Hey, did you know that NASA is not allowed to promote itself? It was news to me.
Sit back while I tell my tale.
This past weekend, my family attended Dragon*Con, a sci-fi/fantasy convention in Atlanta, GA during Labor Day weekend. Over 52,000 people were at the convention, and in addition to the numerous celebrities from TV and movies (Gillian Anderson, Richard Dean Anderson, Joe Manganiello, Burt Ward, Adam West, Nichelle Nichols), as well as comic books (Stan Lee), there were also famous scientists: Dr. Kevin R. Grazier and Dr. Phil Plait.
Grazier and Plait spoke to an audience of about 100 Dragon*Con attendees and informed them that although NASA and its scientists continually push the boundaries of science, and numerous patents have been generated based on NASA research, NASA is unable to promote itself. No commercials, no ads, no billboards, nothing. No money from the NASA budget can go to marketing and promotion.
But, that doesn't mean that like minded individuals cannot do it.
So, the audience and the scientists discussed ways to get more people excited about NASA and science. And, an audience member came up with the idea of creating a Facebook page promoting all the cool things that NASA has done, called NASA Did That!
UPDATE: After publishing this diary, I have learned about another Facebook page to like, NASA Spinoff. Please like this page, too!
I am hoping, in writing this diary, I can get more people to learn about all of NASA's efforts over the years. So, pretty please, if you have a Facebook account, would you please check out the FB page? Right now, only 334 people like the page. You can be on the ground floor!
Here are some factoids to tempt you, all from NASA Did That!:
If you drop a pair of eyeglasses on the ground, the lenses probably won't break. That's because in 1972, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring manufacturers to use plastic rather than glass to make lenses. Plastics are cheaper to use, better at absorbing ultraviolet radiation, lighter and not prone to shattering. Nevertheless, they also had an Achilles heel. Uncoated plastics tend to scratch easily, and scuffed lenses could impair someone's sight.Or, how about this?
Because of dirt and particles found in space environments, NASA needed a special coating to protect space equipment, particularly astronaut helmet visors. Recognizing an opportunity, the Foster-Grant sunglasses manufacturer licensed the NASA technology for its products. The special plastics coating made its sunglasses ten times more scratch-resistant than uncoated plastics
Source: Discover Magazine and Space Technology Hall of Fame.
Nobody likes trying to read a traditional thermometer, and anyone older than three months dreads where it might be placed! In 1991, infrared thermometers that you place into your ears took the work out of it, simplifying and speeding up the process.Just one more....
Diatek, which developed the first of these kinds of thermometers, saw a need to reduce the amount of time nurses spend taking temperatures. Diatek took advantage of NASA's previous advancements in measuring the temperature of stars with infrared technology.
Together with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, the company invented an infrared sensor that serves as the thermometer.
Source: Discover.com and NASA Science and Technology Information
Astronauts needed a way to cleanse water they take up into space, since bacteria and sickness would be highly problematic. Water filter technology had existed since the early 1950s, but NASA wanted to know how to clean water in more extreme situations and keep it clean for longer periods of time.Our interest in space travel as a country has been waning, and it shows. Most recently, NASA’s budget has been cut yet again. This is not the way to progress. In fact, we should move in the opposite direction. The budget shouldn’t be cut, it should be doubled. Doubling NASA’s budget is a feasible solution that would help the program reach new heights, and let us feel inspired again.
If you look at a water filter, you can usually detect small chunks of charcoal inside of them. Sometimes, when you first use a water filter, you'll even notice tiny black flecks from those chunks. This charcoal is specially activated and contains silver ions that neutralize pathogens in the water. Along with killing bacteria in the water, the filters also prevent further bacterial growth. Companies have borrowed from this same technology to bring us the water filter systems millions of people use at home every day.
Source: Discover Magazine
But before talking about why we should double the budget, the budget as it is currently should be focused on a bit. The most recently released budget gives NASA $17.8 billion for 2012. This is a reduction of $600 million dollars from last year. Going into more specifics, the James Webb Space Telescope, an infrared telescope that will be used to look at some of the earliest galaxies in the universe, is receiving about $530 million.
