Monday, January 20, 2014

Seeking Space Zen


Around this time each year, since Barack Obama took office, I have written about his promises regarding the space agency. I'm skipping it this year. Moreover, I took a break from blogging altogether this past month. The writing on the Social Media wall is that blogs may wane in favor of visually richer, mobile-friendly platforms, particularly for people who want quick news and information.

So why this "opinion piece," when I generally write so few essays?? Call it therapy.
Here's why NASA is important and needs proper funding [Skip!]
Here's why NASA is important and needs proper funding [Skip!]
Here's why NASA is important and needs proper funding [Skip!]

I'm tired. I'm jaded. I'm disillusioned.

I'm weary of preaching to the choir of other space nerds who already love what I love, understand what I understand, and appreciate what I appreciate. I love my job, and I love trying to reach out to new people. I love having conversations where I can help educate others about technology spinoffs from space missions, or how much their lifestyle depends on the hardware orbiting our planet, put there by rockets.

Sure, I've run into plenty of people who suffer from the "Why Do We Waste Money In Space When We Have Problems On Earth" delusions, I've always found this occupational hazard to be a thrill, and it's particularly satisfying to turn someone around into a NASA-supporting convert if possible. It happens with individuals more often than you'd think -- so why can't we convince CONGRESS?

Hubble Telescope Cancer Technology

This year, I had no inclination or energy to beat an essentially deceased equine. I should have started blogging again about a week ago, but feared that anything I wrote would be so depressing as to crash everyone's holiday buzz. I chose instead to concentrate on new social media platforms that may prove to have better outreach value, but continued to feel guilty that I was harboring a "dirty little secret," and not speaking about my true feelings.

I finally decided, that for all the time I spend being a cheerleader, it would be disingenuous not to provide the other side of how we space advocates feel sometimes. The fact of the matter is, sometimes hoping for something that never happens just plain sucks.

Of NASA's original 7 astronauts, only 1 is still alive today, with no clear hope that humanity is indeed on its way to Mars. Of NASA's 12 Moon-Walkers, 4 have died, and 40+ years have passed with no trips back to the lunar surface.
Yeah. Kinda feels like that.

We're always, always afraid of budget cuts. We're always afraid of layoffs. We're always up against legislators who have no background in science. We're always losing resources for science in a society that depends  upon science. We're always surrounded by "lowest bidder" mentality. We're always up against a population who have only a meager understanding of why efforts in space are crucial -- for education, government, daily life, and for remaining at the forefront of Earth's leadership pyramid.

There are no new space promises. President Obama indeed has a great track record in doing what he says he will do, and I'm forever grateful he came through with an additional Shuttle mission before thousands of jobs were lost from that program, the extension of the International Space Station, and support for commercial space endeavours -- but the fact remains that we seem to lose ground, year after year.

It's always one step forward and two steps back.

Many people dislike Americans being ferried to the ISS via Soyuz, compliments of the dependable Russian space agency, who make up for in reliable methodology what they lack in funds. I am actually pleased to see this collaboration between nations, because I think we need to begin behaving like an EARTH, and not a collection of boundary-conscious cults. I'm far more concerned that NASA announced the END to this collaboration, with no long-term plan for a viable heavy launch vehicle even on the drafting board!

Common sense gets lost in the cacophony of Duck Dynasty-ish mindset that consistently caters to the lowest common denominator of a culture that actually expects to remain globally prevalent and dominant -- even while they tear down their own infrastructure, along with the most intelligent individuals trying to keep it on forward tracks.

It cut me to the molten core to see Dave Scott and Alan Bean stride casually through a hotel resort last year at a conference, where no one recognized them. Had Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian swept through,it would have been a madhouse -- but for the men who risked their lives in the name of science? Not a public peep.

Where is the respect for the people who have forwarded humanity's progress and dreams in the most prevalent terms? Among all the skepticism, where is the recognition for the agency that gave us so many technological leaps in agriculture, communications, GPS, computing, safety, medicine, water filtration, weather forecasting, climate monitoring, oceanography, planetary science, heliophysics and green aviation?

Honestly, there is nothing more disturbing that the people who use the internet to whine about how government research yields nothing, while engaging in a medium invented by government research, dependent on government technology, launched by government-funded rockets.
TODAY, January 20th, Buzz Aldrin turns 84 years old.
He walked on the lunar surface when he was 39.

I know the malaise will pass. I know the other "spacetweeps" in my chosen social community will inspire me with their own posts, pins, tweets, and essays about exciting developments in new missions and exuberant engagement with launches, comet sightings, eclipses, and astronaut autographs.

We're all very excited about Space X and Orbital Sciences, the companies with bold (but realistic) plans about supplying the space station. We're dubiously unconvinced but hopeful for the even-bolder companies with lofty goals about reaching Mars without government backing.Will they live up to their hype? Time will tell.

I've never kicked off a new year so late, or quite so glumly. Let's hope as 2014 progresses, we all have more to be excited about on the space horizon.