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iPod Generation Indifferent to Space Exploration 526

An anonymous reader writes "CNN tells us that today's young adults are no longer excited at the possibility of space exploration: 'The 2004 and 2006 surveys by Dittmar Associates Inc. revealed high levels of indifference among 18- to 25-year-olds toward manned trips to the moon and Mars. The space shuttle program is slated to end in 2010 after construction of the international space station is completed with 13 more shuttle flights. The recent 13-day mission by Discovery's seven astronauts was part of that long-running construction job.' As a result, NASA's budget will include a greater amount of public relations spending."
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iPod Generation Indifferent to Space Exploration

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  • by ReptilianSamurai ( 1042564 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:38PM (#17399278)
    I'm 20 years old and nothing excites me more about the near future than space exploration. The idea that in <b>my</b> lifetime we will likely have a moon base, or go to Mars is hard to believe.

    Then again, I read Slashdot, so I may not represent my demographic. ;-)
  • They don't care because it's been a while since NASA has really done anything interesting. It's tough to get excited about space exploration when it's a handful of people riding up and down in a vehicle that's older than most young people's cars, and doing incomprehensible/boring stuff when they get there.

    Space exploration was exciting when it meant putting people on the moon; the public has lost interest when it just means sending people up to LEO over and over again, and the people in question aren't them.

    I suspect that if we put a person on Mars, you would see an immediate renewed interest in space exploration. But seeing the state to which NASA and the government in general has fallen, I suspect most young people are (wisely) too cynical to believe that will ever occur. Thus they don't care, and turn their attentions to things that seem to be actually progressing.
  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:48PM (#17399418) Homepage Journal
    Why are people increasingly disaffected with space exploration? Well, aside from general apathy -- I mean, come on, it's 18-25 year olds, the most apathetic (is that a word?) age -- most of us are "meh" about space because we highly doubt FTL travel will ever actually occur. The planets in our solar system are extremely distant and inhospitable, and terraforming another planet like Mars or Venus is also highly unlikely.

    The "exploration" aspect of space is basically gone; we've been pretty much as far as we can feasibly go. It's not a frontier anymore, and it won't be until some future Columbus makes it to another star system and brings a few natives back.
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:49PM (#17399432)
    The 18-to-25s that aren't showing any interest, well, there's a good reason.

    For most of their active life, as far as they were concerned, space flight is an everyday occurance.

    They grew up with the Space Shuttle. They grew up with space stations. Exploration is practically common (face it, with the Mars rovers since the mid-90's...). So is it any surprise that manned exploration would get a yawn?

    This happened in the 70's. I believe by Apollo 13, no one watched space launches on TV anymore (if the networks would even carry it) nor did the public actually care (until the tank exploded).

    For those who grew up in the 70's, well, spaceflight was a mystical thing. These feelings probably stayed. It's basically assumed that spaceflight is a boring reality these days.

    Go back a few years, say around the time I was born, and yes, you'd probably find more excitement about spaceflight (hell, I'd love to go).

    Take aviation - nobody thinks much about hopping on a plane (other than the PITA that is security nowadays and long lineups) to go somewhere. Go back to the 1950s when travelling by commercial jet was fairly novel. Now, well, it's just another form of travel. The same thing is happening to spaceflight. The novelty has worn off on this "generation" - they grew up with it, and probably assume it's always been the case.
  • by boobavon ( 857902 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:51PM (#17399466)
    We don't call the 60s kids the sex without condoms generation! I resent the ipod designation.
  • Opiate of the masses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dsanfte ( 443781 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:54PM (#17399516) Journal
    Democracy is a fine device for trending national policy decisions towards what people really want. In this case, for this age group, it seems that most people want to sit around playing the PS3 all day, and they really don't care about much else. Electronic games are the new religion of our age. Sad as hell.

    Fortunately, the US is not a democracy.
  • As a 15-year old... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PompousClown ( 1044810 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:10PM (#17399706)
    ...I can say that in my school, I have certainly observed a great deal of student apathy regarding just about everything that has to do with science. It's really a sad thing, because I suspect that this is largely due to our incredibly weak science department. The teachers are terrible. Either you're stuck with the stereotypical monotonous robot of an educator, spewing out terms and expecting the class to understand, or you've got some bipolar nutcase who is certain that we're all gonna die due to global warming. Although my current grade in my BSCS class isn't exactly stellar (79 average), out of all the students in my class I'm still probably the most interested in the subject. This, I would imagine, is because the school system hasn't beaten out my extreme curiosity which I have kept with me all my life. Every night, my dad would read to me from one of his favorite science fiction novels (Ender's game is one that I remember best). I would soak up programs on channels such as the Discovery Science Channel every chance that I got (I still do). And to top it all off, my father and I would frequently discuss the prospects and benefits of space exploration. This is what impacted me the most. Out of all my schooling, it was the extracurricular exploration and stimulation that made all the difference to me. I'm really lucky to have two great parents. I'd say that 40-50% of all the kids I know have parents who are divorced. More still have irresponsible parents to begin with. It's sad, but true.

