NASA, Other

Ignorance of the Vision

A couple of anecdotes, courtesy of the wild, wacky blogosphere, that suggest that, more than three and a half years after President Bush formally announced the Vision for Space Exploration, a lot of Americans know little, if anything, about it:

The first case is a post by Patrick Joubert Conlon, a gentleman in Oregon who says, “I never get tired of watching the Shuttle taking off.” Later, though, he adds that he “just found out today that the Shuttle program will end in five years time” (less than three and a half, really), and that “the next space-travel project will only take place in 2015″ with a return to the Moon. “I was stunned to say the least,” he writes (a feeling perhaps shared by some readers who are surprised he’s just learning about the Vision.) Although it does appear Mr. Conlon needs to learn a bit more about what the plan is: “I can’t believe that we are going to be relying on MIR as a space station.” His conclusion: “What happened? Who gutted our space exploration program?”

The second case is a post by Townhall.com blogger Matt Lewis, who was surprised when the shuttle launch took place while at a restaurant having drinks. In a reflective mood, he writes, “In the past, Presidents took the time to challenge Americans to go into space… So how come nobody today is going on TV and explaining why we are doing all of this?” (Emphasis in original.) Citing the recent problems that have put NASA in the headlines, he concludes, “[A] lot of it have to do with the fact that our leaders have failed to push this program into the future, and have also failed to explain why this program is important. Is this another missed opportunity for Bush?” He makes no mention of the Vision for Space Exploration in his post, although some commenters try to rectify that oversight.

Of course, one should always be cautious about taking anecdotal evidence too far, but these posts do suggest that a non-zero, and perhaps significant, fraction of the American public, even among those who profess to care at least a little about space, knows little or nothing about the Vision. That may take more than a Message Construct and graphic element to solve.

81 comments to Ignorance of the Vision

  • Yet these same people could probably tell you the exact batting average of their favorite batter, the performance of a couple of favorite stocks, or the original cast of Cats.

    People go out and find information they are interested in. All of us readers and commenters are here, today, because we’re interested enough to poke around on the web and see what’s happening.

    I don’t have a problem with blaming the president for not having a “why”, but I’d simply ask: which president? After all, LBJ started gutting the space program before men ever walked on the moon, and it’s gone downhill ever since. It’s arguable if JFK could have pulled off the manned moon program, but he had the Rooskies and died a martyr, which helped push through his dream.

    NASA should do everything they can to get interaction with the people who are pulling the information. That means all planetary surface probes should have wheels (to show different pictures each week instead of the same landscape), Astronauts should blog and comment from the ISS (with pictures), etc.

    It’s a political animal. PR hacks and marketing campaigns (like they were a soap or detergent or something) ain’t going to cut it. They should start thinking like a dot-com startup and not like the DoD. Maybe if they really competed for mindshare they’d get some, but that would involve changing mission priorities, which the pointy-heads will scream about to no end. I guess they’ll kind of get what they deserve — seven scientists going “Golly Gee! That was awesome!” while 300 mllion folks yawn. For such a smart bunch, they don’t look too hip on doing the political math.

    I’ve probably managed to tick off most of other commenters! Sorry about that. (sheepish grin)

  • Donald F. Robertson

    Interestingly, in this light, I sat next to someone last night on the commuter train who had just finished reading all of Kim Stanley Robinson’s vast Mars series — and how can you get more interested than that? — and yet was totally unaware of the VSE. . . .

    – Donald

  • richardb

    What does one expect for an enterprise consuming less than .06% of the fed budget? Who knows about the defense departments FCS system? Its directed energy programs? Hardly anyone I would bet. How about the No Child Left Behind program? I bet quite alot know about it. Why? It affects kids lives so if affects lots of tax payer lives. Nasa doesn’t affect people’s lives.

  • Thomas Matula

    Space is seen as science and the vast majority don’t care about science so why would they care about space? When space is seen as something more then science folks will get interested in it, not before.

  • Al Thompson

    “Space is seen as science and the vast majority don’t care about science so why would they care about space? When space is seen as something more then science folks will get interested in it, not before.”

    I agree, until the American public can recognize direct economic gain from human spaceflight; independent of government funded programs, I believe it will be very difficult to sustain interest in a long term human space flight policy or vision.

  • Adrasteia

    What does one expect for an enterprise consuming less than .06% of the fed budget?

    Another metric conversion error?

  • I would think that even if there was something of value found on moon, mars etc. like an anti-cancer FACTOR X only obtained under special circumstances when applied to humans would rid 85% of known human cancers. The public would still think it ludicrous to venture into space to harvest this marvel.

  • anonymous.space

    “Space is seen as science and the vast majority don’t care about science so why would they care about space? When space is seen as something more then science folks will get interested in it, not before.”

    “I agree, until the American public can recognize direct economic gain from human spaceflight; independent of government funded programs, I believe it will be very difficult to sustain interest in a long term human space flight policy or vision.”

    NASA’s science programs demonstrate otherwise. There is tons of interest in and support for projects like the Mars rovers, Hubble, Cassini, and their scientific and non-scientific results. Taxpayers clearly believe these programs possess value and will pay (have paid) for more of them.

    The problem with NASA’s human space flight programs is that they deliver little in the way of any tangible results (scientific or otherwise). It’s incredibly hard for a taxpayer to even qualitatively judge the return on their investment for an activity whose measurable benefits result in such a small numerator.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. NASA’s human space flight programs could be designed to produce breakthroughs in exploration, science, and/or technology — to do more than just fly the stars and stripes. But they aren’t designed as such and that’s the reality that the taxpayer is left with.

    FWIW…

  • In my view as a German: Not many people here know about any space visions. Their picture basically is: NASA is shooting Shuttles into space, sometimes doing something with Mars and there’s some station above the planet. And of course the whole stuff is expensive, very dangerous and unnecessary.

    In my opinion this won’t change as long as people won’t get in touch with it. I guess many people know that Boeing is building a Dreamliner (or at least a new plane) and Airbus has this A380 monster. And why is that so?
    Much more people are from time to time in touch with flight/aircrafts in their daily life. Be it because of business or because of the next vacation. So they too accept risks and the price tag.

    That’s where even presidents can’t help although I wish Mr. Bush would publicly support VSE.

  • Thomas Matula

    anonymous.space

    Sorry, but data just doesn’t support your belief.

    The Space Review has a good article this week with some interesting figures on visits to space news sites.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/924/1

    The fragility and resilience of NASA
    by Eric R. Hedman
    Monday, August 6, 2007

    According to the article of the major space sites A.C. Nielsen Company reports that NASA had 3.952 hits unique visitors its website. IF they were all America that would be only a bit over 1.33 percent of the population. Space.com had only 1.178 million, while the rest were too low to bother with reporting numbers on (under 360K unique visitors). That is hardly widespread interest in spaceflight. That is not even enough to be a good niche market.

    As for widespread support for science itself, here is a poll about a core principle of science, human evolution by natural means.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/22/opinion/polls/main657083.shtml

    Poll: Creationism Trumps Evolution
    Most Americans Do Not Believe Human Beings Evolved

    [[[Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process. Just 13 percent say that God was not involved.]]]

    That would indicate that the hard core support for science itself is only about 13%. That is far from widespread by any definition.

    One problem is that most people tend to select friends and associates base on similar beliefs. In marketing this is known as your reference group. And one of the first things that it is important to realize is that just because an interest, like Mars missions, is widespread among your interest group doesn’t mean that its widespread among the general population. That is where you need to collect objective data. And the data shows science and space flight are of interest to only a marginal percentage of the population.

    It would be interesting to get the viewer figures for science channels like Discovery Science, but I suspect if you tracked it down it would probably be far less then for the Outdoor Channel or the Home and Garden Channel.

    NASA budget exists not because of widespread support for it, but because of the lack of widespread opposition to it. The vast majority of Americans simply don’t care about NASA or VSE. Its just not important to them. And so its not surprising most know little if anything of VSE. They have more important things to think about like if their baseball team is winning. Such is the gap between those that live space polciy and the rest of the public.

  • Monte Davis

    After all, LBJ started gutting the space program before men ever walked on the moon, and it’s gone downhill ever since.

    Ummm… so the spending level of 1961-1966 is the norm or default, and that of ~1945-1961 and 1967-2007 is an aberration that requires an explanation? Interesting perspective — not likely to be much help in engaging the real world any time soon, but interesting.

  • Monte Davis

    I sat next to someone last night on the commuter train who had just finished reading all of Kim Stanley Robinson’s vast Mars series — and how can you get more interested than that?…

    Donald: the connection between receptivity to science fiction and interest in — let alone effective support for — today’s space activity is a lot more complex than you assume. It may in fact be turned 180 degrees, or at any rate 90 degrees, from the direction you assume.

  • Donald: the connection between receptivity to science fiction and interest in — let alone effective support for — today’s space activity is a lot more complex than you assume. It may in fact be turned 180 degrees, or at any rate 90 degrees, from the direction you assume.

    Yeah, I think I got disillusioned with the space program just about as soon as I realized how far it was from not only hard sci-fi like Robinson’s work, but also from their own pictures of future plans at the Air and Space Museum. While you can’t blame NASA/the space industry for not being able to match physically impossible sci-fi predictions, it’s really hard not to get the feeling that there just isn’t much progress happening in government space development these days. Or more importantly, that the pace of progress is slower than it can and should be. I think many if not most sci-fi enthusiasts are likely turned off by NASA, not excited by it.

    ~Jon

  • ColdWater

    NASA budget exists not because of widespread support for it, but because of the lack of widespread opposition to it.

    This hits it right on the head. And because there is not much interest in it, the annual budget becomes a plaything for congressional members with NASA interests in their districts.

  • Monte Davis

    the feeling that … the pace of progress is slower than it can and should be

    Which I share. But for me, the definition of progress as “big missions, big projects, big new operational systems” — the Great Leap Forward legacy of 1957-1969, and its echoes in STS and ISS — is precisely where we’ve gone wrong. It has sucked up budget that would have bought a lot more real progress if applied to a host of small, incremental, unglamorous, nuts-and-bolts improvements in capability and reductions in cost.

    On the technology side, this is more or less the X-program or “NACA, not NASA” approach others have championed (including your lists of desirable technologies at SB). What I’m saying is that if you take that seriously, it has radical implications for the politics-policy-PR side as well.

    And we’re not there as long as threads like this one are about why NASA hasn’t communicated the VSE effectively… rather than why NASA (and politicians, and many here) responded to Columbia’s loss not with “OK, second wake-up call, time to get serious about the safe, frequent CATS we promised ourselves in 1972″… but with “Hey, weren’t the 1960s fun? let’s do it again!”

  • Well, Dan, you educated me today. Thanks.

  • richardb

    I do think that vast numbers of people actually support the goals of the VSE, just read this article
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-08/10/content_6509938.htm

    If Nasa could only inspire American taxpayers with similar enthusiasm and commitment.

  • Rob Coppinger

    Hi Dan.
    I have what I call my taxi test, maybe you would call it a cab test being American, but my test is normally to talk to the cab driver and see how aware they are of the big aerospace issues, which I report on. In all my visits to the US not one cab driver has had a clue that Shuttle is being retired and the US plans to go back to the Moon, not one. When in 2010 all the tv networks report the final launch of the Shuttle I wonder if it will be a bizarre reverse Sputnik-like moment for your population.
    Rob.

  • anonymous.space

    “anonymous.space

    Sorry, but data just doesn’t support your belief.

    The Space Review has a good article this week with some interesting figures on visits to space news sites.”

    Huh? What does Nielsen data showing that more people visit http://www.nasa.gov and http://www.space.com over other general space websites like http://www.cnn.com/tech/space or http://www.esa.int have to do with the relative level of interest in space science missions versus human space flight programs? These are all general space websites covering all sorts of space topics. That doesn’t tell us anything about why people are visiting any of these sites. Are they looking for the latest Mars or Hubble image or for the latest Shuttle flight information? The Nielsen data doesn’t say.

    “As for widespread support for science itself, here is a poll about a core principle of science, human evolution by natural means.”

    Again, huh? What does the age-old debate about the validity of science versus religion have to do with measuring the relative interest in and support for space science versus human space flight? How can we make a leap of logic from religious fundamentalists rejecting Darwinian evolution to a lack of support for Mars rovers or Hubble and huge support for Space Shuttle and the International Space Station? Aside from both topics involving some science in the broadest sense, one has nothing to do with the other.

    These claims are based on non-relevant evidence and faulty logic.

    FWIW…

  • Donald F. Robertson

    Anonymous.space: The problem with NASA’s human space flight programs is that they deliver little in the way of any tangible results (scientific or otherwise).

