NASA, Orion and the New Age of Space Travel

At NASA, recapturing the magic of the glory days of space exploration means a look that harkens back to the days of Cowboys in Space. Glance at the new Orion craft, well on its way to Mars now, and it’s easy to see echoes of the Apollo craft that took American heroes to the moon a generation ago.

Engineers will tell you the choice of a blunt-bottomed, conical capsule will help slow the craft on its descent, protect the craft from massive temperature fluctuations, and make for a more durable vehicle. But Ronn Torossian said the PR power of the image cannot be understated.

Since the demise of the nation’s shuttle program, many who grew up watching the crafts leave the earth from Florida and Texas have felt a piece of their childhood erased. The empty launch pads at NASA mirrored empty hopes and dreams, a lost piece of American exceptionalism. The pioneer country was no longer exploring.

But many are looking at Orion and feeling some of the same excitement all over again. This is shooting for the moon all over again … but in a much grander scale. With that storyline comes all important public perception, PR cycles that will push funding for further missions and engage the public in a way that has not been seen in decades. If it works.

Without a major PR push, NASA will be forced to carry its own water from a marketing perspective. But if they manage the message correctly, the space exploration agency could usher in a whole new generation of kids who want to grow up to be Buzz Aldrin, not Buzz Lightyear. As go the kids, so go the parents. Get junior psyched about the launches and you will grab the attention of inspiration and enthusiasm starved grownups. And there couldn’t ever be a more perfect time.

The country could use some hope right now. What better way than to reach for the stars?