Who Moved My Space Shuttle?

Damn, they moved the cheese again. *

For the past several weeks, a few 'friends' on Facebook have chastised me for my lack of posts, my social media silence, on the fate of NASA. You see, once upon a time, I was a space geek and my fellow space geeks just assumed I had something to say. Well, I do. And they aren't going to like it.

Growing up in Space City USA, we took NASA for granted; there was always a spare astronaut around at any function. I even baby-sat for the children of Apollo 7's Walt Cunningham at some point in my teenage years although Walt likes to tell people I baby-sat for him.

It was David Crosby of Crosby Stills and Nash along with the blind date efforts of some of the Challenger widows who turned me into a space geek. The short story: the Challenger widows set me up on a blind date with the late astronaut G. David Low. David Crosby of Crosby Stills & Nash introduced me to astronaut Bonnie Dunbar. Crosby asked me to coordinate an 'astronaut field trip' for Low, Dunbar and a few others to a CSN show in the early 90's. Low was my date for the show and Dunbar brought her friend, NASA plot Charlie Justiz. For the last 20 years, I have been Mrs. Charlie Justiz. (I told you, this is the short version.)

I married into the NASA community and was soon hosting many meals, glasses of single malt scotch, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Cuban cigars for various and assorted astronauts and other NASA personnel at any given time. From there, I created and founded The Space Store, becoming the leading purveyor of that nasty Astronaut Ice Cream, astronaut patches and more. I went on to become the de facto space food expert in the country and then a space marketing/social media consultant. Go figure.

Through it all, I've watched NASA do some great things and some not so smart things. All in all, it's been exciting, inspiring and yes, at times, lucrative. I've also watched our space agency become more and more bogged down in bureaucracy as well as government rules and regulations. What started as a group of young engineers with a wild dream and goal to go to the moon turned into politics and the politically correct 'no' people. NASA took the most exciting adventure in the world and turned it into one of the most boring, unattainable things possible. Have you ever watched NASA TV? I rest my case.

At a recent radio industry function, I listened to the radio deejays I used to work along side, repeatedly say "I wish radio would go back the way it was." Now, I am surrounded by people who want NASA to do the same thing—go back the way it was.

Well, folks, neither radio or NASA will ever be the same or go back the way it was. Nor will the music industry, the movie industry, the publishing industry and more. You have to shake things up, leave some things behind and move forward to succeed. The cheese on the moon and on the Earth is moving and will continue to move. That's called progress.

Instead of sitting around griping and moaning about the current administration and the fate of human space travel, look at how it is changing and go where the cheese is. If those space cowboys in the late 50's and early 60's had listened to all the griping and moaning about the possibility of a space agency, we wouldn't have Astronaut Ice Cream ... or a few moon walks to brag about.

Look ahead. The cheese has moved. Go find it and figure out how to make it yours.

*With a tip of my space helmet to Spencer Johnson, author of Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal With Change in Your Work and In Your Life, one of my favorite books of all time.

For more information, visit www.daynasteele.com.

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  • Kathleen Connell

    I joined the NASA team in the 80's and helped found astrobiology, and other new efforts. I was the Policy Director of the Aerospace States Association for 10 years. Yes, the shuttle era is over. Shuttle, we shall miss you.
     The issue now is: what next? I know from my work that there is one planet that NASA has assisted before, and is in need of a new mission. That would be what is known around NASA as Mission To Planet Earth (MTPE), which should be updated and pursued in earnest during "the gap"...as Falcon and the SLS are proven and built. NASA's Jim Hansen and most of the globe-except pockets of the US-agree with  the science of global warming. Climate change is accelerating, impacting us now with extreme weather, increasing food prices and inflicting social disruption.
     Save the planet and civilization?  Now there is a spin-off to top them all! The capability is there, and MTPE is no longer a narrative in a blockbuster film. The time for NASA to get engaged in global sustainability in a serious, systemic way is now. And what better way to re-employ all of the talent being laid off during this rocket transition??

  • cathy arroyo

    I am a change agent that inflicts change on others with fervor.  As an engineer I have great respect for the technological advancements NASA made in the name of space exploration.  And I understand the need to fund the research that lead to such advancements.  Change happens, I know and I embrace it.

    But NASA?  Exploring the frontiers of space for the purposes of learning (Okay so I am a Trekkie too) is a noble endeavor.  The United States was once the leader in science and math education back when we watched men walk on the moon, but no more.  A large number of the engineers working in the United States are foreign born, here because of a shortage of U.S. born engineering students.  Many of these foreign born engineers will return to their native countries some day.  Already they are being recruited home to fill local engineering needs.  For those that say space exploration will no longer be ours to celebrate, they are right.  For those that say other industries will not gain from R&D in the name of space exploration because R&D will be patented, they are right.  We, the US citizens and residents, will be the ultimate losers.  

    And Dayna, you are correct - NASA did lose the shine over time; kids don't see brilliance when they hear or watch a shuttle or rocket launch.  But for me that shine never diminished.  NASA has always been my star that I never could reach.  I fell in love with the idea of NASA at a young age... with every launch an EVENT to celebrate and every achievement an HONOR to take pride in.  Never in the history of change and progress that I have experienced have I been so sad. 

    Those close to the program who have seen it fail their expectations are right when they say it is the unltimate endpoint of a game that got too political.  But those of us that aspired to be part of a noble endeavor and cheered on every accomplishment... well I, for one, wish for the bliss of ignorance for a wee bit longer.

  • Dot Cunningham

    Not so that I’ve lived with Walt Cunningham so many years his philosophy has rubbed off on me.  Those who know me know I’m not easily influenced.
    Change is constant, but not always good or needed. It took me about 12 seconds to realize how much I hate this change.  Completely.  Totally. Without question. 
    I join your enthusiasm and aggressive push to the future done with a positive attitude of moving on; it doesn’t make me less sad about the end of the shuttle program.
    As I watched the liftoff this morning with a racing heart and teary eyes I knew there would never be another liftoff of any rocket that truly belonged to the American people collectively.  We had ownership not only in tax dollars but in pride of our country, emotional involvement, and excitement of what our astronauts represented: US!
    There is no way Americans will have this same pride in commercial space.  What agency in the world has ever contributed more to research in every field and had more of a return on the dollar than NASA?  Transfer of NASA technology to the private sector and the medical community is awesome.
    Most people would be surprised to learn how many NASA spinoffs touch their life every day.
    I doubt SpaceX or any other commercial space company will contribute dollars for research to save lives or prolong life like NASA.
    Sure we can be cheerleaders for new opportunities, new companies shucking and jiving for governments funding to subsidize their companies, but it won’t be long to the American people.  That’s the differences.
    Ending the shuttle program is in the same category as giving away the Statue of Liberty with everything it represents.

  • Jim

    Great article Dayna, It is better to follow a winding trail than a whiny trail. The future belongs to those who make it the way they want it to be.

  • Dayna Steele

    **Adding this at the request of dear friend and Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham:

    What you say is right on, Dayna. I don’t like it, but what you say is correct. 

    We have to adjust to a new space program, one that will never be like the one we grew up with—at least for several generations, if ever. We had better hope the new emphasis on so-called “commercial space” is successful. It is all that we have going for us now.

    So-called “commercial space” will never push the envelope or pursue exploration, because those objectives will never be profitable. And those objectives are what inspires us. We are relegated to NASA maintaining the façade of pursuing those objectives in parallel with the commercial space effort.
    It takes three things to pursue exploration, in this case, of the universe: the money, the technology and the will to do it. We have the first two, but our will to do it has been slipping for several decades.