    Oh, I guess that the fact that I was homeschooled from grades 2 to 8 made a big difference aswell.
  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:13PM (#17399752)
    I too am in the Space Exploration generation, and I too am indifferent to iPods.

    And I'm not surprised. The members of our generation (in their teens in the 60s, I guess) who were interested in space flight were not exactly your average passive consumer. My brother worked for NASA, and I did work on, among other things, rad-hard real time computers. When I was an undergraduate at a university not far from Ely, your audio system did not count unless you had built it yourself, from components, and by components I mean tubes, transistors, and for real kudos turn your own vinyl turntable out of an alumin(i)um blank.

    Nowadays our modern equivalent, when it isn't doing the same kind of thing, is writing its own audio decoders.

    The difference between then and now is quite simple. There is a lot more rubbish about. The size of the recording industry was not so bloated in the sixties and the bandwidth was much smaller. People built their own turntables, for the most part, to listen to Mozart and Wagner and (Richard) Strauss and perhaps Berio and Ligeti as I recall, not pop music which was beneath contempt; it was, after all, the product of multiple remixings from tape and there was no depth to bring out. Now, the record industry is trying to extend copyright still further on stuff with a shelf life of hours, and this is, for the most part, what will get loaded into iPods.

    My conclusion? The Space Exploration generation and the iPod generation are probably practically disjoint sets. Sheep and goats, in fact. Nothing to see here; move along.

  • by paeanblack ( 191171 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:18PM (#17399808)
    I think the problem lies in the lack of mystery. In the '50s-'60s, we didn't know if we were going to make it to the moon. We had no idea if it was, or ever would be, possible for a human to make it there and back. Today, putting someone on Mars is, in the minds of the current generation, purely academic. It won't be terribly difficult, just very expensive. That's neither mysterious or interesting to youth.

    Perhaps the rate of technological innovation and incremental improvements have much to blame for this attitude. When kids grow up assuming next year's model will be twice as fast and one-third the price, it raises the question, "Why do we need to go to Mars right now?". The extension of this is, "If the same equipment will so much cheaper next year, just like an iPod, why not save some money and visit Mars later. Mars isn't going anywhere."

  • by mitchell_pgh ( 536538 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:23PM (#17399856)
    If you compare our rather lower risk missions of the 90s/00s to the rather high risk missions of the 60s/70s, it's no surprise that it's less interesting.

    Also, I believe the image of NASA has changed from that of a cutting edge government sponsored organization to a lumbering money pit. We really need to "fight" someone if we want public support... even if it's more PR than anything.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:29PM (#17399928)
    The question was about manned space travel - not if this generation is interested in space travel. I am highly interested in space travel but believe we should stop all manned flights. We have the technology for computers to do everything for us, it will be safer and result in less launch delays. Dreams of a moonbase and a man on mars are a waste of NASA's paper-thin budget.
  • by shaneh0 ( 624603 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:46PM (#17400222)
    Interesting idea. Especially the pragmatist idea of waiting until "next model year."

    I personally have hopes that the moon base will be sufficiently interesting to stoke the public demand for a Mars mission.

    I'm 24 and when I was in grade school I had a teacher for 3 & 4th grades that was an absolute space nut. We had a chapter of Young Astronauts in the school, she had a space-shuttle cockpit (made from mostly wood with a bunch of dials and toggle switches inside) in her classroom that we could sit in and she filled the class with a sense of excitement about what was going on out there.

    It's also worth mentioning that at this time NASA was a bit more exciting, too. Hubble just launched. Endeavor was brand new. And IIRC the Voyager had just left the solar system.

    My point is that todays adults can get todays kids interested in this. And also that the prospect of people living on the moon is new and exciting enough that it just might work.
  • Re:Choices in music (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Weedlekin ( 836313 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:43PM (#17404390)
    "In the 60s, the majority of the population got music from the radio and from juke boxes."

    This simply isn't true. I was born in England in 1960, and did not come from a wealthy family: both my parents worked, we lived in a rented flat, and I remember them saving for well over a year to buy a small refrigerator, yet we had a record player and a fair number of records, and so did just about everyone else I knew (all of whom lived in council houses with two working parents and low incomes). Such devices were invariably mono with auto-changer turntables of dubious quality, and many were doubtless bought second-hand (as was ours), but they were pretty common, and their owners must have had at least some records, because the devices were useless without them.

