- Press Release
- Oct 5, 2022
Drones On Mars: How NASA Can Reach Underserved American Communities
On Wednesday I listened to Administrator Bill Nelson testify before a Congressional Committee. During the course of the hearing every single member chimed in about the importance of NASA to their state (and vice versa) and twisted Nelson’s arm for a site visit.
As the hearing wore on it was obvious that this was all transactional – they people who give things to NASA want things from NASA. That’s just fine if your representative from your space state is on the committee. But what happens when a community, or a sector of the economy, or an underserved community has no one to champion their cause? No arm twisting. And if NASA is focused on keeping lawmakers happy, they are not going to spend a lot of time on a bunch of people who do not matter in the whole transactional legislative dance.
We’ve all heard the phrase “flyover country”. Some accuse east and west coast elites of using the term derisively to refer to the 3 hours of boring terrain they have put up with as they fly over it to get to their destination. Others use it as a self-identifier or even a term of endearment to suggest that they are ignored by political leaders of both parties who have a different set of concerns than those that they have to deal with every day.
Much of what is “flyover country” is rural agricultural in nature. No rocket ships are built there. NASA never visits. But people in flyover country hear about rich people wanting to spend millions to fly in space while they and their neighbors back on Earth are suffering through post-pandemic economic troubles. Newsflash: most people out in the real world i.e. not in the space bubble have not spent a whole lot of time studying the differences between “commercial” vs “civilian” or “government” space – so all of this talk of rich people in space is synonymous with “NASA”. And what has NASA done for them lately? Oh and now they want to spend billions to go back to the Moon. Didn’t we already do that?
One would think that someone at NASA is thinking about how to work through this problem and make the agency more relevant to the real world who pays the taxes that buy all of the rocket fuel. Of course NASA and the space economy is immensely relevant. But NASA has done such a poor job that you’d never know this. So why not pick something that NASA does that easily resonates with everyone – something that they personally experience – and learn from – and enjoy – and derive benefits from? I have a thought: drones. To be specific: Drones on Mars.