    I think this is an unfair comparison. Cassini, et al, are delivering no more that is tangible to Joe Sixpack and Jane Cabernet than is the Space Station. The difference is in advertising. For whatever reason, the automated spaceflight community is skilled at getting across their excitement and “sense of wonder.” The human spaceflight community is not. I remember when I used to conduct interviews in both communities for Jane’s Information Group. Interviewing space scientists was always a blast — they loved their work and that came across in the interview. Those on the human side saw it as a job, and that too came across. It would be surprising if this difference in attitude did not leak out to the public.

    For the answer, look at the way SpaceShipOne was viewed. These folks too loved their work and it showed.

    To be viewed positively, the human spaceflight community needs to recapture the dream. Like the Mars program, they need to advertise Apollo as the exciting exploration that it was and they need to advertise the Space Station as part of a much wider dream — learning to build things in the environment that dominates the universe. Exploration is what excites people, and, all other things being equal, people will be far more exciting by people exploring than by robots exploring. This is improvable, but I think that the popularity of robotic exploration tells us just how excited people would be about the human space program if they were doing exploration (and ultimately settlement) and advertising it as such.

    This feeds back to the item that anonymous and I agree on, the political stupidity of wasting all our money on a new launch vehicle, rather than proceeding as quickly as possible to measurable human exploration achievements with minimal up-front investment.

    – Donald

  • anonymous.space

    “I think this is an unfair comparison. Cassini, et al, are delivering no more that is tangible to Joe Sixpack and Jane Cabernet than is the Space Station. The difference is in advertising. For whatever reason, the automated spaceflight community is skilled at getting across their excitement and “sense of wonder.”

    The point is not that the space science community has better marketing. The point is that the space science community actually has something to market

    There is excitement and a sense of wonder about space exploration when actual space exploration is getting done. Cassini is uncovering new vistas and making new discoveries (e.g., geysers on Enceladus). STS and ISS do no such thing and it appears that Constellation won’t either.

    Instead of worrying about marketing, NASA’s human space flight programs needs to worry about whether they even have a product to market in the first place.

    “look at the way SpaceShipOne was viewed”

    Although not exploration, SpaceShipOne was new. It was something that the private sector had never done before and the vehicle itself was innovative. Add the element of big-bucks competition through the X PRIZE, and it’s not surprising that SpaceShipOne’s flights were so exciting.

    NASA is obviously not a private sector organization, but the agency’s human space flight programs could do a much better job harnessing lean, mean private sector innovation and competition in highly visible ways, even if the agency wasn’t sending astronauts beyond LEO. But instead, we spend tens of billions of our taxpayer dollars on bloated, uncompeted, fatally flawed, government-designed and -operated systems while only paltry hundreds of millions go to competitively selected commercial human space flight services (COTS) and practically no funding goes to private technology innovation competitions (.e.g., Centennial Challenges).

    “This is improvable, but I think that the popularity of robotic exploration tells us just how excited people would be about the human space program if they were doing exploration”

    Exactly. NASA’s human space flight programs have not done any exploration in decades. That’s why human space flight is not exciting and why robotic science missions are so exciting.

    “the political stupidity of wasting all our money on a new launch vehicle, rather than proceeding as quickly as possible to measurable human exploration achievements with minimal up-front investment.”

    Right. NASA’s science programs don’t needlessly spend billions reinventing commercially available rockets that the taxpayer has already paid for through the military before getting on with the actual mission of building a robotic spacecraft to explore Mars, Saturn, or whereever.

    “Exploration is what excites people,”

    I think we’re actually in violent agreement.

    FWIW…

  • Donald F. Robertson

    Violently agreed!

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Anonymous.space

    I know hard data has a way of destroying fantasies, but the purpose of the thread was to explain why most of the public don’t know or don’t care about the VSE.

    If only 1.3 percent of the population is EVEN interested enough in spaceflight, let alone space policy, to visit NASA’s website once a month then that implies that public support for Mars rovers, etc. is less then the 1.3 percent of the general public. That is not widespread support in anyone’s spin. Perhaps you mean to say the support for Mars exploration was high in the 1.3% of the population interested enough in NASA to visit its webpage?

    And if only 13% of the population accept the results of science that human evolution is caused by random selection, then the number that feel science is important is likely to be less.

    I know that its a matter of faith among space advocates and space policy that IF only we could craft the right vision, the right goal, tax payer dollars would flow to space and the good times will role. But the sad reality is that is not going to happen because the public just doesn’t see any thing of interest in space.

    I know the space advocate community is still hung up on Apollo.

    Recognize that Apollo was of interest to the General public because it was a contest between the U.S. and Russia. A show down between the two big kids on the block and the greatest sporting event of the 20th Century. And that is why over a billion people were tuned in for the final round to see the U.S. win. Just as alumni who haven’t followed their school team in years will tune in if they are at the Rose Bowl playing for the national championship.

    And after the game was over and the U.S. stamped on the Russians the public went on to the next bread and circus event, the next championship and other important things. That is how the public is.

    Here’s another data point for you on the general public, something every political candidate knows, or should know.

    http://www.humorwriters.org/startlingstats.html

    1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
    42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
    80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
    70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

    The reality is the majority of Americans live in a very different world then space advocates. In fact space advocates would probably have more in common to talk about with alien visitors to Earth then the average American. At least they would have physics, astronomy and space to talk about.

    My guess is response to the post by Rob Coppinger on the Shuttle retirement is it won’t be a Sputnik moment, it will be a , “oh gee, that’s too bad. But I guess it was getting old… Say, how about those Yankees? Doing good!

    So your belief is based on faulty logic that just because Mars Exploration is of interest to you and your reference group it should be of interest to everyone.

    Its not.

    And probably won’t unless there’s another BIG game, (U.S. vs China – go U.S.!) or life or death crisis – (If NASA doesn’t stop that NEO the northeast U.S. is history…).

    But until then NASA could probably disappear and all the public would say is, oh, that’s sad, and go on. No million person marches storming Capital Hill, no riots in the streets, probably not even as much faxes or emails to Congress as when Social Security reform comes up for a vote. Most likely not even the Congressional representative from KSFC would lose their next election from failing to bring home the bacon. Its just not that important and hasn’t been since the last big game.

    And space advocates are living in a fantasy world if they think it is or some magic vision will change that.

    Tom

  • Ray

    Thomas Matula: “If only 1.3 percent of the population is EVEN interested enough in spaceflight, let alone space policy, to visit NASA’s website once a month then that implies that public support for Mars rovers, etc. is less then the 1.3 percent of the general public. That is not widespread support in anyone’s spin. Perhaps you mean to say the support for Mars exploration was high in the 1.3% of the population interested enough in NASA to visit its webpage?”

    I think both you and anonymous.space are probably right. I think anonymous.space is saying that the public is a lot more interested in NASA’s robotic science missions than the human missions. The reason is that the robotic missions are returning science information, exploring new places, giving us new visual vistas, and making other improvements, while the human missions aren’t doing much of that. If the NASA’s human space program were returning more results, exploring new places, and showing new vistas, people would be more interested in that, too. Unfortunately the public probably doesn’t expect that to change with the VSE. Most people will not have analyzed the ESAS decisions, but based on past results and their newspaper editors’ assessments, they expect much the same as what they’ve seen in the past, and dismiss it. I’ve seen this reaction personally (eg: with folks who generally don’t care much about NASA that were upset with the VSE when it and the Hubble cancellation news coincided).

    While there could be a boost in interest with more results, you’re saying that even with that boost it’s still a low percentage of the public, which sounds likely to me. However, it could still be a big improvement.

    I do wonder about the impression that the Space Review figures give. 3.9 million unique visitors to nasa.gov … it doesn’t sound like a high percentage. However, there’s a lot of missing information. How many times did that 3.9 million go there? If it’s a lot, then perhaps you have 3.9M very dedicated supporters. Also, how many people are represented by the unique visitors? Maybe a household of 5 has 1 computer, and they all visit nasa.gov. Maybe a school or library computer gets used by 20 people or more. Countering this, maybe individuals use both home and work computers.

    Also, anonymous.space’s assessment, as I understand it, is that interest is based on results and novelty. It sounds like that was a slow month. How many visits would there have been with the start of a major robotic science mission, or a major discovery? I wouldn’t expect millions of visitors if not much was going on, just like I wouldn’t expect a lot of interest, except from the most dedicated fans, in a sport during the off-season.

    Looking at it a different way, how many people went to space or science museums (isn’t the National Air and Space Museum the most popular in the U.S.?), saw a space TV program, stargazed, used Google Earth, etc?

    To be honest, I’m sure I didn’t go to nasa.gov in the last couple months … but I still like those rovers (and went across the country in part to go to the PlanetFest during the Spriit landing).

    I sure am not interested in a NASA design rocket program that, even if it works, will be too expensive and have too few flights to do much, and won’t do even that for at best 15 years. I’ll be much older then … everyone, think of how old you’ll be then, too … interested in waiting?

  • anonymous.space

    “Anonymous.space

    I know hard data has a way of destroying fantasies”

    Please… if you can’t engage in a civil debate without throwing thinly veiled insults at your fellow debators, don’t bother. Don’t imply that other posters have “fantasies”. Argue the facts and logic, no the posters.

    “If only 1.3 percent of the population is EVEN interested enough in spaceflight, let alone space policy, to visit NASA’s website once a month”

    Again, this very narrow data does not support the conclusion. Since when are the number of unique monthly visitors at http://www.nasa.gov an indication of the interest in and public support for the civil space program overall, nevertheless individual NASA programs?

    For example, why would anyone detour through http://www.nasa.gov when Google tells them to go to http://www.hubblesite.org for a “Hubble Space Telescope” search? Same goes for the Mars rovers. Why would anyone detour through http://www.nasa.gov when Google tells them to go to a JPL webiste for a “Mars rovers” search?

    And the internet is hardly the only medium through which the public gets exposed to the civil space program. How many people read about Mars rovers or enjoy Hubble images in their daily newspaper? How many people watch (or even buy/rent) PBS shows like NOVA with space exploration themes? Same goes for the Discovery Channel, Science Channel, History Channel, and similar cable programming. How many people watched the movie Apollo 13? How many people visit the Air & Space Museum in DC each year? How many people visit KSC each year? How many people visit their local planetarium each year? How many people belong to space organizations like the Planetary Society and National Space Society?

    That 1.3% is just the number of people that visit the main NASA website. We can’t draw any greater conclusions from it than that.

    “And if only 13% of the population accept the results of science that human evolution is caused by random selection, then the number that feel science is important is likely to be less.”

    Again, the data does not support the conclusion. The argument conflates all of science with Darwinian evolution (actually just the history of human evolution). It’s fallacious logic to assume that just because someone rejects that they evolved from apes that they reject all of science. If 83% of the population really did reject all of science, then they’re not going to visit doctors and hospitals, take medicine, or undergo life-saving operations, when they clearly do. If 83% of the population really did reject all of science, then they’re not going to visit natural history museums, interactive science museums, and planetariums, when they clearly do. If 83% of the population really did reject all of science, then they’re not going to use computers, drive automobiles, or take advantage of a gazillion other modern conveniences, when they clearly do.

    To assume that 83% percent of the population is not going to read an article on or watch a show on or even just appreciate a pretty picture from planetary exploration or astrophysics because they don’t like to think that they’re descended from apes is just way too big a leap of logic. Such an argument reduces the treatment of science in modern society to medieval or Stone Age beliefs when that’s just clearly not the case.

    “Recognize that Apollo was of interest to the General public because it was a contest between the U.S. and Russia. A show down between the two big kids on the block and the greatest sporting event of the 20th Century. And that is why over a billion people were tuned in for the final round to see the U.S. win. Just as alumni who haven’t followed their school team in years will tune in if they are at the Rose Bowl playing for the national championship.”

    This part of the argument confuses policy rationales with public interest. It is true and well documented that the policy justification behind the Apollo Program was Kennedy’s search for a missile- and space-related achievement in which the U.S. could demonstrably beat the Soviets. But that doesn’t mean that U.S. citizens tuned into broadcasts of the first human lunar landings and moonwalks eight or nine years later because they realized that we were about to demonstrably beat the Soviets in space. They tuned in because it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment to share in an experience about something dramatically new that had never been done before.

    “1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
    42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
    80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
    70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.”

    So what? I repeat… How many people read about Mars rovers or enjoy Hubble images in their daily newspaper? How many people watch (or even buy/rent) PBS shows like NOVA with space exploration themes? Same goes for the Discovery Channel, Science Channel, History Channel, and similar cable programming. How many people watched the movie Apollo 13? How many people visit the Air & Space Museum in DC each year? How many people visit KSC each year? How many people visit their local planetarium each year? How many people belong to space organizations like the Planetary Society and National Space Society?

