“Why I gave up on NASA”, originally posted at Hoshichan.com on July 30, 2008; reprinted in full on December 1, 2008 since the blog is no more.
Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. told SCI FI Wire that fantastic space science fiction shows and movies are, in part, responsible for the lack of interest in real-life space exploration among young people.
“I blame the fantastic and unbelievable shows about space flight and rocket ships that are on today,” Aldrin said in an interview during an ice cream party held by the National Geographic Channel at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., this week. “All the shows where they beam people around and things like that have made young people think that that is what the space program should be doing. It’s not realistic.”
For the most part, I disagree with Mr. Aldrin. I do not think lack of realism is making kids less interested in the space program. I think lack of anything interesting happening, AT ALL, is making kids less interested in the space program. And it’s not just kids.
There’s a lot of talking, organizing, but nothing is really HAPPENING at NASA right now. Hence the commercial interest in the Google Lunar X Prize (in my opinion.) My LPI internship adviser is now the chief scientist for one of the X Prize teams, because he’s not waiting for NASA to get around to getting back to the Moon. There’s a lot of disgruntled scientists (I know, I saw them at the LPSC, in 2000 and 2003) who’ve been living on crumbs of hope, project to project, grant to grant, but how long can that really sustain you?
Since I turned my back on the scientific community, I’m going to write science fiction and go to the Moon whenever the heck I want. :P For whatever non-scientific flippant reason I want. And stay as long as I want.
So for once, for a change, I think Aldrin’s full of crap. Usually I’m pretty much on his side, he’s a great advocate for spaceflight… but people need more than realism. They need hope, dreams… things to inspire them. They need the bar set too high, to give them something to shoot for. They also need to see something happening, and if the space program can’t provide that, they’ll go elsewhere. And they will. And they are.