"This notice is being issued as a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for Hotel and Conference/Banquet Facilities for the Space Flight Awareness (SFA) Program STS-122 Event. NASA's Space Flight Awareness Launch Honoree Award is our most prestigious recognition and honors those employees who contribute to ensuring astronaut safety and mission success. The award is presented to approximately 300 NASA civil servants, NASA contractors and international space agency employees. These employees are rewarded with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center as NASA VIPs. The honorees have the opportunity to view a shuttle launch, attend a reception/dinner in their honor, and meet with top NASA, industry and international space agency officials as well as members of the Astronaut Corps."
Editor's note: If NASA and its employees really wanted to relay the importance and experience of space travel - imagine what impact could be generated on America's educational system if you invited 300 teachers - or 300 students - to a launch - at Government expense. I am very familiar with how awardees are selected at NASA having once been a NASA employee myself. While many honorees have indeed worked very hard to get an award, it is usually a matter of managers looking around to see who hasn't been to a launch yet (or for a while). These shuttle launches are a dwindling commodity - one that will be followed by "The Gap" where no humans leave Earth from American soil. As such, NASA should use these remaining opportunities wisely - for maximum effect and value.
Reader note: Without SFA we would have no path to award great employee performance at this level. SFA is a very unique program and management has worked hard to focus events on employees and not parties and trinkets. While I cannot make apologies for the whole of NASA, I know that SOMD has sponsored folks like our video and pennant winners to launches. SOMD is also sponsoring the Node naming contest winner as well. Employee recognition is critical during this transition timeframe. Some of us would rather do more recognition. Many folks believe just as you have portrayed - it is a frivolous party expense. I have seen management fight to save it from budget cuts while keeping the focus on the employee. This is a consistent theme of the entire NASA-Industry advisory board. One of the reasons for the busses particularly is that fact that we have to house folks in Orlando. The cruise business has killed us in Cocoa Beach.
Regarding "All Aboard the Shuttle Launch Junket", I have been a NASA contractor for eight years, and in that time have not witnessed a launch or landing. Prior to this, I worked for a University researcher flying biotechnology experiments on the Shuttle middeck and witnessed six Shuttle launches and a landing. I would love to see another launch - I always cry at launches because they are beyond amazing...there are PEOPLE on that thing! But I work with just as many people who have never seen a launch at all, and I never miss the opportunity to tell them to go if they get the chance.
I'm all for students and teachers getting special invites to things like this, but its worth remembering that the incredible power of watching something launch that you had ANY hand in whatsoever reminds you with crystal clarity why you do what you do - put up with irritated managers, run tests and simulations, argue with people about the right way to do things, review documentation and make recommendations for best practices. Those aren't exciting, but they make that launch possible. When you get reminded of that, it makes it a little easier to the rest of it, day in and day out, and remember that even those of us who don't go into space can take pride in the fact that someone does.
Thanks for a great site.
The Space Flight Awareness Program may be good for the spaceflight folks and the NASA centers where those activities take place. The "rest of us" in Science, Aeronautics, etc., do not have anything similar and have to jump through flaming hoops to legally use appropriated funds for events that do not come anywhere close to the lavish spreads put on in the SFA program. This adversely affects the morale of everyone else. Employees should be recognized, but on a level playing field. The playing field should be leveled in such a way that fewer tax dollars are spent. If you are familiar with SFA, then you know the sums that are involved. The money could be put to much better use elsewhere, including, as you suggest, inviting students and educators to launches and other events.