    A high level of literacy is not a requirement for having access to and appreciating the products of the nation’s civil space program. I personally think it’s rather sad in an elitist and self-defeating way to argue such.

    “So your belief is based on faulty logic that just because Mars Exploration is of interest to you and your reference group it should be of interest to everyone.”

    No. My thesis (not belief) is that NASA’s space science programs produce demonstrable results from actual exploration — in terms of pretty pictures, new vistas, new insights, and new discoveries — while NASA’s human space flight programs do not, and that this has arguably resulted in greater public interest in and support for NASA’s science programs than for NASA’s human space flight programs. This was born out by the budget for space science at NASA, which grew at a clip well above inflation for most of the 90s and early 00s while the budget for NASA’ pre-Columbia human space flight programs was flat or declining during the same period.

    I’d urge you to debate that argument, instead of throwing around random data that has nothing to do with the conclusions you’re trying to justify.

    “And probably won’t unless there’s another BIG game, (U.S. vs China – go U.S.!) or life or death crisis – (If NASA doesn’t stop that NEO the northeast U.S. is history…).”

    Again, this argument confuses (conflates) public interest with policy justification. The two can be but are often not the same. Even without a national security rationale, the public does and will continue to evidence interest in and support new achievements in space exploration. Obviously not the same degree as, say, the war on terrorism. But they have and will support actual space exploration, even in the absence of a nationale security rationale.

    “But until then NASA could probably disappear and all the public would say is, oh, that’s sad, and go on. No million person marches storming Capital Hill, no riots in the streets, probably not even as much faxes or emails to Congress as when Social Security reform comes up for a vote… Its just not that important and hasn’t been since the last big game.”

    I don’t disagree that NASA is way less important to the average taxpayer than, say, the Social Security Administration. But that was never my argument. My argument is that NASA’s science programs draw more public interest and support than NASA’s human space flight programs because the former actually does exploration with demonstrable products while the latter does not. If NASA’s human space flight programs want to garner greater public interest and support and the sustained levels of growing funding that (before Griffin) was flowing to those programs, then they need to mimic the science programs, actually do some exploration, and show the taxpayer some return for their dollar beyond simply flying the flag.

    Please don’t put words in other posters’ mouths and stay on topic.

    “And space advocates are living in a fantasy world if they think it is or some magic vision will change that.”

    It’s not a matter of a “magic vision”. It’s just plain, old-fashioned goal-setting and execution. NASA’s science programs know how to do it. NASA’s human space flight programs don’t and haven’t for decades.

    Simple as that… FWIW.

  • Donald F. Robertson

    Anonymous: This was born out by the budget for space science at NASA, which grew at a clip well above inflation for most of the 90s and early 00s while the budget for NASA’ pre-Columbia human space flight programs was flat or declining during the same period.

    I agree with most of your comment, but here you go too far. Right now, the budget for space science is flat and that for human exploration is growing. Yet, I don’t think you would argue that a greater productivity for human spaceflight is “born out” of that fact!

    I would observe that most advertising agencies would kill for a 1.3% return. This figure for NASA’s Web site actually strikes me as quite high.

    – Donald

  • anonymous.space

    “How many visits would there have been with the start of a major robotic science mission, or a major discovery? I wouldn’t expect millions of visitors if not much was going on, just like I wouldn’t expect a lot of interest, except from the most dedicated fans, in a sport during the off-season.”

    Ray makes an important point here. I recall that the Mars Pathfinder mission, for example, broke some internet records during its landing on Mars. Here’s an interview with one of the website managers:

    http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov/MPF/press/clickz/www_ClickZ_com.html

    He claims that hits across 25 mirror sites ranged from a low of 12 million per day to a high of 47 million per day during the week of Pathfinder’s landing back in July 1997.

    “Looking at it a different way, how many people went to space or science museums (isn’t the National Air and Space Museum the most popular in the U.S.?), saw a space TV program, stargazed, used Google Earth, etc?”

    I should have also mentioned TV and radio news in my list.

    “Also, anonymous.space’s assessment, as I understand it, is that interest is based on results and novelty.”

    Exactly what I was trying to argue. Today, NASA’s space science programs deliver lots of new results and novelty while NASA’s human space flight programs do not. I agree with Mr. Matula that a fear-or-greed policy rationale of the type that has historically driven exploration — e.g., fear of the Soviets for Apollo or greed for a new trading route to the East Indies for Columbus — would drive taxpayer support and funding of NASA much higher than pretty Hubble pictures and Mars rover science alone. But even in the absence of a fear-and-greed rationale, the public does evidence interest in actual space exploration and the novel experiences and discoveries that result from it, and the public has supported higher funding levels for robotic space exploration based on those results and probably would do so for human space flight if it actually delivered for once on that promise.

    Again, contrary to all the flap about inept NASA PR, it’s not a matter of marketing. It’s a matter of having a product to market in the first place. NASA’s science programs do have such products. NASA’s human space flight programs do not.

    FWIW…

  • anonymous.space

    “I agree with most of your comment, but here you go too far. Right now, the budget for space science is flat and that for human exploration is growing. Yet, I don’t think you would argue that a greater productivity for human spaceflight is “born out” of that fact!”

    The human space flight budget started growing again under O’Keefe after Columbia, when exploration again became part of the human space flight program. I argue that supports my logic — that the taxpaying public will pay more for their civil space program when it’s making progress in (or towards) actual exploration.

    NASA’s science programs only went flat after Griffin came on board, contradicted his own pledge to not take “one thin dime” from science, and started raiding those programs to pay for Ares I/Orion, which were too big for the VSE/Constellation budget from the get-go. I don’t think that’s a contrary indicator. I think it just shows how powerful the position of NASA Administrator can be in setting the agency’s priorities relative to the diffuse Congress or public.

    I’d venture a guess that NASA science will start growing again with the new White House and a new NASA Administrator. Even if Ares I/Orion survive, as you know, I’d bet Constellation loses Ares V/EDS/LSAM and some fraction of those dollars will go back to science (and aeronautics) while the rest go towards other priorities outside of NASA.

    FWIW…

  • Thomas Matula

    anonymous.space

    The problem is that You are not offering data, just an opinion unsupported by data. You ask questions about how many visit the Smithsonian or watch Discovery Channel but fail to offer numbers.

    Also you don’t seem to realize there is a huge difference between HITS and UNIQUE VISITORS. Four million unique visitors a month could easily generate a billion hits IF each visits a website 8 times a day. How many times have you checked on a NASA mission when it was in progress during the course of a day? How many times do you check space politics.com?

    And note for reference that unique visitors may be from anywhere in the work. I am sure in its detailed report by A.C. Nielsen Company it provides country of origin, but its worthwhile to remember the majority of the 1.1 billion individuals online these days are outside the U.S.

    http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

    I am being generous to assume they are all from the U.S.

    The Smithsonian AIR and Space Museum attracted 5 million visitors in 2003, down from 9.4 million.

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2007-02-20-space-museum-attendance_x.htm

    Smithsonian air and space museum sees fewer visitors
    Posted 2/20/2007 2:51 PM ET

    And is the most popular museum in Washington. But one problem is finding how out how many are there to see the rockets and how many to see the planes? And how many are students visiting as part of a Washington tour package? So it’s a poor estimate of public interest in space as a result.

    Also museum visitors are like hits on a website as one person visiting 10 times a year counts as 10 visitors.

    The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a better measure as it requires folks to make a specific trip to it, not just visit as part of a tour. It had 1.5 million visitors last year with the Shuttle flying, not that overwhelming a number.

    http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/pressRoom/KSCVC%20Fact%20Sheet%20NEW.pdf

    They have added a “shuttle” ride now to boost attendance.

    But let’s look at giving, another measure of support. The Planetary Society, the biggest membership organization for folks interested in planetary exploration, raised just under $3 million last year. And it was the most successful of the public space charities, that is organizations that depend primary on public giving versus grants by one or two wealthy individuals.

    By contrast the Audubon Society, the prime organization for bird watchers and comparable to the Planetary Society, raised over 100 million last year. And that doesn’t count its chapters which are separate tax entities.

    http://www.charitynavigator.org

    In terms of Discovery Channel, its hard to get the figures without being an advertiser. They are listed as having 1.5 billion subscribers word wide for their family of channels which range from fitness and health to animal planet and travel to discovery kids and discovery science. But these channels are available as a group buy and cable companies often include them in a package to show they are meeting the education needs of the audience. So I suspect the bulk of the 1.5 billion subscribers may not have an interest in it just as I have no interest in ESPN, but its on my cable package and so I am listed as a subscriber technically. It would be interesting to see what the unique audience was on the space shows, but that type of data costs money to buy. I suspect though that the results would not be that much different from what you see for other space interest data.

    But again, if you have DATA showing that more then a very minute percent of the public strongly support space, please present it. Otherwise you are only offering an unsupported opinion. Its hard to argue numbers when you are not giving any, just an opinion that you think robots are more popular. DO you have statistics to back up that statement? Or to show that the public has a widespread interest in VSE, Jeff’s original statement for this thread?

    Tom

  • Tom Matula brings up some good points with the volume of traffic to space related websites. It’s not terribly high from what I’ve seen, and unlikely to become so unless there is a fundamental change in the way space is conveyed to the public. I feel that there needs to be a more cultural approach to space popularization, but the difficulty is that space data gathering is so closely aligned with science, meaning that it’s mainly of interest to eggheads. If the general public cannot envision themselves there, then why should they waste the energy thinking about it? People can picture themselves as celebrities, or racecar drivers, or wrestlers, and so they’ll take the time to fantasize and consume goods and services related to that fantasy.

    No blue-collar tech is going to think much about space if they can’t see themselves up there, and under the current paradigm they’re effectively excluded, which might even generate a sense of hostility to the whole elitist thing.

    So part of the answer is that space exploration needs to be an adventure that the public can plausibly engage in, and part of the answer is that the adventure does in fact need to be something that the average joe participates in.

    Building Solar power sats in GEO to harvest the Sun directly and provide energy independence and even wealth to be shared will be done by blue-collar beamjacks and electricians and plumbers, not eggheads. Servicing satellites will be done by blue-collar types. Fixing Lunar mining equipment, bolting together interplanetary probes, piloting the tugboat that fetches the materials science freeflyer platforms, crewing the comms, and so on.

    That adventure is part of what I’m trying to do with the Lunar Library. Not only is it a place to find books on different Lunar factual topics, but also a place to relax with some good fiction tales for all ages. Which will hopefully create an interest in learning more about the Moon and our high frontier. And maybe spending some money on it.

    And that’s when people start perking up their ears. Jobs? Buying and selling? Cash flows? Now you’re talking…

  • HBV

    Beware what you wish for. You really want people to know more?

    ISS: 22 years, 100 billion. Science return: minimal. NASA has no money to use it once it’s finished. Massive public subsidy for vacation spot for billionaires. Otherwise, boring as hell and not much ROI other than for contractors and govt employees.

    Space shuttle: Equally boring. 40 percent of fleet destroyed. 14 dead. Massive expense. Launched teacher when kids are out of school. Still can’t launch without putting hole in protective shield.

    VSE: tanking. Badly. Negative mass to orbit. Apollo style capsule from 40 years ago. Little or no money for actual lunar lander.

    It’s a good thing more people don’t know all this.

    Some people whine constantly about NASA PAO. But, when you’ve got a largely boring effort that has little impact on people’s daily lives, what do you expect?

  • anonymous

    “anonymous.space

    The problem is that You are not offering data, just an opinion unsupported by data.”

    Why should I bother when the other poster keeps providing data that contradicts his own argument so well.

    Let’s add up all these visitors, viewers, and members to see what the aggregate interest in civil space activities might be:

    http://www.nasa.gov — 3.9 million visitors
    http://www.space.com — 1.2 million visitors
    http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space — 0.5 million visitors
    Mars Pathfinder site and mirrors — 5.9 million visitors (47 million hits / 8 hits per visitor)
    Air & Space Museum — 9.4 million visitors
    Kennedy Space Center — 1.5 million visitors
    Planetary Society — 0.1 million members ($3 million/$30 member fee)
    Discovery Channel — 1.5 million “space” viewers (1.5 billion x 1%)

    Total — 24.0 million visitors/members/viewers

    As the saying goes, a million here and a million there and pretty soon we’re talking real numbers.

    And this total is only composed of just a few estimates looked up on a couple odd Google searches. It doesn’t take into account PBS or other television channels. It doesn’t take into account NPR or other radio shows. It doesn’t take into account Hubble Space Telescope or other space mission webpages. It doesn’t take into account attendance at movies like Apollo 13. It doesn’t take into account book sales. It doesn’t take into account magazine subscriptions and sales. It doesn’t take into account planetarium visits. It doesn’t take into account visits to other space museum exhibits. It doesn’t take into account DVD rentals or sales. It doesn’t take into account membership in other space organizations. Etc., etc.

