISU and so forth and asked for brochures to distribute to the public. Some have accommodated us, others haven't, but we do have lots of stuff for folks to take home with them. The general public has a short memory without a paper back-up.

Coming up we might be at another sci-fi convention, and we're trying to team up with some of the local Solar System Ambassadors, as well as the Mars Society and Moon Society, the Texas Astronomical Society (over 800 members locally!), the Dallas Area Rocketry Society, and so forth for World Space Week in October. Better to leverage the effectiveness of our work. Oh, and a local mall has expressed interest in hosting a table at some kind of theme day they've got coming up.

In a rather large nutshell that's what I've done so far. I'll admit that I really haven't had much opportunity to hand out membership flyers for want of space and the cost of photocopies (I can't do it at work). I do however mention the MS as appropriate during my spiel, so I'm at least getting the name out there. Some curious folks might be googling it.

It is a good bit of work, but it's very rewarding. Hearing a youngster exclaim "Cool!" as they pick up the obsidian hunk, or the look of enthrallment as the young minds just soak up the wonder of it all.

Coming up we're hoping to have a World Space Week event in October at the FoF museum in Dallas with speakers and everything. I could turn out to be phenomenal, but it's going to take a network of folks to pull it off. Partnering with local organizations is going to be crucial and I'm really not concerned with how the organizations interact at the national level, as long as we all get along here at the local level.

If we handle the publicity correctly we may be able to get a significant turnout. I don't know if we'll be able to convince NASA to send some Moon rocks up to Dallas for the weekend, but it never hurts to ask. Our NSS-NT Chapter president and the VP of the Texas Astronomical Society (as well as Solar System Ambassador) are both Moon Rock Licensed. Of course then we'd likely get thousands of visitors and freak out the local constabulary and Love Field airport officials. I will definitely have a separate Moon Society table at the event.

It's very rewarding work, but it is work. The space community is going to have to talk to lots of people face-to-face to convey to them the potential of space development. Simple positive stories that plant seeds in peoples' minds. ###

Note by Peter Kokh - How I met Ken Murphy and the birth of Moon Society Outposts

I met Ken Murphy at ISDC 2004 in Oklahoma City. I had wandered into the Kids Room, and there at one end, was the most amazing outreach display about the Moon I had ever seen. Three long tables of books, maps, models, posters, rock samples, and more. What was this super outreach setup doing in the Kids Room? I immediately garnered ISDC co-chair Claire McMurray and showed it to her, commenting, "There has to be some way we can make room for this in the Exhibit Room where more people will see it!" Claire agreed, and in no time, we had made adequate space for Ken's display and helped pack it up, move it, and set it up again. Later, after ISDC, I emailed Ken about his outreach efforts, and the letter above is his response.

The fact that one person could put this together and have such an effect, motivated me to start thinking "outside the chapter box."

I put it to the Moon Society Board of Directors: "Lets add a new category, "Outposts", side by side with organized chapters, to designate a local contact person or group of persons short of what is needed for chapter status, where there is someone actively engaged in outreach on behalf of the Society. Note, it was Moon Society Board Member John C. Schrock who suggested the term "Outpost," an instant winner.

At ISDC 2005 in Washington DC (actually in Arlington, VA) I spoke about this innovation to an audience of NSS chapter people, and got an enthusiastic response. "Let's empower highly motivated individuals, and give them status.

So far, however, the National Space Society has not followed suite.

Ken is a member of both NSS and the Moon Society. We have similarly driven individuals in NSS and in the Mars Society, that should be given status and recognition.