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.