    Care to keep going?

    “But again, if you have DATA showing that more then a very minute percent of the public strongly support space, please present it.”

    I never made that argument. I argued that there is greater public interest in and support for NASA’s science programs than NASA’s human space flight programs because NASA’s science programs actually perform exploration and provide tangible results.

    You’re the one who’s made up the argument that only a small number of Americans show any interest in space activities. And you’re the one who has proceeded to look up data disproving the very argument you’re trying to make.

    You’re debating yourself, not me.

    “Its hard to argue numbers when you are not giving any,”

    On the contrary, I provided Mars Pathfinder web hit numbers that range into the mid tens of millions. And that’s just for one science mission.

    “just an opinion that you think robots are more popular.”

    Again, all the data you presented does nothing to differentiate between interest in NASA’s human space flight programs and interest in NASA’s science programs. All your data is about general space websites, museums, and television programs. For the argument I actually presented, we can’t draw any conclusions from your data. Your data is non-sensical and non-relevant.

    Enough with the random, adult attention deficit disorder-driven Google searches. Stop debating yourself by putting arguments in the other poster’s mouth and presenting data that just contradicts those arguments. Focus on and argue what the other poster actually wrote or don’t bother debating at all.

    Sheesh… [rolls eyes]

  • anonymous

    “ISS: 22 years, 100 billion. Science return: minimal. NASA has no money to use it once it’s finished. Massive public subsidy for vacation spot for billionaires. Otherwise, boring as hell and not much ROI other than for contractors and govt employees.

    Space shuttle: Equally boring. 40 percent of fleet destroyed. 14 dead. Massive expense. Launched teacher when kids are out of school. Still can’t launch without putting hole in protective shield.

    VSE: tanking. Badly. Negative mass to orbit. Apollo style capsule from 40 years ago. Little or no money for actual lunar lander.

    It’s a good thing more people don’t know all this.

    Some people whine constantly about NASA PAO. But, when you’ve got a largely boring effort that has little impact on people’s daily lives, what do you expect?”

    Wow… very good, hard-hitting assessment of the last few decades of NASA human space flight by HBV. Much better than I could have done. Thought it was worth repeating.

    As HBV said, the problem does not start with PAO. It starts with SMD and ESMD.

    FWIW…

  • Ray

    HBV: “It’s a good thing more people don’t know all this.”

    Yes, but for who?

    “Some people whine constantly about NASA PAO. But, when you’ve got a largely boring effort that has little impact on people’s daily lives, what do you expect?”

    There are lots of ways the VSE could be implemented in ways that aren’t boring and that have significant near-term impacts on people’s daily lives. That’s what the whole Ares I vs EELV or new commercial launcher debate is all about (and also the related debates on things like fuel depots, Orion crew numbers, and robotic vs. human mission balance).

    With the current ESAS approach, the original VSE purposes of economy, security, and science are lost, at least in the first ~15 years and probably (due to cancellation or excessive cost) forever.

    There’s no reason why the VSE couldn’t be implemented in a way that shares costs of EELVs or encourages cheap new commercial launchers, for example. There’s no reason why the VSE couldn’t be implemented in a way that shares costs of existing satellite technologies or encourages new or cheaper satellite technologies.

    Various approaches could provide quick results in these areas, and small (eg: minimal 2 crew member) human missions out of LEO in the mid-term, instead of a boring ~15 year wait for anything to happen (other than LRO). The improved and/or cheaper launch and satellite capabilities would provide benefits to peoples’ daily lives by improving or making cheaper the existing areas of commercial space (and most government space) – Earth climate monitoring, weapons launch monitoring, satellite radio, GPS, weather satellites, civilian and military comsats, fire/disaster monitoring, etc ………

    Throw in a healthy, but easily affordable, amount of purchase of commercial suborbital services, and another layer of benefits may perhaps eventually result.

  • Monte: in regards to my LBJ statement, here’s a link

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/401/1

    I was only 4 at the time, and didn’t work in the WH, so I only know what I read. Apologies if I helped spread something inaccurate.

  • Monte Davis

    Daniel: my point was that LBJ … gutting the space program carries with it an implication that the surge of space spending in 1961-66 (peaking over 4% of the federal budget) was the norm, and that by extension the most ambitious post-Apollo plans of that period represent “the way it should have been.”

    The 17-year-old me of 1967 might have agreed. But these days I believe that kind of thinking over the intervening decades has actually made it harder to get the most out what taxpayers were and are willing to spend on space. It fosters:

    1) a “who took the dream away?” attitude that seeks scapegoats (LBJ, Nixon, Congress/pork politics, the media, wasteful social programs, a slacker public that Doesn’t Get the Vision) and feeds into endless Shuttle post-mortems; endless human-vs-science, Moon-vs-Mars, public-vs-private wrangling; and endless pondering of “what’s the killer motivation that will re-ignite public interest in space?”

    2) a “swing for the fences” orientation that seeks (consciously or not) a return to the pace of the 1960s… and favors big, glamorous “stretch” objectives over steady, nuts-and-bolts improvements that would have added up to a lot more.real progress.

  • Monte,

    I’ve got to admit, I’m one of those “Dude. Where’s my JetPack” set.

    And while I’ve nothing but a gut feeling to offer, I just don’t see a long-term viable space economy where you have to carry so much chemical fuel with you. Aside from the speculative realm of field propulsion, there are things like mass-drivers that could help us at least get materials out of our gravity well on Earth without burning so much fuel.

    So no, I’m not in the slow-but-steady mindset, although I can certainly understand it. I think we are working the wrong paradigm: no amount of tweaking is going to turn that around.

    In an effort to stay on the thread’s topic, I also feel the incremental approach has about a zero chance of captivating the public’s attention. I’m not crazy about the swing for the fences approach either, BTW. My opinion is that the lesser of two evils is to have a large goal, rather than to try to get public opinion moving around Space Glove 3.0

    As one commenter pointed out, NASA basically is just a tartget. Most of the drivers of the huge programs: political action committees, emotions, fear, etc, don’t apply to NASA that much. It’s amazing the agency has kept as much funding as it has.

  • Monte Davis

    the incremental approach has about a zero chance of captivating the public’s attention.

    Funny thing is, there are sustained human enterprises whose rewards are on a scale of generations and centuries rather than years and decades: we call them religions, mathematics and basic science, universities, foundations, social reform campaigns, park systems, etc. Attitudes toward space need to develop in that direction rather than circling ineffectually around “gotta have the revolution now.”

    Couldn’t agree more that chemical rockets are fundamentally ugly and inelegant: not “burning so much fuel” per se, but the gravity well and chemical limits (on Isp and heat resistance) reflected in all that fuel. That’s the hand we’re dealt. Yet there is significant room for lowering costs through changes in design management, operations and flight rate. Unfortunately, those changes run directly opposite to what you get from a focus on “large goals”: stretch missions and next-generation operational vehicles..

    I’ve looked long and hard at the non-magical alternatives, and none is nearly as cheap or easy as its advocates sometimes claim. Their main attraction is the hope that devils we don’t know will prove kindlier than the ones we do. It’s entirely possible that my “slow but steady” would be superseded, in 2030 or 2100, by developments that would make one of them more attractive… or by an unpredictable new motivation for big spending on chemical rocketry… or by entirely new physics (AKA magic).

    It’s a matter of individual temperament whether that prospect makes one say “relax, wait and see what turns up” or “keep improving on what we know.” But VSE as it’s being implemented, Mars Right Away, and their ilk strike me as the worst of all possible worlds: attempting what we know in a way almost guaranteed to fail — or to “succeed” at unsustainable cost as we did in 1969 and 1981, ensuring another few decades of frustration and impatience.

  • Monte,
    Which I share. But for me, the definition of progress as “big missions, big projects, big new operational systems” — the Great Leap Forward legacy of 1957-1969, and its echoes in STS and ISS — is precisely where we’ve gone wrong. It has sucked up budget that would have bought a lot more real progress if applied to a host of small, incremental, unglamorous, nuts-and-bolts improvements in capability and reductions in cost.

    Exactly, just about every “GLF” NASA has taken has caused more harm than good (including Apollo). You’ve known me for awhile now…What made you think I thought otherwise? :-)

    ~Jon

  • Thomas Matula

    “anonymous.space,

    So you actually think a million here and a million there is a big number? In a country with a 300 million population, over 60 million kids in school. That 4 million is a huge website visitor rate with 1.1 Billion people online world wide? That 3 million in giving is large when annual giving in the U.S. is over a trillion dollars, that’s trillion with a T. You must be kidding…

    Those number are so small they would be lost in the noise of a normal internet market research survey… And you don’t add different media or museums together inflate you figures. You are basically saying that the folks that visit KSFC don’t log on to NASA.gov. Or don’t go to the Smithsonian. I expect most of the people in this discussion post have gone to all three multiple times. That most space fans have.

    You could get any inflated number you want if you keep counting the same people over and over and over again. However its unethical in business research to inflate figures that way, is policy research in Washington so undisciplined?

    If you work in space policy as you claim it would explain a lot about why its so out of whack with reality. It ignores it. And it is a waste of time to debate you as you offer no data, just unsupported opinion unconnected to a knowledge of the real world beyond your narrow specialize field. And no willingness to expand beyond it. Nor do you demonstrate an ability to properly interpret data even when its handed to you.

    And your Mars pathfinder numbers are over a decade old when only a small percentage of folks, about 10% of the population, mostly folk with tech backgrounds, were online. The Internet was not representative of the general population then as it is today with over 80% of Americans online and every school wired. That is as bad as Iridium launching its phone in 1999 based on mobile phone needs in the mid-1980’s to serve markets which had already moved far beyond it. And then being surprised when it went under.

    Its also why business professionals tend to stay away from space policy, because space policy experts seem to be happy to keep space a small time activity for a few scientists and other elite.

    They seem to enjoy the hypothetical discussions about a problem more then finding data that will provide hard evidence pointing to a solution.

    I have seen space advocates and policy experts theorize for years why the public doesn’t support space, and spend millions on poorly designed PR campaigns (remember Mission Home?) or studies designed to craft a “vision” but darn few studies using real data beyond simple opinion polls to find out why. Opinion polls are like thermometers, they measure the temperature, they don’t explain why it so hot or cold.

    And opinions aren’t worth much in business no matter how “logical”, They won’t get you a loan from the bank, hard data does and business professionals don’t theorize why people don’t buy their product, they do the research to know why, and then fix it. Perhaps space policy folk should learn something from the business world. Perhaps they should even take a course or two in social research methodology to learn how to use data, and not misuse of data. I teach some graduate courses online for the University of Maryland system that would help.

    But talking to you is like talking to a wall, you are just too dense to see the forest for the trees, which about sums up the current state of space policy, so lost in an outdated paradigm it doesn’t even know its lost.

    Oh, and BTW most of those problems listed are driven by a lack of stable funding and a disinterested public not caring enough to hold Congress accountable for NASA and letting it being be driven by pork barrel needs and lobby based politics. As they say when the cat is away the mice will play and that has been the case with space for decades. There is no reason why manned CEV missions couldn’t start right after the Shuttle’s retirement if EELV’s and a reasonable size CEV was used.

    But because the public is disinterested NASA drifts which ever way the administrator selected runs it. Goldin was into Mars so we got a lot of Mars missions and only a single lunar one, mostly to protect NASA turf when DOD sent Clementine to the Moon.

    O’Keefee came and the focus was on trying to fix NASA fiscal problem. The way I view it Goldin had basically driven it into “bankruptcy” with his management and O’Keefe was the court appointed receiver to try to fix it.

    Now we have Griffin, whose single focus is making the study he worked on for the planetary society the focus of NASA, killing off anything in his way. In 2009 we will get a new administrator who will put ESAS out of its misery and go off in a new direction salvaging what is left to salvage after Griffin.

    And the public won’t care because space is just not that important to them. And space advocates will continue to debate about why the public doesn’t care and space is drifting.

  • MarkWhittington

    Considering some of the tom foolery I’ve seen and heard expressed by space fans, including certain people on this thread, who should know better, I wouldn’t be too hard on the general public. In any case, using ancedoital evidence to try to gauge general public attitudes is itself a form a tom foolery. So is projecting ones own idiosyncratic feelings on others.

    Absent hard data, I can only guess that a lot of people are not paying attention to doings at NASA (much less, by the way, to new space, by the way). The media is not covering it. And space fans are too busy arguing among themselves to have time to inform people (not that I would care for some of the Internet Rocketeer Club to take on that role, of course, taling about the prospect of spreading misinformation.)