However, to fund this NASA must cut other programs by $380 million, and cannot go over budget or risk being cut as well. Also, funding was greatly lessened, only $400 million dollars for private space companies like SpaceX, a private company that is trying to make space travel less expensive and more reliable, which could severely hurt those companies. Interestingly enough, some money was also allocated to help build the Space Launch System, a new type of rocket with plans to leave Earth’s orbit, to replace the cancelled constellation rocket system. It is promising to see that they are working on new rockets, but there is still some debate as to whether this is the right move for NASA. All in all, it is clear to see that NASA does not have enough money to do all that it would like to do. This is where doubling the budget comes in.
Now doubling NASA’s budget might sound crazy. More than that, it sounds impossible.
Many have said that we can’t afford to give NASA any more money. That is completely wrong.
The current NASA budget is about half of one percent of the total budget.
Also, the money spent on the recent bank bailouts was more than all the money ever spent on NASA in all of its time of existence. The average person is only paying about four tenths of a penny on his or her taxes to fund NASA. All doubling the budget would do would make people have to pay half a penny extra on their taxes.
Is that really too much money? Can no one afford to pay half a penny? The money gained from this would be invaluable. It would allow us to travel to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Not only that, it would allow that to happen within our lifetimes. It would allow us to observe deep into space and discover things never even imagined. And, it would provide benefits to society as a whole.
NASA has and will be an important part of society as a whole. Many common items that people enjoy today would not exist without NASA. Without NASA, there would be no GPS, memory foam mattresses, cordless power tools, shoe insoles, telecommunication devices, and many other technologies that we have come to depend on today.
Quoting Stephen Hawking, a brilliant physicist who is most famous for his work with black holes,
“Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.”However, possibly one of the biggest benefits of NASA is that it inspires us. Back during the space race, people could look at NASA and imagine a bright future beyond the cold war. It also inspired young children to become scientists and engineers, and help build that bright future. If NASA started working on going to the moon or to Mars, that would most likely happen again. With NASA, we can dream that beyond the sky is the limit.
Doubling NASA’s budget will not happen overnight. However, if more people make their voices heard, then it can happen. Doubling the budget should happen, since it would let us dream about tomorrow, and let us reach new heights.
Dr. Kevin Grazier is a writer/producer and also currently the science advisor on Falling Skies, Syfy’s upcoming epic Defiance, and the summer movie, Gravity. He served as science advisor on Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, The Event, and several other series. He was the co-author of The Science of Battlestar Galactica, editor of The Science of Dune, The Science of Michael Crichton, and Fringe Science: Parallel Universes, White Tulips, and Mad Scientists. Kevin is a recovering rocket scientist, and spent 15 years on the Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan.
Dr. Phil Plait, the creator of Bad Astronomy, hosted by Discover Magazine, is an astronomer, lecturer, and author. After ten years working on Hubble Space Telescope and six more working on astronomy education, he struck out on his own as a writer. He's written two books, dozens of magazine articles, and 12 bazillion blog articles. He is a skeptic and fights the abuse of science, but his true love is praising the wonders of real science.
UPDATED TO ADD:
Commenter, oxfdblue, provides more information about what NASA has done.
NASA does one thing for promotionAND
Since 1976, NASA has published a journal called Spinoff. It comes out once a year and looks at items made from the Technology Utilization Program.
That program allows private industry to use NASA technology and patents for consumer and commercial goods.
It isn't exactly the same as putting TV commercials on the air, but it quite interesting stuff.
Check it out at spinoff.nasa.gov
Commenter, Pete Cortez, provides the law that restricts advocating NASA and other federal agencies.
18 USC 1913ONE MORE UPDATE:
This law prohibits federal agencies, including NASA, from advocating--either directly or through an intermediary--for specific legislative or executive action. No law, however, prevents NASA from any taking any measure to inform and educate Congress, the Administration or the public about its unclassified work.
I just want to acknowledge that my son, age 19, did a lot of the research and wrote quite a bit of this diary, with my editing. He is currently a freshman in college, hoping to be an astrophysicist one day. He wasn't able to attend the panel at Dragon*Con but it's because of him and his future that I wrote this diary.