After the few fleeting moments spent gazing up at the sun (hopefully not directly) to look at the solar eclipse on Monday, most people went back to their average routine without considering the time scientists spent in preparation.
NASA’s scientists spent countless hours of research developing a timeline for the solar eclipse, making sure people would be aware of the event. Their work went down like many of NASA’s projects: underappreciated and unrecognized.
The names of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride sound familiar and received notable praise in their time, yet no one can recall the names or faces of current NASA employees who work hours on end.
Peggy Whitson, Randolph Bresnik and Scott Colloredo are brilliant minds who deserve to be recognized for their achievements.
There was a time when people gained a natural interest in NASA’s developments. With the Cold War brewing, the Space Race received remarkable attention. Memorable launches like Apollo 11 were watched in the ‘60s and fear certainly contributed to that attention.
Today, there is no Space Race within the U.S. which makes it less interesting to the public since there is no competition. People should know that astronauts live in space at this very moment, experiencing different routines and struggles from the rest of society.
Astronauts definitely don’t have dull lifestyles. They’re rockstars, but the general public cares about them as fleetingly as they did the eclipse.
Scott Kelly exercised for more than 700 hours in his year-long mission to space to keep his bones, muscles and heart strong, according to NASA’s website. He also watched 10,944 sunrises and sunsets in comparison to the only 684 viewable from Earth.
The public’s lack of reverence for NASA also leaves a lost opportunity for good role models. Many people simply aren’t aware that on Sept. 2 astronaut Peggy Whitson will return from space, holding the new record for most cumulative days spent in space. The previous record was set by Jeff Williams, with a record of 534 days. Historic moments like these should not be ignored. Imagine the young girls who could be motivated to pursue science if they were familiar with Peggy Whitson and her accomplishments.
NASA also helps bring the public information about water and ice sheets on Earth through the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. This allows changes in climate to be interpreted, especially conditions that reflect a drought. By recognizing these changes, communities nearby can get a better understanding of their water resources.
People also remain blind to NASA’s selective funding.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 focused primarily on exploration and ignores all other projects. Despite all the ideas bubbling in their heads, not all of these projects can continue if politicians fail to see the hard work NASA dedicates to understanding both space and Earth.
And like with most areas in life, the public needs to make sure that politicians see the importance in NASA’s developments in exploring the solar system as well as Earth.
It’s understandable that science doesn’t interest everyone, but if history has taught anything, it’s that experiments like NASA’s can pave the way for many revolutionary developments.
Science has helped the public better understand things like the human body and the force of gravity.
Reading about an astronaut or mission brings about awareness of an organization that is still undergoing many discoveries. More importantly, people can attribute faces and names to developments that could eventually change the current understanding of space.
So scroll through NASA’s website, watch a clip about a new project or read about an astronaut.
NASA’s missions and findings shouldn’t just be temporarily marveled at and then forever forgotten. Discoveries and shared information like the solar eclipse deserve to have names and faces remembered with these achievements. Scientists, mathematicians and astronauts deserve to be recognized and appreciated for their accomplishments now. Not in the future.