  • anonymous

    “So you actually think a million here and a million there is a big number?”

    Please, as I’ve explained multiple times in this thread, you’re having this argument with yourself. I never argued whether the number of individuals who demonstrate interest in or support for civil space activities is a big or small number. (Your data, however, is starting to convince me that it is a pretty significant figure when we start adding up the numbers.)

    For the umpteenth time, my argument was that taxpayers get actual exploration out of NASA science programs while they get no exploration out of NASA’s human space flight programs and therefore greater public interest in, and funding support, has accrued to the science programs in the past couple decades (at least prior to Griffin).

    If you have some data or logic that bears on that statement and can actually quiet your ADD long enough to focus on a cogent and relevant argument, then please bring it forward. Otherwise, take your meds and stop trying to involve me in this debate that you’re having with your split personality.

    Geez, Louise…

    “That 4 million is a huge website visitor rate”

    It’s your number and your argument, not mine. Please go have that debate with your split personality, not me.

    “That 3 million in giving”

    It’s your number and your argument, not mine. Please go have that debate with your split personality, not me.

    “If you work in space policy as you claim”

    Where did I say that I work in space policy? How do you know that I’m not a manager, engineer, or scientist? Do you even know whether I work in government or the private sector?

    Do your meds also give you the ability to read my mind?

    “And it is a waste of time to debate you as you offer no data,”

    As I’ve explained before, on the contrary, I provided some Mars Pathfinder website data that actually bore on the NASA science versus NASA human space flight argument that I was making.

    You, however, have thrown around a bunch of random, non-relevant data, none of which differentiates between NASA science and NASA human space flight, and when added up, actually refutes the non-sequitor of an argument that you’re having with yourself.

    “beyond your narrow specialize field”

    And what would that field be? Please, do tell because you know better than me what degrees I’ve earned. And what organizations I’ve worked for. And in what capacity. If you know me so well, then please get specific about my shortcomings.

    “And no willingness to expand beyond it.”

    Oh, please, pray tell, oh great mentor, in what ways am I unwilling to expand my knowledge. Oh please, oh great teacher, fill my mind with random data that has nothing to do with the conversation. Oh please, oh wonderful professor, make more disconnected leaps of logic so that I might learn how to lose arguments more effectively in the future.

    What a tendentious, self-important, pile of…

    “Its also why business professionals tend to stay away from space policy”

    No, business professionals stay away from space policy because they’re in business, not government.

    [rolls eyes]

    “space policy experts seem to be happy to keep space a small time activity for a few scientists and other elite”

    You’re the one making the elitist argument that most of the public is too illiterate to understand the nation’s civil space program, not me. Regardless of whether they’ve read a book in recent memory, I actually don’t think most people are too stupid to appreciate a Hubble photo or Mars rover story in their newspaper or evening news.

    “Nor do you demonstrate an ability to properly interpret data even when its handed to you.”

    Look, you threw a bunch of random, unconnected, and non-relevant data on the table that had nothing whatsoever to do with the argument being made. Don’t blame me for turning such crappy data around on you by simply adding up the numbers that you provided. If you don’t like how the numbers refute the other argument that you’re having with your split personality, then go have that debate with yourself, not me.

    “Perhaps space policy folk should learn something from the business world.”

    How much more assuming and pendantic can you get? How do you know that I havn’t worked in business in the past? Or don’t now?

    “That is as bad as Iridium launching its phone in 1999 based on mobile phone needs in the mid-1980’s to serve markets which had already moved far beyond it.”

    What the heck? Can we please string at least two relevant thoughts together? What the frack does the Iridium debacle have to do with any of this? What kind of meds do they have you on?

    “But talking to you is like talking to a wall, you are just too dense to see the forest for the trees”

    Yeah, and it’s loads of fun debating someone with symptoms of ADD, multiple personality disorder, and a God complex in their writing.

    Look, if the best argument you can mount consists of random, non-relevant data and personal attacks — and you’re still not getting any enjoyment out of the conversation — then just stop posting. Not only is that a waste of my time, it’s a waste of yours as well.

    “There is no reason why manned CEV missions couldn’t start right after the Shuttle’s retirement if EELV’s and a reasonable size CEV was used… The way I view it Goldin had basically driven it into “bankruptcy” with his management and O’Keefe was the court appointed receiver to try to fix it… Now we have Griffin, whose single focus is making the study he worked on for the planetary society the focus of NASA, killing off anything in his way. In 2009 we will get a new administrator who will put ESAS out of its misery and go off in a new direction salvaging what is left to salvage after Griffin.”

    On all these things, we basically agree. And I’m sure you could bring something valuable to the discussion.

    But constantly insisting on how self-important your background is to this conversation, putting arguments into that other poster’s mouth that they never made, and throwing random data into a debate that has nothing to do with the other poster’s argument and that actually refutes the argument that you put into the other poster’s mouth is not a valuable contribution, not in the least.

    Take your meds, join a junior high school debate team, and come back when you’re focused and experienced enough to actually follow a thread of logic and evidence for more than two seconds.

    Ugh… my apologies in advance to the other posters. I promise to avoid Matula’s ramblings in the future.

    Sheesh…

  • al Fansome

    Although I generatlly agree that Dr. Matula is creating strawman arguments with anonymous, I think they would both agree that NASA’s marketing/selling stinks. Moreover, that they do not understand basic fundamentals about marketing.

    That said, the entire focus here proves a broader point.

    I want to get a point where generating deep(er) & broad(er) public support for the latest national “PROGRAM” is irrelevant.

    I want to get to a point where the annual budget & appropriations process is a minor issue, or irrelevant.

    I want to get to the point where asking the question “what is this presidential candidate’s platform on space?” will get you a blank stare.

    I want to get to a point where “Who is the NASA Administrator?” and “What are they doing?” is a conversation for a social occasion, not a serious issue for the future of the nation.

    This constant dependence on public opinion is part of the problem.

    Which is why we need to turn on the engines of free enterprise capitalism. Intel does not ask themselves “what do the polls say about silcon versus Gaas. Boeing does not poll the public to help them decide whether they should develop the 787.

    I just needed to kvetch.

    - Al

  • Ray

    Thomas: “There is no reason why manned CEV missions couldn’t start right after the Shuttle’s retirement if EELV’s and a reasonable size CEV was used… The way I view it Goldin had basically driven it into “bankruptcy” with his management and O’Keefe was the court appointed receiver to try to fix it… Now we have Griffin, whose single focus is making the study he worked on for the planetary society the focus of NASA, killing off anything in his way. In 2009 we will get a new administrator who will put ESAS out of its misery and go off in a new direction salvaging what is left to salvage after Griffin.”

    Anonymous: “On all these things, we basically agree. And I’m sure you could bring something valuable to the discussion.”

    These, and in particular the parts about current events, seem to be pretty common views here and elsewhere (eg: newpaper editorials). I could also see this happening in a sort of grand repeat of the X-33 cancellation that couldn’t happen in the original Administration. I could also see ESAS grinding ahead year after year, getting delayed, getting cost overruns, crushing more of the smaller NASA efforts as needed, and eventually getting a handful of people and some instruments to the Moon. However, as currently envisioned my guess is it would be too slow, too costly to matter much, and too easily disrupted by any accident in the non-redundant (at the major component level) architecture.

    The question for me then becomes, for either scenario, what can we do to get more benefits (even if side benefits) out of ESAS while it lasts? How do we protect useful projects? (I emphasize “useful”; I don’t think every sacrifice Griffin made was wrong — actually I think he started out ok in that area). With low public interest in the VSE, as the original post noted, is there some way to get more useful results that, for example, would be supported by the ESAS state politicians and/or the NASA Administrator? Somehow some ESAS commonality has survived with EELV, commercial, and robotic science interests (eg: some shared hardware with EELVs, XCOR’s work, LRO). How can this be improved?

    Failing that, can other states’ politicians (eg: states with commercial space or robotic exploration interests) be encouraged to defend their “territory” better?

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    The engines of free enterprise have already been turned on in space for over forty years. The space commerce industry (comsats, remote sensing, direct broadcast, etc.) generated space spending of over 110 billion in 2005, over 60% of global spending on space.

    http://www.spacefoundation.org/news/story.php?id=198

    And no political candidate is making any speeches about it, and nor does anyone care what a president’s position is on it. And it connects with the public as they are the ones subscribing to the service like direct TV. You may take away human space flight and they won’t care. But take away their live sports events or live news made possible by comsats and the switchboards will light up. Turn off the GPS in their SUVs and you will hear a response. But this has nothing to do with NASA or space exploration, unless you consider comsats as exploration. Its business and NASA and its budget are irrelevant to it

  • Thomas Matula

    anonymous

    [[[For the umpteenth time, my argument was that taxpayers get actual exploration out of NASA science programs while they get no exploration out of NASA’s human space flight programs and therefore greater public interest in, and funding support, has accrued to the science programs in the past couple decades (at least prior to Griffin).]]]

    One last tine, what is YOUR evidence for this statement? What is your evidence for the value taxpayers get out of NASA science program? And if greater public interest is in NASA’s science programs then human space flight why was it so easy for Griffin to cut them? If you don’t have evidence to support your statements, hard data, then it just a opinion, and without knowing you background, one without any creditability to it.

    You make blanket statements and never back them up with any evidence then YOUR opinion, then call people names when they present evidence you are wrong in your assessment. As for your background, who knows what it is since you hide your identity? You imply its because you are some kind of policy insider, but is that the real reason you are hiding? I am at least honest enough to use my real name when I post. And I cite sources for the data I base my statement on, unlike you. But then unlike you I don’t feel a need to hide and instead take ownership on my opinions and posts.

  • Thomas Matula

    Ray

    The one element of the ESAS with any value is the Ares V. That should be encouraged. In terms of the Ares I, that needs to be killed. The second key would be to morph the CEV into something more like the Lunar Direct that was proposed for Apollo.

    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/apot2man.htm

    This avoids the cost of developing two separate launchers and two completely separate spacecraft. The key would be if the Ares V could be upgraded to place 80,000 lbs into a lunar transfer orbit. But that should be doable with the five segment SRB’s.

    And it could increase the flight rate to 4 a year to support a 4 man base on a 6 month overlapping rotation as I proposed before. Going to a 5 segment SRB with 4 Ares V flights a year would also increase demand for SRB fuel sgements from the 24 a year with the current design to 40 a year, which should make ATK happy and get them to buy in and allow Ares I to be killed off.

  • kert

    What is your evidence for the value taxpayers get out of NASA science program?
    Count the articles in last years PopSci or New Scientists that were related to space science results. Now count the ones that were inspired by great accomplishments by NASA-run human spaceflight program.

    there’s your answer.

  • Paul Dietz

    And if greater public interest is in NASA’s science programs then human space flight why was it so easy for Griffin to cut them?

    Where did you get this charming idea that public interest is what controls NASA funding? It’s the buying of votes of specific small groups with your tax dollars, not pandering to broad and shallow public desires.

  • Thomas Matula

    kert,

    [[[What is your evidence for the value taxpayers get out of NASA science program?
    Count the articles in last years PopSci or New Scientists that were related to space science results. Now count the ones that were inspired by great accomplishments by NASA-run human spaceflight program.

    there’s your answer.]]]

    And what are the number of each?

    And what is the connection you are assuming between these specialized magazines and perceived public value versus other magzines like Time or Newsweek with a larger base of readers?

  • Adrasteia

    The trend exists within Newsweek and Time as well. Science programs are reported on frequently while Shuttle and ISS are only reported on when something goes wrong. Perhaps this isn’t some morbid public fascination with dead astronauts but because the manned program produces nothing else newsworthy.

  • Thomas Matula

    Adrasteria,

    Do you have hard numbers? Or is it just an impression? The number of space science articles in 2005-2006 versus the number of manned space flight articles would be nice.

  • Adrasteia

    Just an impression. I almost never see articles on shuttle and ISS missions in mainstream publications, planetary exploration missions are reported frequently.

    I don’t have any hard numbers as it would take weeks combing through lexisnexis and other archives to compile them.

  • anonymous

    I think I’m bumping up against a word or other limit, so I’m going to have to stretch out this response over two or three posts. My apologies in advance for any confusion…

    “One last tine [sic], what is YOUR evidence for this statement”

    Since Matula took his ADD medicine and managed to stay on topic long enough to actually respond to another poster’s argument, against my better judgement and with the forbearance of this board, I’m going to reply.

    FACT: Unlike NASA’s human space flight programs, NASA’s science programs perform actual space exploration. Since 1972, NASA’s human space flight programs have not left Earth orbit. In the same time, NASA’s planetary science program alone has visited every major planet in the solar system (some multiple times), along with a multitude of small bodies. And that says nothing of the output of NASA’s non-planetary, science missions.

