I don’t post editorials around here much. This really is my “neat” blog: here’s some neat things I found that are space-themed, here’s some neat retro space stuff, and here’s some neat pictures of space, aren’t they inspiring? I readily admit that I like pretty pictures of space and spaceflight, and I’m passing the savings onto you.
(I used to post my editorials somewhere else, but I just can’t write that sort of thing every day. NASA depresses me at the moment, and I just can’t stay up on the politics of the space industry, government or commercial. I’ve never been much for politics and I must have been kidding myself that space politics would be any different at all from all the other kinds. I digress.)
I submit for your reading pleasure an editorial by Dr. Paul Spudis, preeminent lunar scientist, and someone whom I highly respect. He rebuts a strategic plan suggesting that we abandon going back to the Moon (because “People don’t care about going back to the Moon and there’s no rationale for going back to the Moon”) by discussing public support for the space program, which fluctuates between 40-60% approval, averaging a solid 50%. As usual, he nails it perfectly (bolded emphasis mine.)
If your poll results are always around 50-50, then in a fundamental sense, people are “indifferent” about what you’re doing. So, in one sense, Lane is right — the public really doesn’t “care” about going to the Moon. What he leaves unspoken is the fact that at least half of the country doesn’t really “care” about anything NASA does.
So true, so very true. I know people that feel that way, and heck, being a space nut myself, even I do not care about some, or most, of what NASA is doing. Sorry guys, it’s the truth. A lot of people do have some interest; it’s just not the rabid geekfest NASA would prefer. Instead, it’s pretty much like this (again, bolded emphasis mine):
In broad and vague terms, people support our space program — they don’t want to see NASA on the chopping block. They like the idea of going to new places and making new discoveries — they just don’t focus and orient their lives around the “sausage making” of space policy, like we in the business do. What they want from their government is a space program that does interesting things (and not too many dumb things) with programs that will make and keep the country smarter, inspired, proud and hopeful.
Key word there being interesting. The strategic plan he’s discussing wants to focus NASA efforts on global climate change, and I hate to break it to the minority of vocal politicians and scientists that are ever so worked up about climate change, but the average person is not lying awake thinking about climate change and in general does not care. Joe Public is not as upset about this as they would like him to be. And frankly, the public is not going to be interested if NASA goes this route.
Do I think NASA should cater to the interest-whims of the public? Well… yes. Outreach is good, educational programs and sites are good; pretty pictures and exciting video footage (imho) is better. And yes, if NASA wants to receive our votes, our tax dollars and our support, I do think they should be doing something… interesting. The public doesn’t live and breathe the space program the way those involved in it do, and thus, they’re not going to have the automatic interest, the deep knowledge. You have to engage them, and part of that is making what you’re doing… look interesting. Better yet, be interesting.
The public is indifferent. “Exciting” to NASA just isn’t necessarily “exciting” to us average folk. Going back to the Moon won’t necessarily solve the public support issue, but cutting off any potentially exciting bits and devoting NASA’s energies to decidedly less-interesting subjects sure isn’t going to help!
Anyway, that’s my two bits. Feel free to comment (and add your two bits to mine.)