Monday, January 08, 2007

For Space And Country.

The latest issue that has spacers worried about the future of humans in space is the apathy, if not opposition, of the young to NASA's human space plans. (Here.) Taylor Dinerman, writing at The Space Review, suggests a plan and a theme. (Here.)

The plan involves enrolling students in NASA space academies and increasing educational outreach programs in schools. The theme is one that surfaces regularly at space conferences: space saves the world. Here's how Dinerman puts it:
"If NASA wants to communicate a simple message about why its mission is essential, why not try something along these lines: in 2050 there will be nine billion humans on this planet, most of whom will aspire to a lifestyle approximating that of a prosperous American today. There is no way that the Earth can provide the resources to support them. Only by going off-Earth for energy and materials can we hope to help the vast majority of humanity obtain a decent standard of living and also protect our environment."
Dinerman's theme has the benefit of appealing to values the young tend to embrace and providing an idealistic basis for America's space program. There's nothing like a cause greater than self to motivate people to act. But Dinerman's theme appeals to a fairly new global idealism. A more parochial and time-tested idealism exists that NASA should exploit: patriotism.

Every generation young Americans join the country's armed forces motivated by self-interest, a thirst for adventure, a desire to serve others, and love of country. Right now NASA is America's "Space Administration." Even its name is bureaucratic and boring.

NASA ought to be a service. Change the space program's name to something like the United States Space Exploration Service, give its employees military-style ranks, create uniforms, start Space Service ROTC programs at schools, the whole nine yards. Make the space service's mission exclusively about exploring space. And for a theme? Sell a career in America's space service as an adventure and patriotic service to the country; the old-fashioned virtues that have been around since the dawn of recorded human history.


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Ahh...sort of like a space academy.

If NASA had something like that, I'd sign up in a heart beat!
No one ever joins the armed forces or civil service because of a thirst for adventure. Those who naive enough to believe what they read on the brochures and posters either bomb out within a couple weeks to get a real job, or jump on the fast track to curmudgeon city.

You take a government position for one reason, and one reason only. Job security. Even Clouseau isn't inept enough to get fired from a civil service job.
Tell it to the Marines.
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