How NASA Sold the Moon, and Why It Can’t Seem to Sell Mars – Article and Opinion

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/how-nasa-sold-moon-why-it-cant-seem-sell-mars-n153061

How NASA Sold the Moon - July 2014

AdminCadet: The attached NBC-News.com article, which references a new book on how the Apollo Lunar Program was marketed to the American public, tries to explain why no one is buying into NASA’s current space exploration missions and vision for the 2020’s and 2030’s.  The article and the book’s authors insist that NASA in the past had goals that were aligned with the greatest problem of the day – getting to the moon, and “…what NASA” of today “is missing is a global imperative; a ‘need to have’ rather than a ‘nice to have.'” The article suggests NASA should focus on such things as “resource depletion and the future of humanity.”

I agree with this article in many ways.  However, there is one major flaw in the writeup:  I disagree that NASA’s publicized goals for the mid 20’s and 30’s represents what the NASA community as a whole thinks NASA should be working on.  NASA is a government funded and directed agency.  It is at the mercy of who ever sits in the Oval Office.  Many personnel who work for NASA, who have retired from NASA, or who monitor NASA’s policies and performance from the “outside” are not proponents of the current Administration’s force-fed NASA vision.  In particular bringing back an asteroid to lunar-earth space so Orion astronauts can rendezvous and perform sampling operations is a mission with no purpose except to find something for Orion and the SLS to do in the “near term” (if you believe the mid 2020’s is near term).  The best that can be said of this mission is it will help refine asteroid detection technologies.  Also, the plan to go directly to Mars without returning to the Moon first makes no sense to many of us, including our international partners.  Many believe we should first return to the Moon to establish a permanent or semi-permanent lunar infrastructure in order to gain valuable experience in the technologies, protocols, and in-situ resource gathering required for any Mars endeavor.

Unfortunately, the press and the American public judge everyone in the NASA organization by what the current NASA administration and our President state as our policies.  They forget that NASA is made up of many scientists and engineers who are limited by what they can say officially.  And I honestly believe that much of these publicized policies will be heavily modified when a new US Administration is elected.  As one of my friends said to me recently:  “The policies under a new President may not be better, but they will be different…”  Sadly, this is a realistic commentary on what NASA has to deal with when it comes to political guidance on its mission statement every four to eight years.  No wonder America can’t buy into NASA’s plans.  They are always changing, and not always for the better…

Art Credit: “MARKETING THE MOON” / MIT PRESS – date unknown
Article Credit: Alan Boyle – NBCNews.com – science/space – July 10, 2014

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2 thoughts on “How NASA Sold the Moon, and Why It Can’t Seem to Sell Mars – Article and Opinion

  1. Hi – thanks for providing the link to our book. Glad you enjoyed it! We are getting a lot of great feedback from folks within NASA, and the former NASA PAO, reporters, and contractor marketers whom we interviewed for the book. Just wanted to point out that rather than forget, we actually emphasize your point about NASA being in the unfortunate position of being whipsawed regularly by the ever changing political football in Washington DC that changes every 4 or 8 years — and that is part of the problem. NASA is not allowed to market and set its own agenda. That responsibility rests with the President (set the agenda) and Congress (to fund). It is a huge structural problem, that really handcuffs the talented folks within NASA from driving the agenda in a direction that they know to be correct. It is a tough spot. So we are in total agreement there. Again, thanks for the write up! Best, Richard

    • I’m thrilled you read my opinion. I’m glad you see the unfortunate position NASA currently is in. Maybe your book will alert folks to this issue. Great luck on your book! 😉

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