Editor's note: Things are really picking up here in Orlando. The AIAA tells me that they have more than 1,000 participants. Interest in attending is very high. Last night Sean O'Keefe got a farewell from the assembled attendees tonight at a reception in a gigantic tent erected to hold the exhibits. More tomorrow from the meeting itself.
This meeting will also be webcast - go here for an agenda and a link for the webcast.
Update: Sean O'Keefe told the audience this morning that the President's FY 2006 budget, to be released on 7 February, would contain a budget increase, rare among agencies funded under discretionary spending, that would continue the Adminstration's committment to providing the resources required to implement the President's Vision for Space Exploration.
O'Keefe also gave a retrospective on his tenure at NASA, among other things chiding the press for not reporting the full scope of the agency's accomplishments and taking on those naysayers whose commonly held beliefs suggested that NASA would not be able to implement the VSE.
O'Keefe also departed from the traditional blame path that normally accompanies the topic of Congressional earmarks. While he noted that Congress had stuck some $400 million into the FY 2005 budget, he cautioned folks not to be surprised "that they do exactly what you expect them to do" After all, according to O'Keefe they are "serving their constituents" which is what they are supposed to do. O'Keefe made it clear that the NASA/contractor community had to share the blame for earmarks, stating that when a program does not make it into the President's budget that proponents of a neglected program or project could "easily find the ear of a sympathetic member of Congress". O'Keefe urged the NASA/Contractor community to fight that urge. He also said that the community "has to bluntly accept" that "some programs that don't fit into the Vision must fall by the wayside."
He also noted that the National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed NASA's plans for robotic servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope treated the Shuttle's Return to Flight as "a done deal" as if it had already happened. Conversely, O'Keefe noted that the Stafford Covey RTF Task Force felt that NASA had a long way to go before it met all the requirements to accomplish RTF. "Clearly they can't both be right" O'Keefe said.
As far as the long term view for NASA's exploration efforts, O'Keefe urged all in attendance not to treat this as simply a way to make money but rather to consider it as part of a larger picture.
More to follow.