Tag Archives: Congress

Earthlings Unite: Space Awaits!

Look Ma. No borders!

Earth: Blue Marble. Credit: NASA

Earth: Blue Marble. Credit: NASA

Can you see a single border in this image of Earth from space?

Our human and robotic space travelers find no evidence from above of lines separating nations. What seems to define who we are — our national identities — means nothing to Mother Earth. She could care less.

Man created borders. Man created national identities. Man created kingdoms and governments, hierarchies and flags.

Man can set borders aside, if we choose. You know how this works. If we think the effort is worthy, humanity comes together to address the problem. “We are the World,” after all.

Truly global issues transcend passports and border crossings. Global poverty requires our attention. Global sustainability requires our attention. Global knowledge about what’s outside our friendly atmosphere? That requires global cooperation as well. (I know, many of you don’t agree that space is worth our while, or our pocketbooks. Please allow that some of us believe it is.)

No single country can afford to foot the bill required for bold new human excursions beyond low Earth orbit — as we’ve seen here in the U.S. as NASA’s budget is debated in Congress and living rooms and social media. Most NASA missions already include international cooperation to reach success. Look at the International Space Station. 15 countries came together to build this amazing engineering marvel over the last decade — piece by piece IN space.

Space Station demonstrated humanity’s ability to peacefully bridge political, cultural, and technical divides — against all odds.

International Space Station over Earth. Credit:NASA

Space Station over Earth. Credit:NASA

Space brought together former political enemies into peaceful partnership.

Maybe it’s time we do this again, but on a truly global stage. What if we form an Earth Space Organization — like the European Space Agency, but for all space-faring nations. And why not, I ask you? Look at all the nations with a hand in “space” from across our planet.

Algeria Argentina Austria Australia Azerbaijan

Bangladesh Belgium Bhutan Brazil Brunei Bulgaria

Canada Cambodia China Colombia Czech Republic

Denmark Ecuador Egypt Finland France Germany

Greece Hungary India Indonesia Iran Ireland Israel

Italy Japan Kazakhstan Laos Luxembourg Malaysia

Mexico Mongolia Morocco Myanmar Nepal Netherlands

New Zealand Nigeria North Korea Norway Pakistan Peru

Poland Portugal Republic of China (Taiwan) Romania Russia

Saudi Arabia Singapore South Korea Spain Sri Lanka (2010)

Sweden Switzerland Thailand Tunisia Turkey Ukraine

United Kingdom United States Uruguay Venezuela Vietnam

Don’t quote me on this list. I wiki-ed it. I know South Africa is missing. (I didn’t have a tiny flag to add them.) Could be others. You can go to the United Nations United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for a list of members willing to cooperate. My point:

With so many nations involved with space endeavors, why not pool our resources and work together — as Citizens of Planet Earth.

"The Public Face of Space" ISU symposium.I spoke at the “Public Face of Space” Symposium at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. In answering a question, I speculated that our planet would form a world space organization within the next ten years. Those in the audience — eager young international students with a passion for space — will be the ones to make this happen, if it happens (which I truly believe it will). The rest of us are comfy with our national space agency badges.

Change WILL happen. We just have to be hungry enough to render the status quo unacceptable.

So here’s how I see it working: each country coming into the Planet Earth Space Enterprise (P.E.S.E…pronounced peace) would bring their national assets to the table. Based on the value of the hardware assets and intellectual property contributions, their membership gets a weighted vote. The more the member country contributes, the more influence the member country wields. (I already see the negotiations over how assets are valued. Another problem for another day.)

I keep hearing the Beatles singing “Come Together” as I write this. And so we should — come together. If we all brought our assets to the table and worked as true partners (no exchange of funds), it wouldn’t matter who had what heavy-lift capability, would it? (Though it might matter to commercial entities wanting a piece of the pie.)

You know, of course, none of this is up to me.

I’m not in a position to make any of this happen. I’m merely dreaming out loud, sprinkling my dream-dust into the cosmos where all other ideas sparkle and glitter and light up the night sky. Who knows, maybe this little idea will get a real name someday.

Earthlings unite! Space awaits.

Sun glints off Space Station solar arrays. Credit:NASA

Sun glints off Space Station solar arrays. Credit:NASA

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Space: What’s NOT to Hope for?

At the NASA tweet-up down at the Kennedy Space Center for the STS-129 launch a reporter asked me a question that really threw me. Here, a week later, I’m still thinking about it. He asked:

“Do you think bringing tweeters here gives NASA hope for the future.”

NASA Tweeps Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

NASA Tweeps Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

Hope for the future? Really?

Why wouldn’t we have hope for the future? With or without Twitter in the mix?

What’s not to hope for?

Now, I get all the doom and gloom reporting about job losses with the end of the Space Shuttle program, and threats of budget cuts. Yes, the job losses are real. Yes, they are heartbreaking AND very frightening for those whose jobs are at stake. Yes, we’ll probably take some budget hits from the White House and Congress. We are, after all, in a squeezed economy…though we see signs of recovery. But none of this is new. We’ve faced all this before.

But, hope for the future? I simply can’t conceive the reverse.

