Ignoring The Artemis Generation

NASA: Sustained presence on the moon will be a good investment, OpEd, Janet L. Kavandi, USA Today

"The Artemis Generation changes that. Our nation must take the next giant leap so long promised. As a female astronaut, I followed pioneers like Sally Ride to space and helped solidify their gains. Women's next frontier will be the moon. Nothing will inspire the next generation more than a sustained presence on the moon leading to deep space exploration. Our return to the moon also drives new technologies. And the scientific discoveries of recent years leave no doubt the moon has much more to reveal about Earth and our solar system."

Keith's note: Its hard to argue with anything in this OpEd. It makes mention of the "Artemis Generation" - a phrase coined by Jim Bridenstine. But who is the Artemis Generation? Is it the people currently working in the space business? Is it the students in school who will come of age as the Moon landings happen? Or is it a much broader segment of the population - one that NASA yearns to reach but never manages to contact? NASA has yet to define this. But that does not stop NASA from trying to read the minds of the Artemis Generation and second guess what sort of memes will tickle their fancy when it comes to the whole Moon 2024 thing.

Alas, in true NASA fashion, NASA continues to talk about the Artemis Generation as something they have decided to define. However they have yet to actually talk to the Artemis Generation. Newspaper OpEds only reach people who still read newspapers - paper or online. Is it on Reddit? Snapchat? Instagram? If NASA is trying to reach the next generation of people who will directly benefit from Artemis then they need to start using the modalities that they use. Moreover, NASA needs to go outside its usual confort zone - the "choir practice amongst the usual suspects" that I often refer to.

You'd think that the Space interest groups would do this. But they only talk to each other. The National Space Society is having its ISDC event in DC next week. Is it being webcast? No. Why bother telling the rest of the taxpaying public how space is an important thing that they should support? Yet Jim Bridenstine used his own cellphone to livestream a speech he made at an agricultural fair in California earlier this year. The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Space Foundation, the Aerospace Industries Association, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the AIAA, and so on - powered by millions of big aerospace dollars - could all be meeting with NASA to help reach the Artemis Generation and reach out beyond familiar territory. If they are I see no evidence that they are going to do anything. They never have. I doubt they ever will. They only exist to make sure money goes to their membership.

NASA's embryonic outreach efforts for Artemis/Moon 2024 are suffering from echoes of Apollo. It is perfectly fine to try and rekindle the same sort of excitement that I saw as a young boy during Apollo. But to assume that the same marketing psychology that worked with Apollo i.e. saying that it is important because NASA and the White House thinks it is important - is going to miss the mark with the real Artemis Generation. Did NASA use the same mindset to promote Apollo in the 1960s as was used to market aviation when the Wright Brothers were making their first flights? No. Similarly, heavily leaning on the Apollo mindset 50 years later is simply not going to work today.

NASA loves to broadcast what they think people should hear. Rarely do they ask what people want to hear, listen, and then adjust their message accordingly.

When NASA can reach the young people walking out of a Walmart in "Flyover Country" with a message about Artemis/Moon 2024 that resonates with their reality - only then will NASA have truly tapped the Artemis Generation - and be able to utilize their interest to help move the program forward. In the mean time their outreach efforts are just talking points on Powerpoint presentations that NASA civil servants bounce off of one another in windowless conference rooms about what they think people should find interesting or important - not what people in the real world actually think to be interesting or important.

During Thursday's NASA Advisory Council meeting Jim Bridenstine, who seems to have endless, relentless energy when it comes to promoting Artemis, asked the NAC membership what they thought was important about going back (or "forward") to the Moon. While they all had interesting things to say they all said pretty much what Janet Kavandi said. No one in the room was at the cusp of the beginning of a career. No one was from a middle class family. No one was seemingly from the Artemis Generation. More choir practice.

NASA has an unusual historic moment lying ahead of itself: the Apollo 11 50th anniversary. I have lived in metro Washington, DC for 33 years. I was at the big events for the 20th, 30th, and 40th anniversaries. I know how these things are planned. There will be a global focus on everything NASA says and does for a week in July. If the 50th anniversary events focus on elderly Apollo astronauts on a stage before an audience of adoring, aging baby boomers talking about how great Apollo was and maybe we should all do it again - since we miss Apollo - then Artemis will die before it is even born.

Go ahead and bring the Apollo legends on the stage. They are legends - and they are becoming rarer with inevitable frequency. But as they stand forth, NASA needs to push the envelope, turn the volume up to 11, take a risk and give America - and the world - something to talk about. Something to inspire the unusual suspects, so to speak.

Wouldn't it be something if ardent space fan Ariana Grande walked on that same stage, while the Apollo test pilots looked on, called herself "Artemis", and then belted out a song about wanting to be the first woman on the Moon.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 30, 2019 11:08 PM.

GAO Report Cites Major NASA Project Delays was the previous entry in this blog.

NASA Needs To Explain The Moon2024 Thing Better is the next entry in this blog.

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