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Keith's note: On Wednesday I listened to Administrator Bill Nelson testify before a Congressional Committee. During the course of the hearing every single member chimed in about the importance of NASA to their state (and vice versa) and twisted Nelson's arm for a site visit. As the hearing wore on it was obvious that this was all transactional - they people who give things to NASA want things from NASA. That's just fine if your representative from your space state is on the committee. But what happens when a community, or a sector of the economy, or an underserved community has no one to champion their cause? No arm twisting. And if NASA is focused on keeping lawmakers happy, they are not going to spend a lot of time on a bunch of people who do not matter in the whole transactional legislative dance.

We've all heard the phrase "flyover country". Some accuse east and west coast elites of using the term derisively to refer to the 3 hours of boring terrain they have put up with as they fly over it to get to their destination. Others use it as a self-identifier or even a term of endearment to suggest that they are ignored by political leaders of both parties who have a different set of concerns than those that they have to deal with every day.

Much of what is "flyover country" is rural agricultural in nature. No rocket ships are built there. NASA never visits. But people in flyover country hear about rich people wanting to spend millions to fly in space while they and their neighbors back on Earth are suffering through post-pandemic economic troubles. Newsflash: most people out in the real world i.e. not in the space bubble have not spent a whole lot of time studying the differences between "commercial" vs "civilian" or "government" space - so all of this talk of rich people in space is synonymous with "NASA". And what has NASA done for them lately? Oh and now they want to spend billions to go back to the Moon. Didn't we already do that?

One would think that someone at NASA is thinking about how to work through this problem and make the agency more relevant to the real world who pays the taxes that buy all of the rocket fuel. Of course NASA and the space economy is immensely relevant. But NASA has done such a poor job that you'd never know this. So why not pick something that NASA does that easily resonates with everyone - something that they personally experience - and learn from - and enjoy - and derive benefits from? I have a thought: drones. To be specific: Drones on Mars.

Woman In Motion, Star Trek And The Remaking Of NASA - A Review, SpaceRef

"You know that you have been involved with something beyond living memory when you find yourself telling stories of things that affected the world today to people who never knew how things came to be. That is at the core of "Woman in Motion" - a documentary about the life of actress and activist Nichelle Nichols.

If you are a Star Trek fan then you know who Nichelle Nichols is - she portrayed Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek series half a century ago and has reprised her role multiple times in the decades that followed. What you may not know is that she played a singular role - not only in helping to break down barriers during the civil rights era - but also in the composition of America's astronaut corps and to some extent how NASA strove towards diversity at all levels. In so doing, NASA became more relevant to more people than it ever had been before."

It Was a Big Week in Politics for Star Trek: Voyager Fans, Slate

"The show's lasting influence can be felt in two stories from this week about prominent Democratic politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, both of whom are fans of Voyager and, in particular, its lead character. The first surprise nod to Trek in the political sphere came from the Daily Mail's unexpectedly wholesome interview with Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, who described how Voyager became a portent of her daughter's future success."

Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Nerd, Is Traveling at Warp Speed, NY Times

"She has seen every iteration of "Star Trek" and can recite with picayune detail the obscure plot points from incidents buried deep in the canon. She likes space-time anomalies. She admires Captain Picard but reveres Admiral Janeway. One of her favorite things is "Shattered," the 157th episode of "Voyager," in which the ship goes through a temporal rift that tantalizingly splits it into different timelines. Yes, this is Stacey Abrams, the politician who drew a great deal of national attention when she narrowly lost the race for governor of Georgia last November."

Keith's note: This may be lost on Trump space people but just watch what happens if the Democrats take back the White House in 2020. In the mean time, keep an eye open for this to bubble up during Congressional hearings on NASA's role in education, earth science, and inspiring people to look upward. But also watch for this to pop up in non-space discussions as well. Space exploration - and its role models - both real and fictitious - has lessons to teach outside the space realm.

Scientists plan to march on Washington -- but where will it get them?, Washington Post

"Mike Brown, the Caltech astronomer who famously "killed Pluto" with his discovery of dwarf planets in the outer solar system, said he still has misgivings. He's not opposed to activism in general -- Brown took his daughter to the Women's March in Los Angeles in January and called it "one of the most amazing things I've ever done." But he's not sure marching is the best way for scientists to advocate for their work. "Having a bunch of scientists marching takes the interesting thing about scientists away from them," he said. "These are educators and teachers and scientists [whose] super power is teaching you cool things about the universe around you." Maybe instead of marching, researchers should take Young's advice and conduct a teach-in instead, he mused. "I don't know," he said. "The attacks on science are pretty unprecedented, and maybe all these softer ideas are just crazy."

- March for Science
- @ScienceMarchDC


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