Ask any space tweep if they know much about space, and most likely, you will get a paragraph for a response. Ask any random person in the public, and you’ll most likely just get an evil glance or a stammer. If they do know anything, they may tell you that Lance Armstrong was the first person on the moon. So, is NASA doing as great of a job as they can getting the word out about space?
The public is greatly losing interest in the American space program. During the stimulus plan that was created by President Obama, most major news networks posted on their lists that NASA received a decent sum of money. Unfortunately, most networks placed that on there just to point out the stupidity of where the president is spending tax payers money. Does this mean that to get people not to hate the space program, rather than Obama spending money on NASA, do we first have to get him to spend money to start a new cold war, maybe with China this time?
There are certain memories that many people have of our space program. Ask anybody who was alive in 1969 and old enough to understand what was going on where they were when man landed on the moon, they can tell you every detail. Yet, most of us tweeps that use the internet and twitter weren’t alive during that. Most of us, though, were alive to remember the negatives of our space program, such as the Challenger explosion or the less-remembered Columbia accident. So those that do have memories of where our space program is remember the bad, not the good.
NASA definelty needs to change their ways. The first being that their main way of communicating video events is by NASA TV, which is avaliable online or by satellite. The web address online isn’t even that easy to access, and only a few people that I know personally have satellite TV. Making it a more mainstream channel with more exciting files than kids trying to solve mysteries is one simple step to take. Another way is to have large events that entertain the public and actually benefit them. They want to know how space can help them now. Sometimes the best way to do it is to have a little fun with themselves. The perfect example is comedian Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. He had his campaign to name the new ISS Node 3 Colbert. Sicne then, NASA has decided to name their new treadmill C.O.L.B.E.R.T. in his honor. You can guess that this launch will probably be more noted than others for this reason.
Next is to come up with an exciting destination. After the moon, the Apollo astronauts thought that by 2000 we would be going to the moon. Instead, we decided to go to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Great thought to NASA, but not to those down on the Earth, and even the 12 astronauts that walked on the moon, who wished to go further. Trying to keep with the craze of 2001: A Space Oddysey, we tried Skylab and Mir, both huge garbage heaps in space which soon littered the Earth.
It seems the only real way to get interest is to set our sights on a new destination, not an expensive moon base. I share the same beliefs as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who feels Mars should be our next destination. Who knows what is actually there. In 2003/2004, interest grew in space with Spirit and Opportunity, and their discoveries. This shows we still have an interest, and maybe people on Mars is the next best thing. Is it really? The only way to tell is to skip the moon and go to Mars. What about the ISS? Well, that’s another story, but there is still the option of keeping our international partners and using their aid to go to the red planet.
Whatever steps NASA takes, there will be scrutiny, but if it gets the public interest, I say go for it. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but curiosity is why we go beyond our Earth, and people need to realize that.