People Listen To Tony Stark – Not To Space Advocates

By Keith Cowing
June 1, 2012
Filed under
People Listen To Tony Stark – Not To Space Advocates

According to an opinion piece, Government and Space: Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way by long-time space advocate Rick Tumlinson in the Huffington Post

“2012 will see those committed to settling space (O’Neillians) begin orbital delivery operations, private microgravity experiments on the space station, and sub-orbital, commercial, human space-flight tests. Recently, the revolution jumped another level, as a commercial space-station company announced it is partnering with a commercial spaceflight firm, thus completely eliminating the government from the equation. And yet, even as some of today’s savviest and wealthiest business leaders begin to dive into this new ocean of possibility, many of yesterday’s space heroes, our government and political class, don’t get it. The irony should not be lost that this same year, a presidential candidate got laughed off the campaign stage for suggesting a human colony on the Moon — just days before a group of American entrepreneurs worth tens of billions of dollars announced plans to mine asteroids.”

Not to single you out, Rick, but people are out of work. They do not want moon bases or asteroid mines, they want jobs. And people do not really get to worried about whether or not the government is involved in things or not. They do not really waste a whole lot of time on the “D” or “R”. They just want whatever is broken to be fixed i.e. they want results. They are going to vote for the politicians who they think will accomplish that task. The fact that the current Democratic Administration is pro-space business and Congressional Republicans are often adamantly opposed to the support of space commerce by NASA just confuses this discussion further.

So long as space activists continue to only talk to/at one another – recycling the same semi-obscure jargon (“O’Neillians”?) and tired memes (Moon bases) – and not present their viewpoints in a fashion that is actually relevant to the work-a-day lives of the public as a whole – none of this will ever happen. After 30-40 years, you’d think that space activists would have figured this out by now. I attended back-to-back AIAA and NSS meetings last week in Washington, DC and saw no evidence that anyone in the space world has gotten the message.

Curiously, while space folks were engaging in choir practice, the media – and regular folks working 9 to 5 jobs – seemed to think that Dragon’s flight was cool and newsworthy. Why were all of the space activists and industry types so totally unable to capitalize on such a overt media opportunity and reach out to the remaining 99.99% of the population?

Face it: no one outside of these space conclaves is listening to space advocates. And when people do listen to laid-back Elon in his t-shirt talking about his excellent spaceship, they do not make the connection to space advocates or the stiff NASA suits – except to note that they aren’t the one with the cool rocketship – the one that does what NASA can’t do. No one connects with Wernher von Braun any more – but they do connect to Tony Stark, it would seem.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.