Andrew Chaiken, author of “A Man On The Moon,” gave a speech at the banquet last night. It was an entertaining talk, but he seems to have a misplaced nostalgia for the era that he chronicled in his excellent book. I wasn’t taking precise notes, but he said something to the effect that, when (if?) we go back, this time it will be with 3-D color high-definition television, and that this time the excitement of watching people walk once again on the moon will be sustained.
I think him far too optimistic on this score, and still out of touch with the real problem. Obviously, watching government employees gallivant on another world thrills him, but he’s mistaken to project his level of interest onto the general public. He’s apparently among the class of people who complain what philistines the public are, and just think that we need to make astronauts’ activities more exciting to revive that old Apollo spirit.
“Well, OK, people got tired of Apollo, but that’s because we just had those funky black and white images.”
“Well, OK, people aren’t that excited about watching people floating around in the space station, but if only we send NASA astronauts back to the moon, that will get their juices flowing. That’s how we’ll sustain the vision (and the funding).”
The American people are not going to support a program that costs billions of dollars per year, for the vicarious “thrill” of watching a few civil servants kicking up dust on the Moon, or Mars. In fact, I won’t, and there are few more hard-core space nuts than me. We are a nation of voyeurs, true (at least judging by the financial health of the pr0n industry), but many of us don’t want to just watch, and even if that does content us, unless there are going to be lunar orgies, it’s hard to imagine it holding our attention for long.
Only a program that promises the potential of an opportunity for them to go will elicit such support. Until the supporters of the new initiative understand this, it will remain doomed to ultimate failure.