#108 September 1997
Section 184.108.40.206.108.of the Artemis Data Book
I was startled the other day when our office manager walked in and announced that she was "tired of hearing about space on TV". Amazing revelation considering her daughter is likely to apply for the astronaut program at very first opportunity. She elaborated that every time she turned on the news there would be a talking head with charts and video to explain something happening off-planet. I hadn't realized it, but I too had started to tune out the constant space articles. Not because I don't like space, but because it was all stuff I had heard before, seen before or had dismissed as trivial. In other words, by definition, it wasn't news.
The media has, as usual, grabbed hold of events and reported them to the point of the absurd. Having missed the boat when the Pathfinder landing caught the public eye, they are now seeking to make up for it by lingering on every space event. Worse, as events take their natural course and the real news fades, the media has begun creating drama in space where none exists.
The worst offender was a recently published article on the water shortage on Mir. Shortage, if they can't use the air humidity reclamation device because it may contain traces of antifreeze from previously leaking cooling loops. Shortage, if the Shuttle doesn't transfer several tons in September. Shortage if an October Progress launch is delayed. Shortage, if they can't reconnect the power and restart the urine reclamation device. Shortage, when they run out of water sometime in late October or November. There is enough wild news coming from Mir normally in a day's work, there is no need to invent wild "what if" scenarios.
Water samples returned with the Mir 23 crews will be tested. If there is antifreeze detected, then the station will have to depend on future launches and powering up other water reclamation systems. Believe me, if the Shuttle doesn't launch, the Progress is delayed, and they can't reconnect the power, water will be the least of their worries.
Further, the same article indicated that there was no way to save the crew of Mir if they had to bail and something happened to their Soyuz return capsule - the most evolved piece of man-rated space hardware in existence. Space, and emerging frontier, has risk and is dangerous, but the Soyuz is tried and true. This kind of postulating reveals more about the ignorance of the writer than about the real dangers of space.
Inane reporting does space no service and indeed is detrimental to the developing charisma of the frontier. Remember how rapidly the public interest turned after Apollo. Golfing on the Moon made a great story, but it trivialized the achievement to the detriment of public support. Not long from now we are going to have great events in space again. Lets not bore the public into disinterest in the meantime.
Always leave them wanting more. <DMG>
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