Wednesday, August 24, 2011

US Leadership in Space


When I have writer's block (like now) and have trouble getting posts started (like this week), I tend to go minutiae-hunting, and just wait for some sort of passionate inspiration to hit me. I always wonder if people can tell? There are many space issues and projects over which I am naturally passionate… but, actively seeking things to write about can often result in stumbling over things that peeve me.

Like this:

Seems the Pew Research Center of Washington DC, whose catchy motto is "Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World", released the dubious statistic that 58% of Americans see US leadership in space as essential.

Pew Research
Really? I'm certainly not seeing this professed "majority" of support. And I don't think this is entirely an education problem… maybe it's just a lip service problem.

The Pew Research Center @pewresearch professes to be a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on worldwide attitudes and trends by conducting public opinion polling and social science research. They (it?) claim(s) to not take any position on policy for any particular issue, however...

Honestly, if you asked the proper question about this issue, I'm pretty sure the pie chart would look more like this:

Pew Research
Still, the article on the Pew Research web site about the Space Shuttle Program is definitely worth reading. Looking back, a majority (55%) say it has been a good investment for the country, and that it is crucial for America to be the world leader in space exploration. While this is lower than it was when the shuttle program began in 1981, six in ten people (or more, across certain demographics), said the program was a good investment in terms of:
  • Helping to encourage interest in science and technology
  • Leading to scientific advances that benefit all people
  • Contributing to national pride and patriotism

Ed Stein Space Cartoon
A couple of my readers and a few of my friends have pointed out my recent posts have rather a sarcastic bite. True. It's part post-shuttle-launch-anti-climactic-letdown, part fear of what's to come for manned spaceflight. If anything.

In the re-worded words of flight director Wayne Hale, HOPE ISN'T A PLAN. Write to your senators and congresspersons!