Lost in Space
01.28.06 - Mark
Apparently there's a lot of youth apathy over space exploration. As much as I'd like to think that's false, it's fairly clear that it isn't. I remember watching shuttle launches several times. The first time was NASA's put Senator John Glenn back in space publicity stunt (hey - it worked...) Since then I've watched a couple other launches but in reality it's not that exciting to watch it on TV (I'd jump on the opportunity to watch any space shot). On the other hand I'd be watching NASA TV like crazy on a manned Moon or Mars Mission, just like I watch it when they're landing an interplanetary probe. When something is new or different then people will pay attention, when it's not - why bother?
NASA seems to have forgotten that they've made space travel routine, to the point of common (although expensive) tourism. The lofty position Shuttle commanders and crew once had as great pilots and true explorers has been eroded to little more than glorified truckers, cabbies, and construction workers. They're blue collar workers with college degrees and the guts to sit atop several tons of ignited explosives.
The barrier to entry into space travel is too high for the average person to even care. If it was more exciting than making a round trip to a construction site, people would watch. If it didn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to space, then more people would do it. Until then, the reality is that not a lot of people are going to care.
Look at NASCAR, which is one of the post popular sports in the USA. While few people are directly involved with the sport, the barrier to entry isn't that great since just about any idiot can drive fast (wikipedia claims that some races have an average speed of 90 MPH, which isn't hard to do on an interstate) The same is true of all sports, if people can realistically do it themselves they will care about it, if not - they won't
Then there's the fact that everyone in my generation knows at least one person who is serving in the military. It's a little hard to take an interest in something that for the last 40 years or so has been a shining example of human ingenuity and cooperation, when the reality of a pointless and violent war - where both sides have ignored the difference between combatants and non-combatants - has been thrust into our faces.