On the social media platform Reddit, notable people often hold events called Ask Me Anything (AMA) where users are invited to ask anything they wish. They are the experts… and “redditors” have direct access to discuss, engage and learn from these celebrities, leaders and notable citizens.
NASA astronaut and openNASA team member Ron Garan subverted the system last night, using this unique platform as an opportunity to ask the public their views on human space exploration.
Ron’s AMA has received 2,353,756 reads and 5818 comments in 15 hours. The Moon, Mars, Mercury and asteroids are widely debated… as well as space elevators, technology development, astronaut candidacy and exploration of the oceans. One of my favorites was about STEM education and the value of (perservering through) learning math. And some of those comments are incredibly insightful regarding what we do at NASA, the public’s view of space exploration and thoughts on where we should go next.
I don’t think it really matters where human spaceflight goes next, as long as it’s up and out and beyond where we’ve been before. Permanently.
If people saw NASA as a savior for financial problems, a scientific powerhouse, as an institution that directly benefited them, they wouldn’t want to cut it.
I’d like to see NASA turn into a more international organisation. And to be more open on their projects so that they can use crowd sourcing as a means of research, testing and contribution. Humans need to work together if we are going to get off this rock to explore outside of our solar system. Time to forget about country lines and work as earthlings.
That doesn’t necessarily mean no moon bases. It does mean, however, that you can’t go at the idea primarily in terms of “Let’s set up a moon base” but rather in terms of “What would a moon base get us, and what technological advancements must we focus on to get there?” Then, you can sell your idea to a public and to politicians who may not understand the importance of moon bases.
My thought is we need to develop the technologies for self-supporting, sustainable communities on Earth. We have limited high quality resources on our planet, and our waste products are threatening our quality of life here. The same technologies that you need for a good future here on Earth are the ones you need for a colony in space. So develop them, and apply them to Earth first, because that is where all the people are. Once you get them good enough, apply them to space also.
The next destination for NASA should be Elementary, Middle, and High-Schools across the country. I can’t imagine that you and your colleagues don’t LOVE what you do for a living. If you took some of that passion to the classrooms of soon-to-be voters and got them excited about the possibilities of the space-program you would do more to ensure the future of NASA than anything else I can think of.
One reader argued that NASA’s focus has to be daring mighty things:
You ask what I want to see from NASA. I want to see NASA do things that will inspire what I cannot possibly imagine. I want NASA to accomplish the impossible and cause a ripple effect that brings about something even greater than what they’ve done. I want to see a NASA that inspires me and everyone around me to understand that impossible is only a limitation that I restrict upon myself.
What do you think NASA should do next? What should be the next destination for human exploration? Leave a comment here (or join the Reddit discussion if you prefer!)