So, I completely disagree with this guy.
My coworker sent me this (I’ve paraphrased slightly so it reads better here):
I read this story this morning:
[…] It’s essentially our mission statement in a nutshell: inspire. Something NASA, sadly isn’t doing so well these days, at least according to this writer. But this article is great! The comparison to the Olympics is superb. From 200 million miles away! [What would you say about this] in 140 characters or so?
As I said, I completely (and respectfully) disagree with him (the author, not my coworker).
It might be because I’m on the “inside” as a space-and-astronomy educator, but … I don’t think that NASA is failing at motivating or inspiring us. People still go “AAAAAAAAAWESOME” whenever I mention NASA. They are so pumped to hear about the latest and greatest from these geniuses, and they want to work for NASA (but don’t think they’ll ever be smart enough, which is partly my job to fix and a different problem than inspiration).
I think the perceived lack of inspiration is simply (as has been said before) a product of the decade plus the lack of people in space doing big brand new things… i.e. the fact that we aren’t in a to-the-pain space race with the USSR and that we aren’t having people put their feet down on new worlds or at new distances from our tiny island oasis. Those two things make NASA’s missions just a little harder to relate to than they were in the 60s.
The Olympics are a competition with other nations, and we have a good chance of losing at a lot of those races. With NASA we’re kind-of winning a sweep of all the “interplanetary medals,” with a few here and there being sprinkled out to other countries. It’s not quite as exciting to watch a race when you know who will win—that’s why network news suppresses the Olympic coverage until primetime in any given timezone.
That said, turn on NASA TV from your computer this weekend, on Sunday at 10:30pm Pacific time, for the nail-biting-est race of them all as our sedan-sized rover touches down on Mars… via a clothesline tether to a rocket-powered hovercraft. Hopefully all goes as planned and we’ll win this medal too. We’re not competing against another country for this, we’re competing against gravity.
And gravity usually wins.