It's been a while since I've last come to these forums. This seemed to be the most appropriate place to post this idea I want to put together, and I really
would like to get the input of people more experienced in such things than I -- or, better yet, I'll gladly hand it off to anyone who'd want to take charge.
I'm an ex-rocket scientist that graduated last year just in time to see NASA kick the bucket before I could even get my application through the front doors. With no jobs left in Florida, I packed my belongings and moved to PA to marry my wife and (hopefully) find a better job market.
Now, I didn't write this to make an internet "introduction," as many do to announce their presence when they join a new forum (personally, I find the practice tacky). I actually am writing this post to deliver some big news:
NASA just selected SpaceX's Dragon space capsule yesterday as the next American *manned* spacecraft, and has put contract money on their table to seal the deal. You can read the press release for yourself here
This is huge
. This will be the first private deep space vessel in history -- a true SPACESHIP, not some joyride made for wealthy tourists (though who'd turn down a ride?), and it means that space is no longer just for the lucky people who have jobs with The Man. This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for Average Joes everywhere, our first step towards a future where everyone
can go into space and go where they please, like Serenity.
That's what I'm writing to you about, because I've had this idea bouncing around in my head, and, with yesterday's news, now seems as good a time as any to start a conversation on the subject. Pop Quiz: What was the name of the first space shuttle?
Answer: NOT Columbia
, she's actually the second. No, the first one, which was used for flight testing and never went into space, was named Pathfinder
...UNTIL, that is, a dedicated, persistent group of geeks who never gave up succeeded in their long mail-in campaign to have the shuttle renamed Enterprise
. Eventually, NASA said "it turns out there's another famous naval exploration vessel with the name 'Enterprise,' and that's the one that we named we named it after...yeah...", but it worked all the same. Remember, this was a time long before the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and online petitions.
I believe that it is quite fitting and appropriate that the first private spaceship be named Serenity
, enough that I feel that a similar campaign is in order. I tentatively call it "Serenity: Take Back the Sky." Feel free to replace it with something better (i.e. "Serenity Breaking Atmo?"). I believe that this is doable for several reasons:
- Back in the day, they were able to coordinate a successful mailing campaign without the use of the internet. Now, we have all manner of advanced communications technology to give us much more of an advantage.
- SpaceX is not under NASA rules or regulation over how they name their craft. Founder and CEO Elon Musk was quoted as saying that their one and only rule about naming their rockets and spacecraft is that "it has to be cool."
- Musk is a TOTAL GEEK. We're talking about the man who started PayPal, then sold it so he could make rockets. He offered the SpaceX facility to Marvel Studios to film Iron Man 2 in and cameo-ed in the movie, as well. He's also a man who never turns down a chance to get good press, so if he can be shown that enough Browncoats and other passionate geeks are behind this, I'd be surprised if he didn't go along with it just for the sake of winning popularity, and NASA wouldn't be able to do anything about it...
- ...Although, NASA are geeks and Browncoats, too, and I doubt that they'd resist if they could. The last few years have seen dramatic change in the organization's culture. Once they realized that "the end is nigh," a lot of people in NASA have relaxed their stance a bit. I present to you Exhibit A, a mission patch for Italy's contribution to the International Space Station, commissioned by a certain comic book artist: http://goo.gl/zqrGC. Additionally, it wasn't too long ago that minor news was made when an astronaut and Browncoat brought up DVDs of Firefly and Serenity to the space station for future astronauts to view on their break. I submit that there is no geekier experience than watching an episode. IN. SPACE. (see photos here) Point is, NASA isn't allowed to publically admit it, but they do have a sense of humor. Remember the Colbert incident?
- If a company wants to name their product after an intangible state of mind like "Serenity," no one can claim copyright infringement unless they use copyrighted assets, like logos. Failing that, SpaceX has the legal resources and counsel to avoid any trouble, and deal with problems that arise to the satisfaction of all parties.
- We can, conceivably, do this without raising funds. I mean, I guess we could start a kickstartr, but I don't know what we'd use it for.
- Lastly, unlike so many other "campaigns" we see pop up from time to time, we don't need the Big Damn Heroes' involvement to succeed at this. I personally suspect that many of the attempts at viral petitions to, say, bring back the show or whatever are really just masked pleas for attention from a celebrity to see if they'll tweet about you. While it'd be awesome if members of the cast and crew lent their support, we actually don't need any of them to put their reputations on the line for us. We can do this on our own.
