In 2008, NASA beamed a recording of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” into space. Four years, a severely cut budget and no response later, they’ve taken a new tack: assaulting Mars with Will.i.am. And make no mistake: a sonic bombardment of auto-tuned Black-Eyed Pea is just that, an assault, perhaps meant to drive lifeforms out of hiding so they’ll try to turn the stereo off. Or even just pound on the ceilings of their subterranean lairs with a broom handle. Any reaction that gives them away will do, really.
So, how did we arrive at this point, where America’s space agency has mohawks and Mars rovers with twitter accounts? With the end of manned space missions, NASA has embraced a new goal: cultural relevancy.
You can’t blame them. When 46 percent — nearly half — of Americans believe in strictly creationism and a sitting member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology doesn’t know how rape works (and yet has an opinion about it), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that nobody cares about space exploration unless we find God a la Star Trek V.
Good for you, NASA. You cracked the code to making the news cycles and, maybe one day, more money. But, where do you go from here? I’m glad you asked …
I realize the term “Punk’d” is dated — so dated, in fact, that Ashton Kutcher is now the cougar in his relationships — but it would be new to C-SPAN audiences. (Well, except for that one time when Doris Kearns Goodwin appeared on Book TV as a “White House historian” when she’s actually a plagiarist.) With very minor tweaks, you could breathe new, startled life into the astronaut program.
Take, for instance, the countdown. You’re telling me that it takes the simultaneous actions of multiple operators to launch a rocket? In 1969, sure. But, c’mon — it’s 2012. Windows requires less coordination to launch the Adobe Suite.
I know. You’re thinking that if we eliminate the countdown, how will astronauts know when you’re about to ignite the engines underneath them? Exactly. Randomize it. Don’t let them be able to guess when it will happen. And then turn “Astronaut Poop Faces” into a meme.
For added effect, friend of the site Matt Staggs suggests playing “Pop Goes the Weasel” over the P.A. instead.
With a single image of Bobak Ferdowsi’s mohawk, the world (read: the Internet) gave a damn about your latest Mars rover landing. But, do you know who’s more famous than Ferdowsi? Any animal on the Internet, ever. Hell, I can identify certain LOLcats in new pictures more easily than my own. (I am easily startled and throw a lot of shoes in my home.)
Here’s a breakdown of famous astronauts and their Google results:
- Neil Armstrong — 893,000,000
- Buzz Aldrin — 4,900,000
- Sally Ride — 4,430,000
- Michael Collins — 488,000
Who’s Michael Collins, you ask? Oh, just the third guy on the Apollo 11 space flight, and the only one who’s still alive. He’s the third most famous astronaut on the most famous NASA mission ever, and he doesn’t even touch these guys’ numbers:
- Miss Baker — 81,300,000
- Abel — 11,700,000
- Laika — 3,440,000
The last one is a Soviet space dog. The other two are American space monkeys. Just imagine the YouTube hits a cat in a tiny spacesuit, mewling in zero gravity would get.
But, hey, maybe winning all of the Internet isn’t your thing.
Fake Star Wars
Remember this guy? The one who proposed building a real U.S.S. Enterprise for a manned mission to Mars? Sure, it was goofy, but 105,000,000 people wrote about it.
The only thing more popular than Star Trek, with all of its technobabble, communism and philosophical moralization is Star Wars, which manages to do none of those, yet inspired an entire generation to build full-body hard plastic chastity suits.
Let’s build a real Death Star and blow Mars up. It has to be more humane than Will.i.am.