Man on Mars? A visit to an asteroid? Actually a Woman on Mars would be a better proposition; would generate more public discussion.
I kind of doubt those projects will generate massive public interest. Anyway, what about some other options?
Here is verbatim, the NASA mission statement:
To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond.
If you look at NASA’s future missions, you’ll see they are all about exploration; the second and third parts of the statement. Their current missions (and there are a lot) are all about the physical nature of the cosmos and our planet. They lead to more knowledge and technology; not necessarily improvements in life.
My definition of improvement of life includes health, safety, opportunities and relationships (interested in how NASA currently defines it).
I’ve argued in the previous article that the key achievement of NASA is the development of an extraordinary organisational culture. How can we best deploy that to advantage?
I believe there should be a project to infuse into other organisations aspects of the NASA culture. That would be an improvement in the realm of relationships. It could of course be done as a management consultancy which would generate its own revenue.
NASA has great systems expertise. A project to create a better functioning global information system would lay the foundations for eventual internationalisation of our economies. I’m talking about hooking up all databases so that, for example, criminals can’t exploit national boundaries to their advantage. So that businesses don’t have an advantage in systems integration over governments. So that we collect the same information in Africa as we do in Australia. That could improve all aspects of life.
What about eliminating hunger? Now there’s a problem that affects your world view. Certainly fits within my definition of improving life.
What about a project that collects sociological research and proposes the structure of our next society? Say you were going to send a large number of people into space. How would you structure that society so that it was sustainable, had only productive conflict and was free of violence and crime? Having worked that out, how do you introduce that into our existing structures? Should we not aim to improve our social cohesion?
Eliminate corruption; increase happiness, alleviate poverty. Scientific disciplines could be brought to bear on these issues in a coordinated fashion. Much has been learned in the social sciences. We can apply that knowledge but we need better leadership.
So how to resource this?
About 3,000 NASA employees have just received redundancy notices. What a waste. All those highly motivated, highly trained people now without a team. They are used to being inspired. The proposition of a ‘normal job’ must be very unappealing.
Give them a deadline, give them a project, pay their salaries for a year and see what they come up with. If you’re an unemployed NASA staffer, drop me a line.