Moon Day, On A Sunday: Local Spaceniks Meet Up for Apollo Anniversary at Frontiers of Flight

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ArmadilloAerospace_NeilMilburn.jpeg
Mark Graham
Armadillo Aerospace co-founder Neil Milburn, left, will be one of the speakers at Moon Day, Sunday's big gathering of Dallas space nuts.
Last year, the anniversary was a big one: 40 years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and for Dallas's sizable network space industry alums, Moon Day was a reunion of sorts at Love Field's Frontiers of Flight Museum.

The turnout was so good, in fact, museum director Bruce Bleakly invited its organizer Ken Murphy, who runs the National Space Society's local chapter, to come back and celebrate lucky number 41. This year's lineup of speakers (PDF) includes Neil Milburn, one of the career-engineers-turned-space-racers featured in our May cover story on Caddo Mills' Armadillo Aerospace, and Ron DiIulio, the meteorite chaser who tracked down pieces of a fireball that landed in West last February. DiIulio runs the University of North Texas's planetarium and astronomy lab.

It's the year's biggest space-related event around Dallas, Murphy told Unfair Park earlier this week. "It's almost entirely home-grown, all local stuff. I try to avoid going to NASA for stuff," he said. "Dallas is not a NASA community, but there's still a lot of space industry influence here."

Along with Armadillo, Murphy is a major local proponent of the business prospects in the NewSpace movement -- he'll be giving a talk about the moon's untapped industrial possibilities. (Murphy's got a longer look at Moon Day plans on his own site.)

With cheaper access to space, manufacturers can take advantage of the micro-gravity environment, Murphy said, to make things with real applications: lightweight building materials like foam-metal and ceramic metal hybrids, or giant protein crystals that couldn't grow in gravity. "There's just so much potential, we just haven't been able to tap it," he said.

Murphy completed a master's degree at the International Space University in France, the brainchild of X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, and a school Murphy says is slowly populating space-minded companies with graduates. "I've been trying to do what I can to advance the commercial aspects of hte space industry," he told us, which has included organizing events for space enthusiasts around Dallas. For now, he says there isn't much of a market for folks whose strength is an equal grounding in business and space issues, but he says that's changing.

Moon Day is, most of all, a family event, Murphy told us, aimed at kids and folks who've worked in the aerospace industry, but ought to attract all sorts of space nuts. Last year's party drew about 600, he said, and he wouldn't be surprised to see it top 1,000 this time around. "Space is one of those weird things here in the Metroplex where either a lot of people will show up, or no one does." Murphy stressed that there will be free tote bags.

Moon Day 2010
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