Rekindling Interest in the National Space Program - Abstract
Rekindling Interest in the National Space Program
Sandra Barker, et. all
December 9, 1994
Over the past several decades, the American public seems to have lost its fascination with space and its interest in the success of U.S. space missions. The exact reason for this declining interest remains unknown. Space missions have become so common that they are no longer deemed newsworthy unless something disastrous happens (e.g. the Challenger explosion). Often the general public feels detached from the missions themselves because they do not completely comprehend the technical aspects of the mission. For example, while most Americans understood the concept and political significance of landing the Apollo spacecraft on the moon, they might not grasp the importance of newer satellite missions such as remote sensing, communications, and global positioning. Irregardless of the reason, it is undeniable that Americans are not as enthralled by the space program as they once were.
The main reason for rekindling the general public's interest in space exploration is to ensure that enough funding is available to provide for the quality, expansion, and success of future space missions. The space program contributes to the economic and scientific growth of the nation by providing research opportunities for both the corporate and academic communities as well as creating whole new markets such as the communications satellite industry. Since the U.S. space program receives its funding from Congress, it is significantly effected by swings in public opinion. Without public support, adequate funding may not be provided and NASA will be forced to cut future missions and scale-back existing ones. Therefore, public interest in space exploration must be an integral component of the space program.
For future planning purposes, it is imperative that space interest be promoted among young children so that the national space program has long-range financial support (‘constituency-building’). Moreover, peaking the interest of children has the immediate benefit of involving their parents and the added result of increasing student interest in math and science, subjects made more important by the technologically advancing American economy.
We offer two solutions that will rekindle the nation's interest in space and space-related technology. In addition to sparking enthusiasm for space exploration, these missions also provide a useful service and/or demonstrate a beneficial technology. Our mission schemes accomplish these practical necessities by educating American students, advancing space science education and supporting the space program.
The overall objective of our solutions is to arouse interest in the national space program. Our initial mission requirements required a satellite or system of satellites which:
Additionally, our designs were instructed to meet the following criteria:
- does something that is vital for the public (and is perceived as being vital by the public).
- creates a sense of excitement and anticipation among school children, their parents, and/or the general public.
- Launchable on a converted Minuteman II booster or as half of a Pegasus payload.
- Have a detailed plan for keeping the public involved. (This requirement includes the general public, school children, and university students.)
- Have a disposal plan for when the mission is exhausted.
- Operate for at least two years.
- Be able to be built in a university environment.
- Low cost.
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