Indeed. But, as much as I hate to inject this potentially political implication into the mix, that's the marketplace: the value of news is not its quality or actual significance, but, rather, it's popular appeal.
Originally Posted by Madanthonywayne
I learned this time around that word of mouth is powerful, but only among those who actually care. While none in my circles give a damn about Stewart and Pattinson, anyway, the Olympics were an interesting question: What? You even care about that event? I actually have no idea what was being broadcast at that particular time in the U.S., but in the end it's a matter of what a person finds important. If the Olympics weren't on, there would plenty watching whatever the hell is on at that time on Sunday night, even if it was a rerun.
I don't understand that, but some don't understand why landing a metal box on Mars is any big deal.
And where it risks getting political is in trying to figure out if that says anything about American culture in general.
This mission literally restored my father's sense of wonder about the broader Universe. You could hear it in his voice as he recalled watching moonshots. I haven't heard that kind of metaphysical thirst in his voice ... maybe ever. And while he would never advocate nationalizing the energy markets, for instance, he certainly has lost that sense of cynicism that used to make him say NASA wasn't worth the money anymore. I think he's reclaimed a little bit of his youthful awe about the Universe, and would take a new moonshot—sure, been there, done that, but still—over a war any day.
It's astounding to see the powerful effects Curiosity has stirred among those who actually care about these sorts of things. Indeed, it's more than I expected. I mean, sure, I'm hoping this is the mission, and always hedge by acknowledging how slim that chance is, but something happened in the last few days before EDL, and NASA won a lot of hearts and minds. I had not expected that. And, now, watching the ripple effect in people's minds, I'm even more surprised. Sure I thought this was a big-deal mission, but I did not expect the seemingly profound reactions I'm seeing in people around me.
Someday we will all wander out into the streets, and gaze up not at Sputnik, but rather the glimmer of Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, filled with wonder and expectation, and even a dose of fear. It will not be Sputnik, or a space station. We will gaze out into the planets, and know we are not the only living rock in the Universe. Twenty years? Fifty? Certainly it is possible in our lifetime. But even my mother is looking up at the sky with that inscrutable expression. She had planned on watching the Olympics, but ended up watching JPL and Curiosity. And now when she looks at the sky, it really is different.
I really didn't expect that. And I wish—wishwishwish—such moments could be given as gifts to all our fellow Americans. Set aside the Hollywood stars; we already know they're an alien life form. Look at the real stars. That night of wonder and awe is coming, and it is glorious anticipation.
'Tis a far, far better reward, that special moment, than fretting over Tom Cruise or Kristin Stewart or whether or not all presidents after Dubya are expected to speak King's English.
And it wasn't the nightly news that convinced family and friends to watch mission control at CIT. It was word of mouth. I said something. A friend said something. Somebody else said something. Suddenly almost everyone I know is watching.
And the afterglow is something else.
To NASA's credit, in addition to simply pulling off that landing—we joke that on a cosmic scale the 211 miles from MRO to the capsule when that parachute picture was taken counts as a "near miss"—they've done a marvelous job of grabbing hold of the people who have been paying attention. Anthropomorphizing their droids is one of the best stunts they ever pulled. I mean, really, who weeps reading Twitter?
"Can you hear us now, Spirit?"
And by doing so, NASA managed to create something special in a tumultuous time. I only wish more people could bask in the glow. And if they keep doing things right, NASA will draw more people, and they will, before it is all over, do the job.
Human beings, welcome to the Universe. You've been here a while, actually, and it's time to get to know the place. Oh, and by the way, it's awesome out there.