Now, another difference between this and other campaigns that, I feel, is most important is that it's not about ME. Believe you me, I've been sucked into volunteering for more than one startup company or "cause" only to find out the hard way that it's just a front for one guy's ego and quest for fame. The last thing that I want anyone to think is that I'm guilty of that. Heck, if there were a way, I'd be posting this anonymously just to prove it. I am not volunteering myself to lead this, I'm just putting the idea out there in hope of getting the ear of people more capable than I (say, people who have experience getting the word out on CSTS). Even if I wanted to take point on this, I couldn't, because, after over a year, I'm still unemployed. I've been turned down by three grocery stores so far and one custodial position due to a "lack of experience" -- point is, I can't even leave my apartment. There ARE, however, a few things that I and the rest of us could do. Here's my ideas on actions to take:
- We could ask QMX if they'll grant us another bulk discount on Serenity postcards (as they've done in the past for things like this) to mail in to CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX's PR department or anyone whose contact info we can get a hold of. Barring that, we can still pile them on the front doorstep of their headquarters in CA.
- There's no harm in working from NASA's end, too, as far as mailing physical letters to their counterpart PR department.
- We can leverage the internet and spread the word like Breaking Atmo did to related media outlets, like space.com, Space News, spaceflightnow.com, newspapers and websites local to CA, TX, and FL where SpaceX has facilities.
- We can network through Browncoats and others already in the industry. The world of aerospace, though it is almost in exile, is still a tight-knit group. We could rally support in places where I know that they go, like the forums at nasaspaceflight.com and other virtual "water coolers" that I know that they use.
- As part of the campaign to have the film Serenity made, Browncoats pitched in and bought a full-page ad in Variety. We could easily do the same thing in the Space News newspaper, or another related publication.
- The private spaceflight industry arose from a vibrant, energetic space activist movement that is just as active now as it was then. It's a subculture that has its own series of conventions where visionaries, prominent businessmen, politicians, and BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY meet and discuss the possibilities that space enables for the human race. It'd be a simple matter to get the word out (in a dignified, respectful manner, of course) at conferences of the Planetary Society (which Bill Nye was just elected president of, restoring my faith in democracy), the Mars Society, the National Space Society, or the upcoming 100 Year Starship Symposium sponsored by DARPA. It would cost little to nothing to put a small ad in a program at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) or just have someone already speaking drop a mention of us on a slide in their presentation, yet, take it from me as one who's been on the inside for six years, it would have a HUGE impact. Heck, if you have even a passing interest in space exploration or making science fiction real, attending these events is its own reward for the people you'd otherwise never have access to, the revolutionary and original ideas you can be exposed to, the fascinating science, and, above all, partying late into the night with former astronauts until they get drunk enough to tell you stories that NASA does not want the public to ever know about. Shoot, if we can even just get, like, a basic webpage with some followers, that'd be enough to get my former compatriots of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space onboard, an organization entirely comprised of young people so passionate about space that they work for free -- once that happens, IT'S ON.
- It won't be enough to just get a different name painted on the outer hull. If Musk and SpaceX decide that there's merit in the idea, it falls to US to make good on our word and support them. Translation: We need to attend the launch and PACK every single viewing area for the launch as if it were the line for Serenity 2. There needs to be so many Browncoats overflowing Kennedy Space Center, flying or driving in from out of state, cramming every beach with a view that they won't know what to do with us -- but can't ignore us, either. If the campaign succeeds to have the ship named and the Browncoats come out in force, it will send a powerful message that America still supports the manned exploration of deep space. This could very well be the opportunity that Browncoats have fantasized about for so long: the day that we reunite to march once more. If our ship makes it out to the launch pad, "I'm thinking we rise again."
So, I've covered how we can, I've covered why it's possible, all that leaves is...why bother at all? It's not going to bring the show back, that's for sure. It's also not going to revitalize the space program and usher us into a new and glorious age of discovery and prosperity. That's the thing about space, though: it doesn't benefit us here on Earth at all. Sure, we say it gives us "technology," but when we say that, we really mean "it gives us shiny new toys and iPhones." The truth is, though, if we were to land on Mars tomorrow, your life would not change. You'd still wake up and, if you're lucky enough, go to work, come home, go to bed, then do it all over again the next day, because space does not benefit us at all...
...because space benefits our children
. Support for the program has vanished because people out there have become so accustomed to instant gratification and a self-centered, "what does this do for me" culture that nobody cares for those yet unborn children anymore. People didn't cross the oceans to "explore," pioneers didn't cross the plains to enrich STEM education back east, and astronauts sure as heck didn't put their lives on the line "for mankind." They did it because they wanted a better future for their kids, or for other people's kids. The true "spirit of exploration," I believe, is love. It's loving people enough to give and sacrifice for them, even though they can't give back and you'll never meet them because they haven't been born. Someone has to stand up for those children; someone has to fight for their future, even though nobody else cares and most people think there's something wrong with you for trying. If you're going to fight such a lost and unpopular cause of love, then there's only one group to call:Browncoats
Thanks for reading. I'll get out of the way now; take it away with your suggestions.
For those of you who want to start right away, try addressing a letter or postcard to:
Space Exploration Technologies
Attn: Elon Musk
1 Rocket Rd
Hawthorne, CA 90250