Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's the Point?

The CNN debates are over for now, and despite fantastic effort by thousands of people across the country, the moderators of the debate have neglected to bring up the important issue of space exploration in our country.

What happens now with all of the energy that we have built up? Have we failed? Have we proven to ourselves and everybody else that space exploration really is destined for the history books, and not for the near term national agenda?

Of course not. In the words on one Clinton staffer, “I’m impressed with the grassroots effort. . . They’ve done more than all the sophisticated lobbyists.” You can bet that Hillary has had discussions and planning sessions behind closed doors about what her space policy is and how she would have responded if a related question had been asked at the debate.

An Obama staffer said “It’s a small but vocal group, and they’ve reached out from the beginning.” He doesn't know how large we are yet.

Whether or not any of the candidates come into the White House with a desire to foster space exploration, whether of not any of the bills listed on the right of the page are ever signed into law, the simple exercise of people getting active in the political process about space exploration in this nation will have a profound effect on the future of the industry. For each person who had the faith to write a letter, to make a phone call, to approach a legislator or candidate in person; the effort to engage will mold them into more potent and willing tools to chip away at the societal walls that keep us from exploring space. The wall is large, and while participants in our effort have different places that they would like to chip, these past two weeks there have been more people chipping than ever.

If the email boxes are full, the fax machines print straight into the trash, the voice mails are deleted without being heard, and the Politico moderators ignore the overwhelming votes for space related questions; the people who sent those messages and votes still have learned that they can, of themselves, take a concrete step in promoting space exploration, and in so doing affirm to themselves that they are not passive observers of this movement, but active players in pushing humanity's knowledge and grasp outward into space.

I started this website because I wanted to go to a website that had the resources that has. I didn't find it exactly, although I found cues at spacepolitics, nasawatch, the Mars Society, and other sites. I knew that because I wanted a website like, there must be others who wanted a website like that as well. This has been confirmed by the massive number of new and repeat visitors to

We have had an impact. That's what happens when a group of people with a common inclination all point their energy in a specific direction. Reading the varied space related questions on, it's obvious that we aren't all marching to the same drum, but it is undeniable that a whole lot of people are marching, and the sound of that march is being heard in campaign offices and throughout Washington.

I'm proud of what has happened, and I feel encouraged that sustaining our efforts throughout this election and beyond will bear greater fruits. I pledge to you all that I will continue my efforts running to make it easier for you to have an impact on the future of the space exploration. I look forward to the continued help and participation with you all. Thanks for your incredible response to the debates in Los Angeles.


Daniel Fischer said...

Take a deep breath now and imagine what would have happened if one of the space questions, esp. one of the bolder ones, had made it into either debate: The discussion would most certainly have turned quickly to the cost and relative(!) benefits of - crewed - spaceflight vs. other more pressing needs. Does anyone really believe that any of the remaining candidates would have said something like “hey, I’ll get the U.S. out of the Iraq mess quickly and then we can spend all the billions saved on a Mars colony”? The effort to convince politics that going to Mars ASAP or the VSE or ALT.VSE or some other crewed space activity is really worth it has to start at a much more fundamental level IMHO: You’ve got to convince the broad public first and start with its more space-friendly faction. Even there a lot of work lies ahead, as the debate on crewed vs. robotic or rather the best proportion of the two is far from settled even in the space advocacy groups …

A voice from Germany

Anonymous said...

It was a good try.

I have a feeling the future president doesn't care much for space. I think something major has to happen, like China landing on the moon, to push politicians and the general public to shoot for targets beyond low Earth orbit and that won't happen during this coming president's term.

I of course will continue to promote space when I can... and hope the private sector goes where NASA won't.

Dan said...

I agree with alex, I am almost hoping China will land on the moon soon to galvanize the nation, as tragic as that would be. It's what the country needs, just like we needed Sputnik to kickstart the US Space Program.

Don't feel down about the politicos not asking any space questions, we still have the rest of the year to badger candidates about this important topic. Your efforts will not go to waste. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Exciting the campaigns about the virtues and nobility of Space is nice, but it is missing the point.
We need to convince candidates, campaign staffers, consultants and pollsters that supporting Space is good politics. Key states like Florida and Ohio have the ability to grab the candidates by the short hairs and get their attention.

I don't really care if a President has a genuine and personal love of Spaceflight. They will throw their personal preferences under the bus every time is politically required. If their not that type, they don't get to be President (or Senators, or Congressmen, etc).
I'd much rather have a President who believed that aggressive support for Space was good politics. That and that alone will get you the sustained commitment and funding needed.

Everything done now is simply preparing the narrative for the promises and commitments we want to extract from the candidates in the fall. Nothing else matters.

ActionforSpace is one tool to build that effort. A great tool. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

John, you did a terrific job. An the effort is by no means over... It did not surprise me that the "space questions" were not asked. It is a simple equation - there are more people that care about health and iraq, than going to space. There are more votes invovled.

That said, we still have a job to do... There are a lot of people that care about aerospace. It's got to be 4-5M people/votes. The politicians simply don't know that yet.

So, this is where we are - and we need to start as a catalytic organization, that starts a national conversation. Let's work on that together.

Take care. mjl

ISS Vet said...

You said of the Obama staffer, He doesn't know how large we are yet.

We don't know how large we are yet! Space questions held their own against all comers right to the end. Other interests certainly organized to advance their causes, but few could match the space votes. Where did all those votes come from? Either there are a lot more of us than we think there are or members of the general public voted with us or both. Either way, we have more reach than we can explain.