It began in a loft in the Brewery Arts Complex in Lincoln Heights and since its inception, Mindshare LA sought to blur the line between expert speakers and a debauched good time. They have long showcased, for thousands of Angelenos, the best and the brightest, with a splash of social lubricant.
When I first attended Mindshare in October ‘08, the event employed the same basic format, only with an open, full bar. Mindshare has matured over the years, but only just slightly. Consistently jovial host Doug Campbell welcomes in sell-out crowds and the support staff ensures that each occasion both runs smoothly and tickles the grey matter.
Last Thursday marked the 50th consecutive month of Mindshare’s Downtown-centric good times; a combination of gifted speakers, interactive technology exhibits (this month’s bike-powered Asteroids was a big hit), and social networking. This most recent time around, the venue was the Mezz Bar at the Alexandria Hotel on Fifth and Spring. The night’s theme for the 300 in attendance, “The Cosmic Frontier,” featured talks from JPL’s Adam Steltzner, Virgin Galactic’s Will Pomerantz, and entrepreneur Dmitry Tseliakhovich.
Adam Steltzner, an entry, descent, and landing engineer, discussed the past success of JPL’s twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the upcoming Mars Laboratory mission, currently en route to the red planet. Curiosity is a larger rover, about the size of a Mini Cooper, and features a thruster-assisted descent and landing technique that firmly straddles the terrain between brilliant, ambitious, and crazy. As a species, we’re getting good at going to Mars, (recent Phobos-Grunt mishap notwithstanding) and Curiosity will land on the fourth planet from our sun on August 5th.
Will Pomerantz, Vice President of Special Projects at Virgin Galactic, discussed the democratization of space, personalizing his talk by remarking that despite his ambition and achievements in life, his imperfect vision had long-ago disqualified him from attaining his dream of becoming a NASA astronaut. Thanks to commercial space ventures like Virgin Galactic, those of us who are all too human can attain the unattainable, for the right price, of course. Virgin Galactic will begin offering suborbital flights in their 8-seat suborbital crafts Spaceship II and White Knight II, in not too distant future, for a paltry $200k per seat. “It won’t be as easy as booking a flight on Virgin America,“ said Pomerantz ”But it will almost be that easy.”
On this decidedly Aero-Astro-themed evening a preponderance of local aerospace professionals turned up including a contingent from SpaceX; Scott Norman, Kyle Cothern, Bala Ramamurthy, Molly McCormick, and Yuki Takahashi. Down from Mojave were Mark Street and Michael Clive, to give the crowd an update on their efforts at XCOR Aerospace. X Prize Foundation’s Amanda Stiles was also in attendance.
The final speaker of the night, Dmitry Tseliakhovich presented his plans for beamed-power propulsion systems under his company’s banner, Escape Dynamics. JPL artist-in-residence Dan Goods briefly showed a bit of his work and adorning the walls of Mezz Bar was work from artist Kasey McMahon.
Mindshare’s quality programming and interactive events are a rich repository of the intellectual and provocative and go a long way toward dispelling the feckless reputation that often haunts Los Angeles.
Keep up with Mindshare LA’s events here.