NASA and Entertainment Industry Needs Astronauts still Necessary Despite end of Space Shuttle Program


By Brian Dyak, Pres. & CEO, Entertainment Industries Council

On a recent episode of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, on its “Best New Thing in the World” segment, featured NASA’s newly released ringtones.  (For the video, click here! ).  Selected from NASA’s vast archives, these free audio clips include sounds from Enceladus, one of Saturn’s many moons, or the iconic – and hypnotic – beeping sound of Russian Sputnik satellites (Go here to download your choice of ringtones).  Of course, you can also download the now-famous “Houston we had a problem” audio, which seems apt in this era of cutbacks and, in particular, termination or redesign of the future space shuttle program.
You might begin to assume that NASA itself may become a relic of the past, much like Sputnik.  Are astronauts heroes of a now-bygone era?  Not at all!  In fact, the Washington Post’s Brian Vastag reported on September 7th that, NASA still needs astronauts, and currently is attempting to recruit and train additional astronauts. (For the full story, please visit here!).

The entertainment industry has benefited through the monetizing of our plethora of space oriented features, and television programming over the years. Now, we have the opportunity to pioneer space for future generations as we assist in the “call to action” to support science, engineering, and technology-  education, and to aid inspiring our nation’s youth to seriously consider education and career paths in these fields.  The entertainment industry, accepting this mission, can rekindle the vital signs of a dynamic space program!

Why the continued need for astronauts?  Despite misconceptions, the end of the space shuttle program doesn’t mean the end of space exploration.   In fact, the 59 remaining astronauts at NASA (down from 150 in 2001) are below the minimum corps necessary to ensure the U.S. continues to have a hand in space exploration:  NASA will send four to six astronauts to the space station for six month periods, but it needs a large pool of qualified astronauts for the task.  Medical issues, such as loss of bone mass or vision problems, might ground otherwise qualified astronauts for significant periods of time.

The bottom line:  This nation needs to train and recruit astronauts ASAP, as full preparation for space flight takes at least 2 ½ years.  Although NASA expects to hire nine new candidates in 2012 and six in 2014, it must replenish its waning corps further into the future, as the space station is expected to remain in operation until at least 2020.   This, in turn, means that teachers, parents, and mentors need to begin recruiting “budding astronauts” among today’s students.
Crucial to this task is fostering an interest in science, engineering, and technology, and the entertainment industry is stepping up to encourage U.S. students to pursue careers in the science, engineering and technology fields.   Specifically, the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) has developed a program called Ready on the S.E.T.  and ACTION! (SET = Science, Engineering and Technology), a media initiative to raise awareness among youth about the importance of these three fields. In fact, on November, 17th,  2011,  EIC will be launching the inaugural S.E.T. Awards, recognizing the depiction of science, engineering and technology in entertainment productions including television, features, comic books and community service…over 80 hours of programming in all.

The next “Best New Thing in the World” will be the next generation of young people who take us even further into space, exploring planets, inventing new technologies and engineering feats of wonder. And as the entertainment industry helps to foster this today, as we “pay it forward”, the ROI will be an asset to further secure our nation’s future…and may very well spawn another generation of action figures, movies, television shows, games that even further the mission.

For more information, please visit /topic-areas/readyontheset/.

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