"Sustainable public advocacy will depend upon around bold goals and clear plans that warrant substantial investments. Writing in Reason magazine, Gregory Benford correlated public interest in space exploration with a natural desire for vicarious adventure. Benford observed that: "Much of the passion in science fiction springs from a deep-rooted human need: to reach out, to prefer movement to stasis, to understand." Accordingly, he concludes that NASA has a choice: "swing for the bleachers or die."
"On Thursday, the children arrived in the big recreation room and found a spacesuit waiting for them. "There's no one inside. That's fake!" one girl insisted. "I"m right here," said Leland Melvin, standing behind her, delighted at her defiant challenge. Melvin is an astronaut. "What do you think I do in this blue suit?" he asked, pointing to his flight suit. "Nothing," a bunch of kids wisecracked. It's a tough crowd. Every year, Melvin brings a NASA spacesuit and a slide show of his adventures in space. It doesn't hurt that he also tells the kids about his time in the NFL, getting drafted to play with the Detroit Lions. And then getting injured."
Keith's note: If you ask NASA for their plan - i.e. their strategy - guidance - goals - for engaging the public in education and public outreach activities they cannot provide you with one. Yet they always tell you (they think) that some one is working on one - but it doesn't cover everything that NASA does because NASA is incapable of adopting an agency-wide strategy or plan. And even if something resembling a plan starts to emerge, it never goes beyond draft stage due to infighting and turf disputes. After 4 years the NASA Advisory Council Committee on Education and Public Outreach has done absolutely nothing to address this situation. They are meeting in Washington in a week or so. Not sure why they even bother.
All this being said, you still see poignant attempts to go beyond the normal audiences such as Leland Melvin did at this homeless shelter. Alas, these activities go unnoticed since NASA is clueless as to how to inform others that they even take place. Oh yes - OMB is going to significantly cut NASA's Education budget for FY 2014 - again. And yet they will tell you with a straight face that the White House supports education blah blah blah. I guess its hard to totally blame NASA when the White House won't even stand behind its own rhetoric.