NASA IS BOMBING DA MOONZ!
I actually saw someone saying that online… no… really.
For several days the internet buzzed about the end of NASA’s LCROSS program. The LCROSS mission was designed to map the moon and attempt to discover water there. In its dramatic ending, the probe would crash into the lunar surface and throw up a plume of particles that a trailing spectrometer could analyze and search for signs of subsurface water.
Fueled by curiosity, an increasingly web-savvy NASA media department, and humanity’s ingrained desire to watch stuff blow-up, people gathered at “impact parties” or watched online to see an event NASA promised would be visible to anyone with a backyard telescope. NASA even trained the Hubble telescope on the area of impact hoping to add a little bit of the famed observatories star power to the equation.
As we all now know, it was a bit of a non-event. Technically NASA is considering the impact a success; however, many of those watching were left disappointed with not seeing any type of impact or dust plume. While NASA is to be congratulated on a successful mission, it should be flogged for its public let down.
This may sound a little harsh coming from me, a big supporter of NASA, but here’s my issue: Several decades ago NASA made the moon as interesting as a road trip to New Jersey. [Ed. Note: As a lifelong NJ resident, I want to let all readers know that Craig the Rocket Scientist's views on NJ as a tourist destination are not the views of K Exchange.] When public interest waned, NASA’s budget was reduced to a trickle. Now, with NASA’s goal set firmly upon returning to the moon, they need to capture the attention of a new generation, one raised on Hulu and YouTube, and one that may not even have heard of the Mercury 7.
This lack of knowledge is actually to NASA’s advantage, it has a clean slate and fresh minds to excite with the romantic notion of traveling to and exploring another world. However, it is critical that NASA doesn’t abuse this fresh start. By hyping something which everyone in the space community knew would be visually uninteresting NASA is risking losing the public’s attention next time it tries to promote a mission.
“No bucks, No Buck Rogers” was a saying back in the early days of the space program. It meant that without the proper funding there would be nothing of public interest. This time? NASA is going to have to provide a little “Buck Rogers” before it can expect the public’s bucks.
*Image courtesy of NASA LCROSS website: http://lcross.arc.nasa.gov/index.htm