Each new year that passes gives a chance for reflection
on the 12 months that have gone by, what has
been achieved, and what remains to be done. Many
Tripolitans are as worried as they ever have been
about the future of HP rocketry, with due cause for
concern. There are certainly things to cheer about,
and things to moan about too.
What did we see in 2003? A partial list includes the following: On the debit side we have additional restrictions from the Homeland Security Act, relief legislation that made it partway through Congress but is stalled, a fully pled legal case that could give us ATF relief in front of a Federal judge and still awaiting a decision, a key player in the rocket industry, AeroTech, in bankruptcy, TRA insurance costs that are reduced from the prior year but still relatively high, an economy that wasn't helpful to the viability of consumer rocketry, and the ATF buying up rocket motors to do God knows what kind of tests out in the desert.
On the credit side we have rocketeers banding together several times in an unprecedented transorganizational manner to support campaigns that are in our mutual interest, a ATF Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) that would have squeezed us even tighter stopped in its tracks for the present, a well-supported LDRS showing that HP interest is still high and very much alive, a great series of nationally broadcast television shows, an advertising campaign built on the shows that has gained new member interest, sugar propellant for TRA Research events, many new motors certified and available from several manufacturers, some new manufacturers in motor testing mode right now, our website overhauled, and continued improvements in e-communications. I'm not sure what the "net position" really is, but am I the only person that is hopeful and still optimistic? I'm sure I am not.
Obviously, we have no lack of work to do. 2004 will be a year to continue our ATF relief work, to assist motor manufacturers getting more certified motors available, to try to save organizational costs where we can, and to find ways to continue to keep HP interest alive. TRA membership has declined, but also mildly upturned after the "Rocket Challenge" shows - membership levels will continue to be of concern. But one thing I learned in 2003 is that our HP rocketry community, despite the occasional bickering and quarreling, despite misinformation spread about in forums like rmr, and despite our own personal biases, will band together and volunteer to help save our beloved activity, and gain real results when it does.
Let me close by posting some remarks I made on the TRA forum, which sum up how I feel:
As we say good-bye to 2003, I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very Happy New Year, and to thank everyone who supported TRA and rocketry in general during this past, and most trying year. Not everything that has happened has been happy, but some good things happened too. While we still struggle to gain freedom from those who would try to hold us down, and while the economy and strange national mood have not always been healthy for rocketry and other visionary scientific endeavors, we still survive. We still keep working toward better outcomes. To offset challenges by the ATF in clamping down through excessive rule-making, we have had wonderful national responses that have kept draconian measures at bay. For the Schumers and Lautenbergs that think high-power rocketry is "crazy," we respond with a strong LDRS, and mainstream television programs that have captured the truth of what we do and not the superstition.
We will survive this, as long as we resolve to do so. Tripoli old-timers like Francis Graham, Curt Hughes, Art Bower, Tom Blazanin, and I can all recall some bad times that faced us in the past. Tripoli membership ebbed and flowed over the years. But we never gave up, and we found ways to keep our dreams alive. The existence of high-power rocketry as it is today, an exemplar of what independent scientific minds can achieve, is the result of never caving in to hardships, and building on our triumphs. Keeping true to this practice will keep us going even through the challenges that we will still face in the new year. The true mettle of people is always found when times are the toughest, not when everything goes on without a hitch.
I for one am excited by what we can achieve in the days and years ahead. The intelligence, creativity, resilience and resolve of those in our rocketry community encourage me and convince me that we will continue to forge ahead, as we have always done in the past."
Thank you all - onward to the future!