SAW BUZZ ALDRIN AT LUNCH — I hadn’t seen him in the flesh in years (he was NSS Board Chairman back when I was NSS Executive Chair), and he still looks great. We managed to catch up a bit. He’s writing for Popular Mechanics now, too and likes it as much as I do. He gave a speech about the importance of evolution in procurement and research, and how we’ve fallen away from the evolutionary approach in such things in favor of something bureaucratic and lame.

I certainly can’t argue. But what’s interesting is that while the government space programs don’t inspire a lot of excitement, there’s huge interest in the many startup space companies spawned by the X-Prize and related developments. This “NewSpace” sector, as people are calling it (It’s easier than “new entrepreneurial space enterprises”) is really vibrant, and these people are actually building things, not just peddling vaporware.

It was a good speech, and drew numerous rounds of applause and laughter. One thing for Buzz — he’s been working to promote space tourism, space development, and space settlement tirelessly for years. I couldn’t handle his travel schedule, and he’s thirty years older than me. (And when we ran in the Race For Space over a decade ago, he was faster than me.) He spoke eloquently about how unfair it was that he and only a few others had managed to experience space and the Moon, and how important it is that others get to share that experience.

I certainly think he’s right. I believe that the space tourism efforts we see now will help jumpstart things, and generate a learning curve, and efficiencies, that the NASA programs have never achieved — and, in fact, have sometimes even undermined. And I think it’s a big benefit to have Buzz Aldrin in there pushing for this kind of thing. Ten years ago, space tourism had a high “giggle factor.” Now it’s taken seriously, and things are just starting.