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1960 NASA = Engineers? Do we need another Moon Shot?

August 19, 2008

I had an interesting green tech conversation germinated by the statement “my liberal NASA engineer sister says that she can’t vote for Obama.”  This is based on the expectation that Obama lacks support for the current administration’s doomed manned Mars mission.

I’m skipping over the politics to jump into a different issue: solving our energy problems requires a new generation of kick-ass engineers.  Unfortunately, we have not been cultivating a large crop of our best and brightest to become engineers and scientists.

Oil on the Moon!

Oil on the Moon!

Many kids were inspired to become scientists and engineers when the Nation had a clear Space Race objective in the 60s.  I was part of this generation that grew up *knowing* it was cool and fun to build things.  At every level, our schools invested in feeding intellectual curiosity and funding science education.  While few became actual “rocket scientists” many were inspired and America build a huge technological lead.

In my conversation we generally agreed that 1) science/engineering is not inspiring (or profitable) right now and 2) current “energy independence” and “green environmentalism” initiatives are not sufficiently motivating.

These are very solvable problems!  The solution is LEADERSHIP and COMMITMENT to make this a national priority.  People will follow career opportunities and fame.  The X-Prize and DARPA grand challenge models have proven that we can create programs that inspire and reward people to become scientists and engineers.  Let’s put the sexy back in sextant!

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