Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of local Arizona aerospace enterprises. If you think for a minute that Arizona enterprises don’t measure up to “The Enterprise,” think again. We may not have Spock, Kirk or warp drive, but what Arizona does have is an impressive list of some of the most progressive aerospace contributions in the nation.

For members of the aerospace, aviation, defense and manufacturing community, the Arizona Technology Council (AZTC) offered a major opportunity Thursday to connect with potential new partners, when the Arizona Technology CouncilArizona Commerce Authority and RevAZ hosted the seventh annual Conference for Arizona’s Aerospace, Aviation, Defense + Manufacturing Community at ASU SkySong.

Highlights included:

• Opening speaker Omeed Jafari, founder and managing partner of Barrington Oaks, who talked about “The State of Aerospace & Defense: Strategic Challenges and Opportunities.”

• A panel discussion on “Modernizing Mesa: Turning up the HEAT in Advancing Manufacturing,” featuring Aric H. Bopp (moderator) CEcD, deputy director of strategic initiative for the City of Mesa; Rex Ginder, UND Aerospace; Scott Burns, Orbital ATK; Arnaldo Soto, AQST Space Systems; and Michael Schachte, Attack Helicopter Programs chief engineer for Boeing.

• A panel discussion on “Space in Arizona: Converting Arizona’s Economy Into a Space Fairing Enterprise,” featuring Alex Rodriguez, vice president, Vector Launch, Inc. (Moderator), Grant Anderson, CEO, Paragon Space Development Corporation;  Stephen Fleming, vice president, University of Arizona; and Tanya Harrison, director of research for the ASU NewSpace Initiative.

From commercial and private sectors, alongside extremely competitive planetary and astronomy university programs, the conference showed that our desert state is an oasis for aerospace innovation. Missions to Mars and interplanetary asteroids and complex satellite, orbit and navigation systems are only part of what have made Arizona a top contender in deep-space exploration and preparation.

When considering “deep space exploration,” one may be tempted to visualize a monolithic bunker smack dab in a desolate Arizona desert, complete with docking station where an Enterprise or X-Wing fighter is in some impressive state of construction. Although that may be a reality for Arizona in a decade or three, our current aerospace contributions focus on the infrastructure and inter-workings of deep-space missions.

Where we skyrocket (pun intended) is in providing the essentials — life support, thermal control and habitat design; without which, those shiny rockets would not have a payload the public can get excited about.

Perhaps Anderson, president and CEO of Paragon, explains it best when saying, “Warp drive is sexier than life support.”