What are the longhorns in space?

We're a team of students that got together to participate in the NASA Means Business Student Competition 2003. The objective of this year's competition was to develop public service announcements that promote NASA's Mars Exploration Program. Unfortunately, conveying to the public the everyday relevance of such endeavors has been an Achilles heel for NASA, thus widening the gap between science and news media. Therein lies the motivating factor for this year's competition: enlist the public (in this case, college students) to help bridge the distance between science and journalism.
The Challenge Facing NASA
"The modern roots of America's great scientific establishment go back no further than a half century. Science in this country really has no organized constituency except itself. In a curious way, it created itself; there were no huge lobbies, no street demonstrations, no sit-ins, no strikes, no political blackmail. No small part of the scientific establishment's growth has been in super-secret weapons and related research. In short, the public knows little about its size, operating methods or even its direct benefits, except in the case of a few highly visible aspects such as the space program, medical research and programs that capture the public's fancy - astronomy and dinosaur research, for instance. Big science has thrived in America largely through the enlightenment of a few policy-makers.

"With a small natural constituency, no spare cash, feeble organization and little experience in the rough-and-tumble of Washington politics, science is justifiably worried that it is now playing a losing game. At the same time, it is beginning to understand that a big part of the problem is an inability to get its message across to the public."

We thought it would be fun so we submitted a proposal just for the heck of it. Then whadda ya' know? We actually got chosen to go on to the finalist round. We produced our public service announcements and made some outreach appearances to further the message.

What's the message? That we do need to continue to send missions to Mars; it's not as expensive as you might think; Mars exploration is important; it's important to you.


Contact the longhorns in space at lis@zircon.as.utexas.edu