    FACT: Significant events in NASA’s science programs garner major public interest, as the following internet statistics demonstrate.

    FACT: Within 24 hours of the Deep Impact mission’s encounter with comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005, NASA experienced a billion (that’s a “b”) web hits. See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8464385/ and http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/news_detail.cfm?ID=160.

    FACT: NASA recorded over 1.7 billion (that’s a “b”) website hits and 34.6 terabytes of data transferred the week of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit landing. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Exploration_Rover.

    FACT: The month of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit landing, over 4 billion (again, that’s a “b”) website hits were recorded, breaking records for the most widely viewed scientific event. Unique visitors measured at least 33 million. Only 25% of these requests came from outside the United States. The amount of information requested exceeded “records set by the 2002 Olympics, peak traffic to all IRS websites combined, and all other Government events.” See http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2004_Jan_28/ai_112643582.

    FACT: NASA’s Mars websites recorded almost 70 million unique visitors the year of the Mars Exploration Rover landings. This figure accounted for almost half of the 142 million unique visitors that were recorded on all NASA websites in 2004. See http://aspdemo.arcog.com/?ArticleID=3L2A2F1C3Uy3d3k3E1D3p3_3.

    FACT: The NASA Cassini website and portal experienced over 261 million hits during Cassini’s 64-hour Saturn orbit insertion period in late June and early July, 2004. See http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/sig-event-details.cfm?newsID=385.

    FACT: The NASA Cassini website and portal experienced over 13 million hits the day of Cassini’s first encounter with Saturn’s moon Titan in October, 2004. See http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=14362.

    FACT: Over a two-year period, from 1997-1999, the Hubble Space Telescope website experienced 300 million hits, sustaining a level of about 17 million hits per month towards the end of that period, at a growth rate that was doubling every 14 months. See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: In the days immediately following the Mars Pathfinder landing, the Mars Pathfinder website and its 20 or so mirror sites experienced 100 million hits from July 4-7, 1997. By comparison, CNN had only 50 million hits during the 1996 election. See http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov/MPF/press/cnn/index.html.

    … Again, I think I’m bumping up against a word or some other limit so I’ll finish my comments in a couple separate posts.

  • anonymous

    This is the second in a three-post response. Please bear with me…

    FACT: The figures and references just provided only represent internet interest in NASA’s science programs. Statistics from other media also evidence strong public interest in NASA’s science mission achievements, as follows.

    FACT: LEXIS/NEXIS shows that the Mars Pathfinder mission generated over 4,000 newspaper articles during the year of its landing (1997). 1996 and 1998 produced over 600 and 900 articles, respectively. See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: LEXIS/NEXIS shows that the Mars Pathfinder mission generated almost 13,000 broadcast media articles during the year of its landing (1997). 1996 and 1998 produced over 1,500 and almost 1,000 articles, respectively. See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: By 1999, at least 29 books were published about the Hubble Space Telescope, several of which ranked highly on Amazon.com’s “sales index”. (By comparison, 120 books have been published about Elvis Presley.) See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: LEXIS/NEXIS shows that the Hubble Space Telescope generated between 145 and 250 magazine articles PER YEAR from 1994 to 1998. See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: LEXIS/NEXIS shows that the Hubble Space Telescope generated between 645 and 900 newspaper articles PER YEAR from 1994 to 1998. See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: LEXIS/NEXIS shows that the Hubble Space Telescope generated between 450 and 1,500 broadcast media articles PER YEAR from 1994 to 1998. See http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF.

    FACT: Consistent with this outsized public interest, NASA’s space science programs enjoyed major budget support and steady and substantial budget growth in the period from FY 1995 through FY 2004, per the graph at ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/budget/2000/space_sciences.jpg.

    FACT: From FY 1995 to FY 2004, NASA’s five-year budget projection for space science increased from a low of $1.5 billion per year to a high of $3 billion per year. (Actually, that figure understates the increase, because NASA’s space science budget continued to grow even higher within the last five-year budget period, hitting a high of around 4.5 billion, IIRC.) See ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/budget/2000/space_sciences.jpg.

    If NASA’s human space flight programs want to recapture the magic of Apollo, enjoy strong and positive public interest, and share in the sustained funding increases that come from such support, over the past decade or so, NASA’s space science programs have shown how it can be done. It’s done with innovative missions that leverage competition and commercially available capabilities to steadily push back the frontiers of exploration with demonstrable achievements at regular intervals. It sure as heck ain’t done by reinventing commercially available capabilities with little or no competition and leaving no bucks or mass margin on the table to actually do any exploration on any realizable timeframe.

    … One more post to go. Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve gotten this far…

  • anonymous

    … Last post. Thanks for bearing with me. My apologies in advance to the rest of the board as this post is largely a response to Matula personal attacks. I’ll try to do better and avoid Matula in the future…

    “without knowing you background, one without any creditability [sic] to it.”

    On an internet blog where no one can verify anyone else’s identity, it doesn’t matter whether I’m the village idiot or a Nobel Prize winner. I either present a cogent argument backed up by relevant logic and/or evidence or I don’t, and you either buy into that argument or you don’t. And if you don’t, then you can either debate that argument with relevant logic or evidence of your own or even politely disagree on the basis of opinion without any logic or evidence.

    But what you sure as heck shouldn’t do is what you’ve done through this (and most other) threads, which is put arguments in the other posters’ mouths, make leaps of unconnected logic, throw non-relevant data around, and thump your chest about how important your little online marketing classes are to the fate of humanity. None of that adds anything to the discussion, and in fact detracts from the conversation and turns your posts into blithering annoyances.

    “And if greater public interest is in NASA’s science programs then human space flight why was it so easy for Griffin to cut them?”

    It has been far from easy for Griffin to cut NASA’s science programs. Witness the FY 2007 continuing resolution, which flat-lined exploration and delayed Ares 1/Orion in favor of science (and aeronautics).

    “then call people names”

    Where did I call you a name? Your writing bears obvious evidence of significant psychiatric disorders. But I never called you a name.

    You, however, seem to have no problem accusing me of being things like a space policy insider or of having a narrow background in the absence of any evidence or confirmation from me of where I come from and what I do for a living.

    “when they present evidence you are wrong in your assessment.”

    Where did you ever present evidence that I was wrong? Again, for the umpteenth time, all your evidence was about general space media. You have utterly failed, over multiple posts and after I repeatedly asked you to do so, to differentiate between NASA’s science programs and NASA’s human space flight programs, the very point of that line of argument. If you can’t fathom even this basic difference between science and human space flight programs, then you have no business debating anyone else on this or any other space blog.

    “I am at least honest enough to use my real name when I post.”

    Yeah, you’re a real brave hero there. Your sacrifice of anonymity means so much when 269 thousand websites come up on Google searches for “Thomas Matula”.

    [rolls eyes]

    “I teach some graduate courses online… that would help.”

    If your prior arguments are what pass for cogent discourse in your classes, I sincerely hope that one of your students or superiors reads this and gets you fired because you shouldn’t be teaching anything with your near-utter inability to stay on topic and follow even a simple chain of logic and evidence.

    And if your pathetic, random, non-relevant, and unanalyzed web searches are what pass for market or social research in your classes, there again, I sincerely hope that one of your students or superiors reads this and gets you fired because you are very, very far from a practicing, or even academic, expert in those areas.

    I shudder to think that some small portion of my tax dollars go to support your teaching salary.

    Again, my apologies to the rest of the board. I’ll keep to my promise this time to ignore Matula in the future.

    Ugh…

  • anonymous

    “Count the articles in last years PopSci or New Scientists that were related to space science results. Now count the ones that were inspired by great accomplishments by NASA-run human spaceflight program.

    there’s your answer.”

    Actually, there are folks who track these kinds of numbers to measure the relative impact of different investments and projects (not just NASA’s) on the rate of scientific discovery. I already used this reference several times above, but on page 9, this article also talks about the “Science News Metric” collected by one Dr. G. Davidson, formerly of TRW:

    http://opostaff.stsci.edu/~carolc/publications/public_impact.PDF

    We’d want to look up more current figures, but back in 1999, Hubble was the most productive scientific instrument in the world according to this metric, accounting for over 1% of scientific discoveries. All of NASA’s space science programs account for over 5% of scientific discoveries that year.

    Although small, these numbers are pretty remarkable if we think about all the other federally sponsored research in the U.S. (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, etc.), nonetheless various non-federal research in the U.S. (states, universities, other non-profits) and in other leading research nations around the world (Europe, Japan, etc.).

    “Where did you get this charming idea that public interest is what controls NASA funding? It’s the buying of votes of specific small groups with your tax dollars, not pandering to broad and shallow public desires.”

    It’s both.

    As the internet, media, and budget figures related to NASA’s space science programs a couple posts above should demonstrate, government programs that produce good results do get noticed and are rewarded for it. Representative democracy can and does work.

    But as NASA’s human space flight programs show, government programs can languish on parochial interests seemingly indefinitely with little or no results for the taxpayers’ dollars. Although the best humanity has produced to date, even representative democracy is still a flawed system of governance

    The key to good governance is encouraging the former while discouraging the latter.

    FWIW…

  • Thomas Matula

    anonymous,

    [[[Yeah, you’re a real brave hero there. Your sacrifice of anonymity means so much when 269 thousand websites come up on Google searches for “Thomas Matula”.]]]

    Really, you should learn how to use a basic search engine. When I type “Thomas Matula” into Google exactly 758 pages come up, of which about half are on me, including several papers of mine. But then you must be able to think logically to use a search engine properly, or at least understand something about how computer programs work. If you don’t put in the quote marks to link the words every page with the name Thomas will come up if Matula is also on the page. Defeats the purpose of a good search engine like Google.

    and

    [[[Your writing bears obvious evidence of significant psychiatric disorders.]]]

    So now you are claiming to be a therapist as well? Really, if you can’t find evidence to counter mine then admit it.

    Bottom line, to get as BACK to the thread on top, which IS titled “Ignorance of the Vision”, NOT public support for robots versus humans which is what YOU hijacked the thread to be, is that the majority of Americans simply don’t care about space period. So robots versus humans is a moot point as space, which is seen as science, is just not that interesting to most Americans the point of my posts you were unable to see.

    And as Jeff noted.

    [[[Of course, one should always be cautious about taking anecdotal evidence too far, but these posts do suggest that a non-zero, and perhaps significant, fraction of the American public, even among those who profess to care at least a little about space, knows little or nothing about the Vision. That may take more than a Message Construct and graphic element to solve.]]]

    Yes, one should be cautious, but one also shouldn’t assume that just because something is the center of your life everyone else also cares about it.

    And what my evidence indicated was that its likely more then a significant percent that don’t know about the vision, its likely a large majority. They may be aware of some vague goal of NASA to go to the Moon and Mars eventually, but not the vision specifically.

    Actually, based on a survey I did only about 36% of the respondents indicated they had heard of the “Vision for Space Exploration”. Note that this was a separate question then if they supported NASA going to the Moon or Mars, it asked specifically if they had heard of the Vision for Space Exploration or the President’s speech on it.

    Matula, Thomas L and Karen A. Loveland (2006). ” Public Attitudes toward Different Space Goals: Building Public Support for the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) ” in the Proceedings of Space 2006: The 10th International Conference on Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space, Houston, TX, March 5-8, 2006.

    So, going back to the Topic Title “Ignorance of the Vision”, the really is that the vast majority are ignorant of the vision, not a small minority as many in the space community seem to feel.

    The reality also is that neither robots or humans spaceflight at NASA has been able to create sustained public interest or support for space exploration. I believe it was Robert Heinlien that stated that NASA was able to most exciting adventure in human history and make it boring. And the reason its boring to most Americans is that it is seen as just science. And science is boring. That is why so few major in it and most kids hate it in school.

    NASA’s budget exists only because no one cares enough to oppose such a small target and so Congressional representatives simply view it as pork, to be traded with other pork projects like farm supports and ethanol subsidies.

    And as for the funding of science restored, yes, Senator Barbara Mikulski bought home the bacon for Goddard, as she always does. If NASA had assigned a major part of the human mission to Goddard she wouldn’t have added a dime back to science.

    And its up to the space community either to accept that and change it by changing space from science to something that will interest the public or being willing to live within its limitations and change their expectations accordingly.

    And BTW from the nature of your replies to me, and others on other threads, I could see why you want to hide your postings from YOUR boss by being anonymous.

  • anonymous

    Must… resist… aw, I can’t help myself…

    “When I type “Thomas Matula” into Google exactly 758 pages come up”

    Are you really so dense that you don’t understand that 750-odd web pages confers a high degree of anonymity?

    Why do you constantly insist on providing evidence that refutes your own arguments?

