In a detailed review of a conference on the societal impact of space, Dwayne Day discusses a presentation made by Wendell Mendell of NASA/JSC that brought up an interesting point:
However, Mendell also warned of a potential generational gap in visions of space. Younger people no longer have the shared vision of those raised during the Apollo era. Space is no longer a frontier to be explored and conquered, but instead is a place from which to try and solve Earth’s problems.
A couple of recent essays support this argument. Bill Maxwell, a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times, talks up what he sees as the benefits of space exploration. Maxwell, who saw John Glenn’s historic 1962 flight as a high school junior, notes that “space flight has held a special place in American life since the program’s inception.” Also, “A dreamer, I have been a supporter of space exploration since I was kid, and if I could start life over, I would try to become an astronaut.”
Compare that to an editorial Thursday in The Daily Targum, the student newspaper of Rutgers University. The author is skeptical about both the overall mission of the space agency and its competency to carry out that mission: “While many fondly remember the NASA missions to the moon, the current state of NASA is no longer the image of an organization that is prepared to go to the stars. When the public does not know or care about the missions and the missions themselves are uninteresting, it seems that NASA should re-examine its priorities before it loses the imaginations of a new generation.” This is all just anecdotal evidence, but it does suggest that those who want to give NASA a more exploratory mission, like the Vision for Space Exploration, may face a more difficult battle with the youth of America than with older generations.