We have a universe of questions out there to find answers to. We, as humans, are curious creatures. We’ll find ways to get the answers. It may or may not look like someone’s pet project. It may or may not fit on today’s calendar. Or even tomorrow’s.

But we, as a human race, WILL GO FORWARD. We will seek answers beyond our planetary borders.

NASA will play a role. What that role will be is determined by the President and Congress. That’s the way this works. But we’ll be a player, none-the-less. We’ll shape the debate. We’ll craft the solutions.

Again, what’s not to hope for?

Maybe what we need more than hope is to work harder to ignite that spark of passion in young and old alike to:

  • ask big questions,
  • never accept the easy answer,
  • stretch beyond even our wildest dreams.

Oh we have much to hope for! Humanity has many problems yet to solve. But some of us can’t sleep until we bridge the gap between imagination and reality. And, you know what? It’s not about you and me…or what we may want out of this life — fame, fortune, power, or simply survival.

Hope is about a better tomorrow…for all of humanity.

So the real question may be: what role will NASA and the international space community play in the future? (A HUGE one, I hope!) And, how can you and I take steps to get us there?

If you ask me, I want to: Be the hope! Be the change!

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

Cross post on OpenNASA.

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Honor Past but Celebrate Future, PLEASE!

Apollo 40th Logo

Apollo 40th Logo

These next few days portend a frenzy of Apollo anniversary activities.  Let’s see what we’ve got on the agenda:

Saturday, July 18:

Sunday, July 19:

  • John Glenn Lecture Series at the National Air and Space Museum will feature the Apollo 11 crew and legendary former Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft. Charlie and Lori are invited, as well.

Monday, July 20:

  • Various media events for the Apollo astronauts,n and a private lunch.
  • Newseum 40th Anniversary Educational Forum featuring hunky George Clooney’s dad, Nick, as moderator. Panelists include: Apollo astronauts @TheRealBuzz Aldrin, Charles Duke and Alan Bean, along with STS-125 crewmember John Grunsfeld and Goddard’s Dr. Laurie Leshin.
  • Evening Reception at the National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson will MC the event honoring Apollo astronauts and former Apollo employees — of whom we have a handful still working at NASA Headquarters. Plus, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will accept the Ambassador of Exploration Award on behalf of the late President John F. Kennedy.
Apollo Employees @ HQ

Apollo Employees @ HQ

Tuesday, July 21

  • Capitol Hill Congressional Gold Medal Presentation to Apollo 11 crew.
  • Appreciation Social with NASA Headquarters employees to honor Apollo astronauts.

This list is the tip of the iceberg. I can’t begin to list all the Apollo celebration events hosted at the NASA field centers.

Yes, we have much to celebrate at NASA. We’ve done some amazing things never thought possible four decades ago. We have every right, and responsibility, to reflect and honor the courage, dedication, daring, and engineering genius that lofted humans to the heavens. How boldly incredible is this accomplishment? Really! Bravo to all who played a part in the foundation of our space program.

But, here’s my quandary: We’ve spent a great deal of time planning for this anniversary. Just like we did for NASA’s 50th birthday. Meetings, telecons, vidcons, brain-storm sessions, product prep, website creation, and much, much MORE to pull together a respectable list of things to do.

Some part of me can’t quite reconcile all this activity. Does an agency retrospective propel us where we want to go tomorrow?

I pose this merely as a question, rather than a conclusion. Believe me, I get that we need to honor those who got us here. I understand the need to look back and marvel at our greatness. It’s our culture. If reliving these momentous achievements (which they TOTally were) makes us smarter for the difficult endeavors we face in current and future programs, then YAY!

But, here’s what I’d like to see: NASA expending the same effort showcasing all the amazing things we’re doing now, and will be doing in the future. For instance:

  • Clean Water challenges to replicate waste water recycling like we practice in space. We are pioneers in sustainable living. Our technology enables crewmembers on Space Station conserve and reuse every drop possible.
  • Orbital 365 events around the globe for every additional year we live/work/play on our incredibly complex orbital outpost — International Space Station.
  • Light the Candle community celebrations held EVERY remaining Space Shuttle launch, AND for significant engine test firings for new vehicle development.
  • Light Gardens created from home-made solar collectors to remind us how delicate and fragile the balance is between creation and consumption of energy, as our international crew of six onboard Station can attest every day in orbit 220 miles over our heads.
  • Star-gazing festivals where we turn out the city lights and look to the skies together. Our brightest star might just be Station zipping across the horizon.
  • Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker tape parades for all Earthlings returning to the home planet. (Wait! Who even knows what “ticker tape” is? At least I can show you what it looks like in this picture.) So, in keeping with the times, how ’bout virtual confetti blasts synchronized through an iPhone app?)

I’m merely suggesting ideas to spark your imagination and get the conversation going. I’m not saying these celebrations would even work. But, then again, you never know ’till you try. Right?

Let’s face it, looking back is SO much easier than looking forward — which involves peering into the unknown. Though…that whole “unknown” thing is something NASA is particularly good at. ;)

So, what’s stopping us? Come on! Let’s “pay it forward.”  Tap into that amazing creative energy we have. Celebrate NASA’s today and tomorrow, while we honor the past.

Happy Apollo 11 anniversary!

First step for man...

First step for man...

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