We need YOU!

After reading the comments to the ABC news question of the day it's encouraging to read so many people supporting our space program, but it worries me to see the comments coming from the people who do not. It seems they think that first of all, NASA's budget is a huge percentage of the federal budget, and second of all they think of the money being spent on the space program is just like throwing money out the window. It seems they have zero comprehension of the idea that all the money that goes into the space program actually is spent here on Earth.

For some time now I've been very concerned that we (as space enthusiasts) have been completely failing at communicating our message to the general public. I've had countless arguments with people who are "anti-space" and I feel that the arguments of inspiration and spin-offs just don't work for them. People need to see more tangible and direct benefits to their lives. They don't understand the value of something that has long-term benefits like the space program. Most worrying of all they have little comprehension of what is going on in space.
In my opinion the three main issues we as space enthusiasts need to tackle are:
  1. Communication of what we do in space (people barely know what Apollo is. It's amazing how many people don't know we even have a space station and then when they are told are amazed to learn about what we do in space. We can't expect the media to do our work for us. We need to push space exploration religiously ourselves. Our goal should be to educate people about cool things that are done in space on a daily basis.)
  2. Communication of what NASA costs us as taxpayers (there are two ways to think of NASA's budget: $18 billion or less than 1 penny for every dollar spent on taxes or 0.7 % of the federal budget. Out of context the first number seems huge to the average person. The second number seems like a bargain! Just look at this Wired article that discusses a survey that showed that Americans believed that NASA's budget was one-fourth of the total U.S. budget!: http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/11/average-america.html)
  3. Communication of how our daily lives are affected by space (this is the usual spin-offs discussion)
  4. Communication of NASA's Return-On-Investment (this is a hard figure to come up with, but if we had it it would be a great one point reply to the nay-sayers)
  5. Communication of NASA's long term benefits to our nation and the world (in my opinion the hardest of all things to communicate or prove)
Note that the key to all 5 points is communication! If NASA isn't able to promote itself that's no excuse as to why we as private citizens can't do it. Do we really care enough about this issue to do this on our own? Wernher VonBraun spent his entire life as a staunch space advocate, communicating his message within the government and to the general public. He realized that we lived in a democracy and that in the end it was the voice of the people that decided the course we would take. He wrote technical books, science-fiction novels, magazine articles, and even worked with Disney on a series of shows dealing with our future in space. We need to the same. Personally, I'm trying to do my part with my blog and a start up model-rocket club (still in development, but the goal is to teach children the basics of rocketry through community events and online educational videos). I don't think what I'm doing is enough, but I'm trying to take one small step at a time.

With the internet we have the opportunity to communicate our message more effectively than ever. Want to spread the gospel of space? Start a blog, make a YouTube video, participate in online communities, contribute space articles to Digg and Reddit, twitter about space, Facebook about space, MySpace about... space, launch model rockets in your neighborhood (but not at your neighbors), go talk at your local elementary school, be an astronaut for Halloween, celebrate Yuri's night, invite friends over for Shuttle launch viewing parties, communicate, communicate, communicate!

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." - Gandhi

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