Marc Fricker became president of the Canadian Space Society (CSS) on December 1, 2014. Marc talks about how he got involved with the CSS, what our mandate is, and what direction we’ll take over the next 2 years.
What lies ahead for the Canadian Space Society? Find out from our new president.
Q.How did you get involved with the CSS?
A. Following a military secondment to the Canadian Space Agency, I wanted to stay in touch with the space community in Canada. The CSS was a good option for me as there are chapters across the country wherever I was likely to be posted. I joined in 2008 and immediately began working on the local organizing committee for Summit 2009 in Kingston, Ontario.
Q.What is the Canadian Space Society all about?
A. The CSS is a grassroots advocacy group of space professionals and enthusiasts. We’ve promoted Canada’s role in robotic and human space exploration since 1983.
Although much of our work is through industry, government, and academia, we connect with the largest audience possible. We want to tell Canadians, and people outside of Canada, about our space activities over the past 50-plus years.
Q.What makes the CSS different from any other aerospace group in Canada?
A. The CSS is unique because it focuses on space activities. Other organizations, some much larger than the CSS, put greater emphasis on the aviation industry in Canada. We realize that it’s unlikely space activities will stand apart from the aviation industry, at least in the near term, but we believe that space is unique and a growing community wants to focus on it.
Movies and pop culture have created a huge interest in space, but Hollywood often portrays it in an oversimplified way. The real story about space exploration is far more compelling. There aren’t many organizations like ours that give people that story, and even fewer that tell Canadians about Canada’s successes in space.
Q.What are your goals for the CSS over the next 2 years?
A. I want the CSS to connect with a larger group of people. I want anyone with questions about how things work in space to immediately think of the CSS, and for anyone outside the country who is interested in what Canada is doing in the space environment to do the same.
To achieve this goal, I’m embarking on a number of marketing and outreach strategies to get the word out. I’m also create greater value in having a CSS membership. In today’s fiscally restrained climate, membership must have privileges and benefits of value, otherwise there’s no point in being a member.
Connecting with media is a cornerstone activity that I intend to increase in the coming years. Members of the board have provided national news channels with expertise for a number of years. I want our chapters to get more involved with their local news media when local activities happen. We need to connect more on the local level if we’re to be a true grassroots organization.
Q.What would you tell someone who asked why they should become a member?
A. Membership in the CSS today means that you’ll be on the leading edge of space-related activities in Canada, and in your immediate area. Between our weekly newsletter, our regular chapter meetings across the country, our social media, and our annual Canadian Space Summit, the CSS provides unique opportunities to stay connected with the space community. We can help you get involved with everything from astronomy to rocket clubs to zero-G ballet performances. No one else in the country can do that for you.
Q.How important are corporate memberships and industry connections to the CSS?
A. They’re essential. Corporate members and connections to other industry players are the backbone of what we’re about. With the help of our corporate members, the CSS is able to provide an entry point into space activities at reasonable rates to anyone interested in space exploration.
The CSS is proud of our industry connections. Over the years we have carefully honed our ability to provide benefit to industry, usually through networking and PR opportunities, while appealing to the needs of the regular membership through the newsletter and chapter gatherings. We have been quite successful at providing a venue for the up-and-coming space worker to meet and learn from current and retired space workers from across the country.
Q.Should the CSS try to have more influence on political decision makers?
A. No, not directly. There are large organizations like the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAA) who lobby the different levels of government. They’re better positioned to do this work.
The CSS wants to help people across the country understand the value of Canadian space activities, and in turn, have them influence their political repesentatives. If enough people think our space industry deserves more support, government will listen.
Q.How important are relationships with space groups in other countries?
A. We have partnerships with groups around the world, but mostly in Europe. It’s good to be kept in the loop regarding what other groups are doing. Anything that brings the space community closer together is effort well-spent.
Q.Do you think it's important to get people who aren't members interested in CSS activities and contributing to CSS projects?
A. Yes. Members or not, our objective is to increase awareness of the value of space in Canada. Of course we’d love it if every Canadian were a member, but as long as everyone has an educated opinion of what space is about, and what it does for the country, we’ve achieved our goal.
That’s what the Canadian Space Society will do over the next 2 years. We’ll develop a higher profile with the media and the public, increase awareness of Canada’s space industry nation-wide, and provide more value to members and non-members.
It going to be a exciting trip, so come along with us. Get involved on whatever level you like. We’ve got room for everyone.