    “Defeats the purpose of a good search engine like Google.”

    Oh yes, wise internet user, school me in the ways of seach engines so that I might someday insult some other posters by teaching them such inanities.

    “And what my evidence indicated was that its likely more then a significant percent that don’t know about the vision, its likely a large majority.”

    No, the only thing that your evidence showed was that a few millions of people visit the main NASA web page and attend major space attractions.

    Your “evidence” totally ignores the 20-odd facts and figures provided above, backed up by links to web-available articles and studies, showing that NASA’s science missions garner tens of millions of unique visitors and billions of hits on their websites and mirrors, not to mention thousands of news articles and other media impressions annually.

    Let’s do something novel… let’s try reading some of those facts and figures this time, maybe even clicking on a link or two, before firing off another lame, insulting response.

    “which is what YOU hijacked the thread to be”

    How is providing an explanation of why the public lacks VSE awareness (i.e., relative poor performance of NASA’s human space flight programs, not PAO problems) hijacking a thread about the public’s lack of VSE awareness?

    If anything has hijacked this thread, it’s your constant insistence on throwing up strawman arguments that have nothing to do with the chain of logic and random data that refutes the very strawman arguments you’re trying to prove.

    “The reality also is that neither robots or humans spaceflight at NASA has been able to create sustained public interest or support for space exploration.”

    Again, your “reality” (make that “fantasy”) utterly ignores the internet, media, and budget data provided in the earlier posts. Please do us all a favor, take your ADD medicine, and try focusing long enough to actually read through and recognize what the other poster has written.

    “one also shouldn’t assume that just because something is the center of your life everyone else also cares about it.”

    Like what… oh, teaching online marketing courses?

    “And as for the funding of science restored, yes, Senator Barbara Mikulski bought home the bacon for Goddard, as she always does.”

    Sigh… are you even aware that there are other NASA field centers that develop and operate space science missions and that they might actually garner a larger portion of the space science budget?

    “And the reason its boring to most Americans is that it is seen as just science. And science is boring. That is why so few major in it and most kids hate it in school.”

    Ah… more wonderful leaps of logic.

    Of course, in the minds of the dumb, stupid public, science and space are the same thing. Joe Six-Pack obviouisly can’t tell the difference between a microscope and a spacecraft.

    Where is the evidence for this conflation?

    And, of course, because the dumb, stupid public doesn’t take enough science courses, no one interested in or supportive of science outside of their education or career. Joe Six-Pack is obviously not interested in the pursuit of knowledge that can enrich or even save his life.

    Where is the evidence for that connection?

    “So robots versus humans is a moot point as space, which is seen as science, is just not that interesting to most Americans”

    Again, you utterly ignore the internet, media, and budget data provided in the earlier posts, on top of making two leaps of logic that science and space are the same thing and that the public is not interested in science outside of their educations/careers.

    Please, go back to junior high school and join the debate team. Geez…

    “Really, if you can’t find evidence to counter mine then admit it.”

    Sigh… you mean like the 20-odd facts and figures, backed up by links to articles and studies, citing high tens of millions of unique visitors and billions of hits to NASA science mission websites, not to mention thousands of other media impressions, that I presented above?

    Again, let’s do something novel… let’s try reading it this time, maybe even clicking on a link or two, before firing off another lame, insulting response.

    “And BTW from the nature of your replies to me, and others on other threads”

    To whom? Where?

    The ratio of the quality of your posts to the quantity of your annoying insults puts you in a class all by yourself.

    Bleah…

  • kert

    “Do you have hard numbers? Or is it just an impression? ”

    I’ll get you hard numbers for NewScientist for last half a year, once i go through the stack of magazines. its not difficult to count as there really arent many. and from memory, i can tell the number for ISS/Shuttle is roughly zero, give or take one.

  • Monte,

    “Attitudes toward space need to develop in that direction rather than circling ineffectually around “gotta have the revolution now.” — I can’t engage you on how attitudes towards space should or should not develop. I can speculate and comment on where they are now, what the drivers are, and how to work with current attitudes as best as possible. I think we’re on the same page — I would love for magical propulsion to happen overnight, but so far, that’s not happening. Looking back every 50 years or so in transportation, something magical DOES seem to happen on a regular basis, so my money is on the next 50-100 years. But it’s just a guess. It would not surprise me if humanity had to wait 400 years for some practical kind of space travel.

    irt to small improvements, “Unfortunately, those changes run directly opposite to what you get from a focus on “large goals”: stretch missions and next-generation operational vehicles.. ” — I think maybe I could shed some more light on incremental versus radical improvements.

    Let’s assume that pure platinum or some other really valuable resource is found on the moon. From the first day it is discovered, every entrepreneur on the planet is going to start doing the price/reward numbers for going to get it.

    In addition, every month that the platninum sits up there, there is an opportunity cost — the benefit you have lost from not retrieving it yet. That means the numbers are constantly going up.

    My thesis is that sooner or later somebody is going up there to get that resource. Even if it involves methods we currently are not considering. That is, unless the lessons of two thousand years of human history are null and void.

    So why not just monetize the manned space program that way? Provide a virtual resource — money from taxpayers — that acts just like a real resource would act. In this case, we would be paying for publicly available cheap lift technology.

    Would I want a ten thousand folks working on one launch platform? Or a million people working on a thousand technologies? It’s a numbers game, and the more players the better, in my opinion.

    “But VSE as it’s being implemented, Mars Right Away, and their ilk strike me as the worst of all possible worlds: attempting what we know in a way almost guaranteed to fail — or to “succeed” at unsustainable cost as we did in 1969 and 1981, ensuring another few decades of frustration and impatience.” — and my concern is that well-meaning people, of all positions on this issue, provide nothing more than background bickering to the larger question, which is how to get to LEO on the cheap. I’d rather have a stupid goal than a stupid program. If we have both, so be it. When the program flops, let’s double-down on the goal, monetizing the capabilities we need. That’s a far sight better than just acknowledging that rockets are tough, and we’re happy tweaking exhaust velocity or some such. But if we can’t agree on some goal (even a bad one) we don’t even have an incremental approach: we just have random meandering.

  • Monte Davis

    Tom: The engines of free enterprise have already been turned on in space for over forty years… over 110 billion in 2005, over 60% of global spending on space.

    Just wanted to highlight this before it’s lost in the food fight. The more heated SFF-ish rhetoric, about how government inevitably screws up and feisty entrepreneurs will quickly change the whole picture, rarely takes account of this big hulking fact.

    It’s understandable that those focused on human spaceflight don’t find the commsat-navsat-remote sensing domain very sexy. But that they completely ignore it in presenting their typical picture of space as utterly dominated by Big Bad Government — and only now feeling the first revitalizing impulse from Lean Competitive Startups — should tell us something.

    An economist or historian might look at the facts and say: Hmmm… relatively small payloads that earn their keep by spreading real, market-valued services across millions of users… don’t need resupply… don’t have to re-enter safely… and enjoy ongoing Moore’s Law gains in function/kg, are an ongoing commercial enterprise.

    He might say: Perhaps relatively large (aka manned) payloads that pay off mostly in “vision”… do need resupply for extended stays… do have to re-enter safely… and can’t be miniaturized, will take a lot longer to get into the black.

    But that’s boring and depressing and doesn’t put the blame squarely on Big Bad Government, where we all know it belongs. So let’s ignore it and talk some more about those exciting engines of free enterprise!

    ( BTW, anybody got Isp figures for those?)

  • Monte Davis

    Daniel: yes, we’re mostly on the same page. CATS, in other words boring old LEO at hundred$ rather than thousand$ per pound, is the sine qua non. Without it, I can’t see the numbers for any space resources or any settlement, even Antarctic-scale.

    I don’t know whether existing or near-term technologies and smarter planning/operations are enough to get there… or if so, in what mix… or how quickly. But I do know that Big Inspiring Missions have a consistently lousy 50-year track record where cost reduction is concerned.

  • Monte,

    Big missions, when sucessfull, lead to a “if we could put a man on the moon, why can’t we do X?” which, in my opinion, definitely stirs the political pot a bit (for a lot of issues)

    When they fail, they lead towards “Why can’t Big Government do anything right?” ignoring some of the endemic problems that we have created for ourselves. And you point them out quite well.

    Nice point about private space commercialization. To the larger question, “Why aren’t people more informed” I would suggest a) people love the products the robots produce, but b) people identify with other people, not with machines (at least until The Singularity — wink)

    The path of least magic is probably machine intelligence exploring nearby star systems. If you can live to be a 100,000 years old and travel at around .9C, then space travel isn’t too bad, just really, really, boring. I just hope the inflight movie is good!

  • It’s understandable that those focused on human spaceflight don’t find the commsat-navsat-remote sensing domain very sexy.

    It has nothing to do with whether or not it’s “sexy.” It has to do with whether or not it’s the kind of market that will drive down launch costs. It clearly is not, for many reasons, and is thus irrelevant to affordable access.

  • Monte Davis

    I’ll just let that one sit there, Rand. It’s more revealing on its own — funnier, and sadder — than anything I could add.

  • kert

    ok, i tried to count what NewScientist has published on space this year, there are too many, and lots of them arent directly attributable to certain mission.
    I stopped when the total count went over 50
    FWIW, i found five directly related to manned spaceflight:
    1 on Nowak case
    1 on ISS computer issues
    1 on ISS crew dumping trash overboard
    1 interview with retired Apollo guys
    1 article about ISS crew recycling piss to water.

    If you want a precise count, go to search page and start punching in “space, nasa, moon, mars, saturn” etc keywords since issue 2585

  • Adrasteia

    Yeah and notice how except for the Apollo history piece it’s all “something went wrong” or tabloid trash. There’s nothing published at all about the activities and research taking place in the program.

  • richardb

    I wonder how many hits register on the web for the F-22 or the B-2 bomber or the F-35? I wonder if any official in Washington with policy and spending responsibility cares? Yet each of those program’s cost is equal to or far greater than VSE out to 2020. These arguments about measuring public support for Nasa is like auditioning roosters at the Metropolitan Opera House. Nasa is delusional if it expects to build long term support with camera shots of cometary impacts to please the netizens. It needs well thought out strategies that are strongly supported by the government including the bureaucracies. Strategies that advance the national interest. Strategies that are in harmony with American traditions.

    Kind of like the science driven robotics programs and the engineering driven VSE that Nasa is currently pursuing. Science and Engineering, two things Americans have done well for the past two centuries.

  • anonymous

    “I wonder how many hits register on the web for the F-22 or the B-2 bomber or the F-35?”

    Apples and oranges.

    The Air Force exists to defend the country. The rationale for a military is written into the Constitution. Public interest in a military aircraft program is not necessary or even helpful in justifying such a program.

    Sometimes NASA programs are like military programs in that they can be justified on the grounds of national defense. Witness Apollo as a reaction to real and suppossed Soviet advances in missiles and space.

    But outside of those special cases (maybe just one special case in Apollo), NASA exists to enrich the nation — monetarily, academically, and spiritually (for lack of a better term) — with new science, technology, and exploration achievements. Public interest in such achievements may or may not be necessary to justify a civil spacecraft mission, but public interest is certainly helpful outside the national defense environment.

    “Nasa is delusional if it expects to build long term support with camera shots of cometary impacts to please the netizens.”

    If this is a reference to the Deep Impact mission, the comment misses or ignores the scientific justification for cracking open a comet — specifically getting at the chemical and isotopic composition of the comet’s interior which should be undisturbed from very early in our solar system’s history. It’s a window into the composition of our early solar system, the constituents that gave birth to our home planet and the other planets and minor bodies of our home system.

    That said, the fact remains that such a novel and stunning achievement as cracking open a comet, and the science behind it, are of great interest to the public. The billion (with a “b”) web hits that NASA experienced within 24 hours of the Deep Impact mission’s encounter with comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005 are testimony to this. See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8464385/ and http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/news_detail.cfm?ID=160.

    When the civil space program actually pushes back the boundaries of exploration (whether physically, scientifically, or technologically and whether with robots or humans), the nation takes notice. But the civil human space flight program has arguably not done that in decades and appears likely not to do it for another decade or two with ESAS. I’d argue the lack of past and potential future exploration achievements in NASA’s human space flight programs has more to do with lack of public awareness about the VSE than any ineptness on the part of NASA public affairs.

    “Strategies that are in harmony with American traditions.

    Kind of like the science driven robotics programs and the engineering driven VSE that Nasa is currently pursuing. Science and Engineering, two things Americans have done well for the past two centuries.”

    This argument alone is not a justification for civil space spending. The federal government pursues dozens and dozens of good civil science and engineering programs outside of NASA. To the extent that science and engineering are American “traditions”, there are many ways to pursue that tradition besides civil space exploration.

