By LARRY BURRISS
News coverage of the first Apollo moon landing some 45 years ago has sparked a small upsurge in interest in science and technology. But the central question still seems to be, “Where were you during the time from liftoff on July 16, to return on July 24?
But let’s go back a few years, and ask if you remember where you were and what you were doing on Oct. 4, 1957? That was the day the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth.
Newspaper headlines the next day said the public was in a state of shock and fear about this Russian “moon” flying over American cities. There is evidence, however, that the Sputnik “debacle” was more of a media-generated frenzy than an actual failure of American science and engineering.
How many of you remember those early days of the space race, when every rocket launch made the front page of the newspaper, and television coverage sometimes lasted all day? Those were heady days then, when everyone recognized project names such as Vanguard and Explorer, personal names like Gagarin, Shepherd and Glenn, and the world was thrilled by the sound of rockets with names like Delta and Atlas blasting into space.
Unfortunately, news coverage of science in general and space activities in particular, has become as adrift as our space policy itself. Space exploration, robotic and human-based, has become almost routine, and the news doesn’t cover routine events.
Science news today is too often filled with pseudo-science, paranormal claims and click-bait headlines about interstellar travel and the search for extraterrestrial life.
Actually this lack of interest in the space program is simply a manifestation of the fact that science news itself really isn’t a very hot topic these days. In addition, study after study shows an abysmal lack of science education in our schools and science knowledge in our students. So I guess I should be grateful for what space news does appear.
Whether or not we should even be in space is still a topic that spurs heated debate and passion among scientists and observers. But space technology benefits all of our lives, and the more we know about it, the better. And the better the news coverage ought to be.