    NB: second-hand singles were available very cheaply because of the high turnover from juke-boxes, which tended to be supplied with new material on a regular basis, so the older stuff got turfed out to make space for it, and the companies that owned them tended to end up with large numbers of records they had no use for, and thus virtually gave away. You could tell they'd come from juke boxes because their middles had been punched out (although being four or five years old meant that I didn't know this at the time), but new "clip-on" middles could be bought very cheaply, so this wasn't a problem (most players in any case had adapters, but the replacement middles meant that records could be stacked on the auto-changer, which was good for parties). LPs (later called "albums") weren't used in juke-boxes though, so they were much more costly, and therefore a lot rarer among the low-income groups that I knew and mixed with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:44PM (#17404394)
    I worked in the space program, specifically the Apollo program in the late sixties. Now I am in MY sixties!! I have nothing but loathing for the iPod or any of its cousins in extracting the hard earned money of working people for the benefit of bloated putrid monopolies selling putrid music that would not earn its keep in a fair open competitive market.
          That said, our space industry in the United States is about on the par with the putrid moooosick industry. Our President has proposed a ship called the 'orion' or 'crew exploration vehicle' depending on what one reads. This ship if one wants to call it that is little more than a coffin into which we will place frail hopes. It is little more than the size, interior wise, of a volkswagen bus interior. It is fragile. It has no continuous propulsion capability. Its maneuverability is limited to short bursts of directional thrusters. A few short bursts. Into this literal beer can we propose to put six unfortunates so that they can sit in the dark in the cold of space for up to two years with inadequate supplies and an assumption that they will be able to 'mine the fuel for the return' when they get to Mars. As presently configured, they will have to do a 'high altitude low opening' individual parachute jump on a one way trip when they arrive. No worry though. They will be dead of: starvation from running out of supplies; radiation sickness from sitting in a beer can in a rad storm halfway there when our 'ole sol' gives out one of its famous corona discharges; killin each other from frustration or boredom or whatever...the Russian Cosmonaut Uri Krikalaev called this isolation and enforced closeness the perfect formula for murder; or they could just fart themselves to death and asphyxiate each other on their own flatulence. They will have to conduct all bodily functions during the whole trip. Where will be put the waste? How much of this will be water lost?
          On the other hand, the Russian space program is much better thought out. They plan to go to Mars with a very large spacecraft. They plan to use solar electric propulsion utilizing a solar collector the size of a small town. They plan to shield the crew behind several feet of armored panel and fuel. They plan to use hydrogen propellant for reaction mass. They have on the drawing board a crew vehicle, the Kliper, that contains an emergency escape system AND provision for carrying a lot of supplies. The Kliper is part of a modular system including a propulsion module that mounts behind it and is scalable. Another module is the Parom interorbital tug for moving assemblies from low orbit to high orbit. The Parom is solar electric powered as well. Their modular system envisions a large crew quarters based on a scaled up Zvesda module(s) presently in use in the International Space Station. The complete Mars mission ship also envisions emergency escape module and a modularized Mars lander/ascender system. It is huge.
    It is pilotable to many optional destinations. It is survivable. It will keep its crew alive
    and healthy and entertained (important on long voyages). It has room for some privacy..again necessary for long voyages. It has room for real science!, something we ourselves have stated as our reason for going...that is before our knowledgable purresident proposed to put our men into a leaky beer can so their freeze dried bodies can be found some time in the future. No wonder our young people are not turned on by our space program. They know losers, in music, movies, and space travel when they see them. And NASA's plan is a real cropper. Wanna see a real plan.
    Go to Roscosmos ENERGIA site and look at a real plan. If all we can come up with is to basically murder our astronauts, we owe it to our people the option of supportin the Russian plan
  • by icebrain ( 944107 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:57PM (#17404920)
    So, if you don't have a result you can hold in your hand in the next five years, it's useless? It reminds me of Michael Faraday's demonstration of electromagnetic induction to the British Prime Minister of his day. Far from being impressed, the Prime Minister said, "Of what use is this discovery, Mr Faraday?" Faraday replied, "Of what use is a baby, Mr. Prime Minister?" Babies certainly don't solve any problems on their own, and require a lot of education and development before they truly benefit society. Right now, human space travel is somewhere about the zygote stage. We can get to the point where it's truly useful, but only if we're willing to put the effort in to develop the technology and don't just sit around whining that "it's too expensive, and I want it NOW!!1!" If the Wright brothers, Otto Lilienthal, et al had decided that "we shouldn't worry about developing airplanes until we can cross the Atlantic in them and drink champagne whle we're doing it," we would have never flown.

    Everyone seems to be seeing space exploration as pure scientific research. Yes, that is nice and useful and all... but we should be looking at it with the goal of eventually expanding human presence in the universe. I refer you to e/2006-12-18-why-go.html [] as an example. Unfortunately, I don't think the general public will take the idea too seriously until either (A) we find life (possibly intelligent) or (B) we see a big asteroid headed our way. And by then, it may be too late.
  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @10:26PM (#17405478)
    Look, designing a lunar base in not outside of our current engineering capabilities. I also have no idea what building a zero-G space station has to do with designing a 1/6 G habitat on large-ish moon you can burrow into.

    Certainly we have to build to higher tolerances these days. But we know what those tolerances are, and we are building nothing, doing nothing, but going in circles in low earth orbit running experiments drempt up by school children.

    The space station serves no purpose. None. There is no new science being conducted there, and the platform has no utility for staging other missions or building space craft in orbit.

    NASA, you want excitement? Establish a permanent international colony on the moon. You'll never get more positive press than when the first baby is born on the moon.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.