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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Why One Direction at Houston's Johnson Space Center is important

Top music act One Direction films video for "Drag Me Down" at NASA's Johnson Space Center Houston

 photo onedirectionNASAJSC_zps4zmpjaou.jpg
One Direction at NASA's JSC (Columbia Records)

It's always nice when Houston gets positive attention. Like any city, it has its haters.

So when the news came out that English-Irish pop boy band One Direction filmed a new video at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, there was some positive attention for Space City.

But it's also good news for NASA in general. Outside of the International Space Station, there is no manned space travel since the space shuttle program was cancelled. Budget cuts have slowed down other efforts. Now it's the era of the Jet Propulsion Lab's Pluto probes/Mars rovers, private companies like SpaceX and paying for Russian Soyuz rides to the ISS.

And the public's interest in space doesn't seem to be as high as in the past when astronauts were rocketing through the sky to new horizons.

Just a few weeks ago at Space Center Houston, I was on the NASA tour tram when I overheard a woman in her early 20's sitting behind me turn to her friend and asked what's the point of this space travel? She felt it seemed like bragging rights of an aging superpower. There were surely more important issues we could be focusing down here.

NASA, we have a PR problem.

I wanted to turn around and say you can probably thank the Apollo program for laying the groundwork of the the phone you are texting on today.

Youthful ambivalence about space exploration is a far cry from when I was a kid in the 80s. Thanks to the shuttles, NASA was a big presence in a child's life back then. Ask a kid what they wanted to be when they grew up back then and astronaut would probably be one of the desired gigs.

No, I wasn't around in the 60s, but that clearly was a big time for space travel. The Cold War with the Soviet Union helped gin up the public's interest in the space race. Listen to this quick ABC News broadcast on 99.1 KODA-FM from 1964 to hear more perspective on that.

So maybe in a way, having 1D's heartthrob Harry Styles and crew singing "Drag Me Down" along side of NASA T-38 aircraft jets and the WB-57 High Altitude Research Aircraft, will help the group's young audience appreciate NASA and humankind's long desire to explore the depths of our galaxy. Could it even get kids into STEM education you hear so much about in the media?

Or will they simply think Style's playful interaction with Robonaut, a human-like robot that is also on the ISS, is totally YOLO.

Hey, any word if One Direction music will be sent with the Orion crew to Mars?

Since I'm talking space news. I was just at Space Center Houston last week and took this photo of the new space shuttle replica Independence that will be open for public view January 2016. This will save me the trip to New York to see another "space shuttle."

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