Alan Ladwig is no stranger to the idea of people travelling into space. Not just astronauts, but everyday people and people like Teachers, Journalists, Artists, and others. He has been an observer, promoter, and enabler of this enthusiasm for personal space travel. One example he gives is Pan American World Airways’ “First Moon Flights” club which began in 1964. This was the list of people that would hopefully start taking flights to the moon in 2000. Before the program ended in 1972 more than 93,000 people joined the waiting list. Back in the 1960s through the 1980s it appeared that all of us would be able to take flights into space. It was only a matter of time.
His book “See You In Orbit” chronicles his experience regarding personal space flight. With his knowledge and experience at NASA and from outside of NASA he brings an unique perspective. I highly recommend it for anyone that dreams of going to space. (And for those who seek to understand those of us that do.)
In the 1980s Alan ran the Spaceflight Participant Program that selected the first Teacher to travel on the Space Shuttle. With the Challenger disaster, the program was cancelled. But was in the process of selecting a journalist. And would later select an artist. The DearMoon project plans to send a group of artists around the moon in 2023.
There is still strong enthusiasm for space travel. The Mars One program demonstrated that many people would be willing to make a one way trip to Mars (though I sometimes one if the couple of months of quarantine for Covid19 might have given them an idea of what being in a small vehicle for the 6 months travel might be like, and might have dissuaded some of them.) But I think the the enthusiasm for space travel has changed somewhat. Most of the people I have interviewed have expressed interest in travelling to space. But there have been some notable exceptions. Consider the interview with daughter Jordan (18) and mother Nicole (40s). Nicole would go into space, but Jordan has no interest.
But in my 135 interviews I have done so far, I would say that only 15 or so knew about NASA’s plans to go to the moon. Most people had not heard about it but were supportive when they found out. What should NASA be doing differently? The media landscape is completely different than in 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Then there were few media outlets and everyone received the same news from them. Today, everyone gets a personalized news feed. If the platform thinks you are interested in space, then you see the latest space news. If it doesn’t then you see other things. This is true for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other ways that you get news. If you are not a space person, then you are probably more likely to learn about space from a friend than from an online source. (Space people, do your friends know that NASA is going to the moon in 2024?)
Alan would like to see the 2024 date happen, but he has been in aerospace for over 40 years and he knows that it is more likely that schedules get pushed out. Dates are seldom made.
But today NASA took a big step towards its moon plans. It selected three teams to develop a Human Lunar Lander. The teams are lead by Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX. These teams are taking different approaches. And SpaceX has been making very quick, visible progress with Starship in Boca Chica, TX.
Regardless of what happens, I plan to conduct interviews up to the end of 2024, one per day. And I hope to spread the word, get different perspectives, refine my own views. Ad Astra!