    I’d also quibble with whether the VSE is actually “engineering driven” and whether the engineering done in ESAS and Constellation to implement the VSE is of good quality, but those are other threads.

    FWIW…

  • richardb

    Anon, I take it as obvious that cracking open a comet is of scientific value and is worth doing. What I doubt is the impact of enduring public support from seeing it on TV or the WWW. Nasa has to compete with many mouths feeding from the public trough. Some good and worthy mouths, some not. The idea that researching web hits can give legitimacy to Nasa programs and help build a case for the VSE is a bad one. The web is an echo chamber from instant to instant, perfectly suited to hyperactivity. Nasa has to find a resonance, like the military has, to broad segments of society if it wants to go down the VSE road. The reason the military can get an F-22, as opposed to continued F-15′s or get B-2 rather than more B-52′s is because the military is reflective of the values of broad segments of the population. That is what keeps us from being like Canada, Germany, Italy, and many other countries that spend paltry sums on defense. Constitution or not, the US has chosen to spend large sums to engineer and research the best military equipment. Nasa should be attempting to find its own vein of enduring support and build on it, much like the military has done.
    I can think of many ways to do that, but please spare me the marketing notions of web hits, unique MAC addresses, magazine subscriptions and the like.

  • anonymous

    “What I doubt is the impact of enduring public support from seeing it on TV or the WWW.”

    The argument is yours to doubt, but the correlation exists.

    In the posts above, I threw out about 20-odd facts and figures backed up with links to articles and studies showing that significant achievements by NASA’s space science programs in the 1994-2005 timeframe have garnered tens of millions of unique website visitors, billions of hits, and thousands of other media impressions. The posts above also have links showing that during that same timeframe, NASA’s space science budget doubled from a projected low of $1.5 billion dollars per year to a projected high $3.0 billion dollars per year (and that understates the actual budget gain). In short, the figures show that strong NASA space science achievements led to strong public interest in NASA’s space science missions, which in turn led to strong budget support for NASA’s space science programs.

    Our system of government doesn’t always work this well. I’d argue that NASA’s human space flight programs have languished for decades on large parochial spending despite having practically no exploration achievements to speak of in the same timeframe.

    But NASA’s space science program shows that positive achievements generate positive news, both of which can and do get rewarded in the federal budget process.

    “Nasa has to compete with many mouths feeding from the public trough. Some good and worthy mouths, some not.”

    I’m not sure what this has to do with the argument. It’s certainly no different with the military. Inter- (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) and intra-service (operations versus R&D, different R&D programs) rivalries, not to mention parochial foodfights over military bases, exist in spades at DOD, too.

    “The idea that researching web hits can give legitimacy to Nasa programs and help build a case for the VSE is a bad one.”

    I never argued that “researching web hits” gives “legitimacy” to anything.

    I argued that tens of million of unique visitors, billions of web hits, and thousands of media impressions for NASA’s space science missions are reflective of the public’s interest in actual exploration achievements and that this has been demonstrably rewarded in the budget for NASA’s space science program.

    I’m not saying that we should “research web hits” to demonstrate how many people are actually interested in the VSE and somehow give it “legitimacy”.

    What I am saying is that if the human space flight goals in the VSE are to gain interest from and “legitimacy” with the public over the long-run, then NASA’s space science programs offer a good model for how it’s done, i.e., innovative programs that actually and regularly push back frontiers in exploration, science, and technology in demonstrably new ways.

    “Nasa has to find a resonance, like the military has, to broad segments of society if it wants to go down the VSE road.”

    Again, based on the data in the earlier posts, I’d argue that NASA’s space science programs already have “resonance” with the public (there wouldn’t be such a high level of interest, otherwise) and have been rewarded for it budgetarily.

    And I don’t mean this as a personal attack, but I find the argument that spending on our military has some “resonance” with American values to be rather goofy.

    First, we’re not a military state. Our values don’t lie with the military. Rather, the military defends our values.

    Second, military spending is not driven by “broad segments of society” but by real and perceived threats. Just look at patterns of military spending during the Cold War, in the post-Cold War period, and in the post-9/11 period. It was up, then down, then up again, all in correlation to the rise and fall of the communist Soviet Union and the subsequent rise of radical Islam. Military spending arguably has more to do with the values of other nations than our own.

    “The reason the military can get an F-22, as opposed to continued F-15’s or get B-2 rather than more B-52’s is because the military is reflective of the values of broad segments of the population.”

    Again, I don’t mean this as a personal attack, but this argument is rather goofy. An F-22 is or B-2 is not reflective of the values of “broad segments of the population”. They’re just weapons that, given assessments of various threats around the world and the various options for meeting those threats, that our military, White House, and Congress (rightly or wrongly) has decided to pursue. The decisions behind the F-22 and B-2 had to do with defeating air defense systems through combinations of stealth and speed, not American values.

    Maybe you could make an argument that, like NASA space science, the military has done a good job defending American borders (only two attacks on American soil over the past century) and gets rewarded appropriately in the budget process.

    Maybe you could also make an argument that, like NASA’s human space flight programs, the F-22 or B-2 bring home the bacon for certain congressional districts and those programs get rewarded appropriately in the budget process.

    But neither of those arguments is about the military resonating with “broad segments of the population”. They’re about program performance and pork, not the values of our society.

    “That is what keeps us from being like Canada, Germany, Italy, and many other countries that spend paltry sums on defense.”

    No, it’s the divergent history of these nations and the threats against them that drives their military spending.

    The U.S. won both WWII and the Cold War, which left us standing as the only world superpower and the military obligations that come with it. We also suffered the (so far) worst attack by radical Islam against the western world, which started the war on terror and a new round of military spending.

    Germany, however, was on the losing side of WWII, never regained superpower status, and has no significant threats with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the country’s spending priorities are just still consumed by the integration of the former East Germany. A similar story exists for Italy.

    Canada was never on the losing side of anything, but never achieved superpower status like the U.S. and has even fewer threats than the other nations discussed due to its location and low, peacekeeping profile.

    “Constitution or not, the US has chosen to spend large sums to engineer and research the best military equipment.”

    Yes. But, it has little to do with our values, and everything to do with our status in the world and the real and perceived threats to our way of life.

    “Nasa should be attempting to find its own vein of enduring support and build on it, much like the military has done. I can think of many ways to do that,”

    Again, outside recruitment advertisements and Congressional pork-barrel politicking, I don’t see any past or present effort by the military to find “its own vein of enduring support”.

    But if you have “ways” for NASA “to do that”, then please, offer them up for critique.

    “but please spare me the marketing notions of web hits, unique MAC addresses, magazine subscriptions and the like.”

    I apologize that I did not spare you that. But I take a little umbrage with the term “marketing notions”. As I said several times in the earlier posts, it’s not a matter of good or bad “marketing”. It a matter of whether NASA programs have a product — in terms of achievements that actual rolling back exploration frontiers physically, scientifically, or technologically — that is worth “marketing”. NASA’s space science program historically have had such products and have been rewarded with doubling budgets in recent years for it. NASA human space flight programs have not such products for decades, and that is probably a bigger reason for why human space flight budgets have not experienced such growth and why the VSE’s human space flight objectives (finish ISS, retire the STS, return to the Moon) remain relatively unknown to the public.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • HBV

    Hey hey LBJ
    How many rocket scientists did you lay off today?

  • Matthew Corey Brown

    All these debates over article numbers in magazines the average person probly doesn’t subscribe to. I persoanlly haven;t seen a PopSci issue laying around a friends house/ waiting room or what have you in 10 years.

    I’m be interested in subscriber numbers of these magazines. if is less then 30% of the voting public then does it really matter?

  • Adrasteia

    When barely 30% of the public votes, I’d say that it matters a lot.

  • Adrasteia

    It needs well thought out strategies that are strongly supported by the government including the bureaucracies. Strategies that advance the national interest. Strategies that are in harmony with American traditions.

    Government welfare programs have been an American tradition for over eight decades. Was that what you had in mind?

  • anonymous

    Forbes posted an article today in which a NASA spokesperson makes essentially the same argument that I’ve tried to articulate in this thread:

    “…The U.S. space agency is already weathering a veritable meteor shower of problems, including allegations of corruption, underfunding, drunken and disturbed astronauts, and even murder.

    “Can anything be done to turn things around?

    “NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs says the solution is to emphasize the agency’s strong suit–science.

    ‘It’s easy to fall into the headline-grabbing issues that have faced the agency in recent months, but there are so many more positive issues for the American people to focus on,’ he says. NASA has two rovers on Mars and another vehicle scheduled to land on the planet in the coming months, and it also plans to send an unmanned mission to study Pluto by 2015, Jacobs points out.”

    Again, with the human space flight program having so little to sell except negative stories about Shuttle performance and astronaut misbehavior, what does the cornered NASA spokesperson turn for some good news stories? To positive achievements in space science.

    To first order, the problem with VSE visibility, at least the big human space flight elements, is not marketing. The problem is that the human space flight program has nothing worth marketing.

    Full article at http://www.forbes.com/business/2007/08/14/nasa-shuttle-space-biz-wash-cx_bw_0814nasa.html.

    FWIW…

  • canttellya

    anonymous, I read that article in Forbes yesterday and one of my very first thoughts was that it supported your argument perfectly.

    If NASA “turns” to science for some good PR, then maybe they ought to quit gutting it to pay for a decrepit shuttle and corrupt astronauts.

  • One of the lessons that should have been learned from the recent marketing exercise is that it is not the science that is NASA’s strong suit, but the technology. When folks learned of technology associated with NASA their ‘relevance to my life’ index went up enormously. Perhaps too much, which makes me wonder how they sold it out in the field when they were sounding people out.

    One of the free handouts I try to have available when I do outreach is “Spinoff” magazine, which also comes as a CD. People gobble them up. They’re fascinated by the stories of how NASA needs drove the kinds of developments that we benefit from today. They’re intrigued by some of the potential technology identified by materials and microgravity scientists for space development. One of the titles in the Lunar Library that gets regular traffic is the Scientific American book on “Inventions from Space”. People want to see technology because they know it leads to good jobs that someone’s kids are going to do.

    I do think it is a good thing that more mainstream press is writing more about the topic of space, and the up-and-coming private sector efforts. Perhaps they’re starting to realize that this really is an area of economic opportunity for the U.S. once unleashed into the private sector marketplace. Jobs, maybe?

  • canttellya

    Problem is, NASA under Griffin has killed all technology work. I think if the public knew that, their support for NASA would dry right up.

  • anonymous

    “from the recent marketing exercise”

    What “marketing exercise” are you referring to? If you mean the NASA public affairs “triangle” that got so much negative commentary on space websites, NASA science actually was not highlighted in that diagram or presentation.

    “it is not the science that is NASA’s strong suit”

    Science is the one thing that NASA consistently does well. NASA’s science spacecraft are responsible for an outsized number of annual discoveries, their achievements get a lot of recognition from the public, and they’ve been rewarded for it budgetarily. See the long list of “FACT”s in a couple of my earlier posts about a third of the way up this thread.

    “One of the free handouts I try to have available when I do outreach is “Spinoff” magazine, which also comes as a CD. People gobble them up. They’re fascinated by the stories of how NASA needs drove the kinds of developments that we benefit from today.”

    There’s no doubt that technology spinoff stories are good for public relations.

    But the difficulty comes when these backwards-looking stories are used as an argument for funding going forward. While a spinoff argument may generally support funding for government R&D entities like NASA, they do not support any particular level of funding for these entities. For example, if we say we want to send Instrument X or Astronaut Y to Planet Z, we can design a mission to do so and price it out (plus or minus some margin of error). But if we want to optimize or maximize technology spinoffs (or just have lots of spinoffs), there’s no way to know what the right level of future funding is. Is it $5 billion, $50 billion, or $500 billion?

    In fact, one could argue that if we retained NASA’s technology dollars but zeroed out the funding for actual space missions from NASA’s budget, we would still get most of the same spinoffs at much reduced cost to the taxpayer.

    And this is where the logic of the spinoff argument breaks down. If we just want the Earth-related technology benefits of NASA’s programs, then we should just spend taxpayer dollars on R&D programs designed to create those benefits. If we want stronger materials or new instruments, two of the most common NASA spinoffs for example, there’s no need to build big honkin rockets and spacecraft to blast people, robots, and observatories into space. We can just pursue multi-million dollars programs in stronger materials and new instruments and forgo the multi-billion dollar programs in astronauts, rockets, and spacecraft.

    I’m not saying that’s what we should do with our nation’s civil space program. But if we rely too heavily on the spinoff argument to justify NASA’s spending levels, the argument leads us to a much smaller space program that wouldn’t actually put much into space.

    FWIW…

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