A Perspective from a Baby Boomer

I must admit that last week I got that pleased, grateful feeling like the one I get from being “carded” at the grocery store checkout line when I purchase a bottle of wine. It has been a while since I was the age of a Gen Y’er, but I took it as a great complement to be mistaken for one last week. For those that do not know me, I am a “Baby Boomer” with 20 years of experience at JSC and most of my blog entries have been from a “boomer” perspective. Granted, those that know me best would not categorize me as having the typical “Baby Boomer” perspective, but is there really a perspective that captures an entire Generation? No, but I do think there is a difference between the image we have of NASA before we arrive and the image after we have been supporting this great organization. So, let me share how the image changed for me and why it is good to revisit our original vision. To that end, join me in visualizing those two images.

For many in my generation it was the Apollo program or Star Trek that sealed our future with NASA. For me it was the original voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Yes, I am one of those that would love to see the mission of the agency to be, “To Boldly Go where No one has gone before.” My expectation was that upon entering the gates of NASA, I would find someone working on the Warp drive or a transporter. I thought that there would be people working on projects that pushed the boundaries of space and time. I expected Mission Control to look like the deck of the Enterprise. Instead, I found the Apollo Mission Control configuration that worked exceedingly well into the late 1980’s. Now don’t get me wrong; I believe that we are executing some very exciting missions and have some incredible technology projects occurring in various organizations around the Agency. My point is that my vision of where NASA was heading was different from the reality. I also found that many of my colleagues shared the same opinion.

Over the past 20 years that vision has been challenged by the realities of what is currently possible in the realm of human spaceflight. My original naiveté was reframed by the wisdom gained over the years and yet, there is much to be gained from recapturing the original vision we had when we first drove through the front gate. About 10 years ago I tried to recapture my initial feeling when I first arrived at JSC. It’s a long, but great story that can be found in the archived article from the NASA ASK magazine. The end result was that I was able to create a lab focused on looking at the leading and even bleeding edge of technology development. I found exciting research occurring inside and outside the agency that reminded me of the Star Trek technologies. There was the quantum pair possibility of either instant communication over large distances or teleportation and the potential holodeck application of the 3D visualization research at the University of Central Florida. In recapturing my original vision I found labs around the Agency that were collaborating and searching for new, creative ideas around the world. 

Now in 2008 I find myself wondering, what was that original vision of NASA for many of my Generation and the following Generations? What are the reasons why that original vision was not achieved? I carry a Motorola Razr in my pocket to communicate, so why can’t NASA push the boundaries of space and time? Earlier this year the Advanced Planning office asked a team of Generation Y leaders where they wanted JSC to be when they became Center Director or Program Managers.  We were asked by many, “Why did you ask Gen Y?” Partly, because they remember the feeling and vision they first had when they arrived at NASA. So think back and recall your original expectations when you arrived at NASA and hold it up to the view gained from wisdom over the years. Then see what unfolds. Yes, I am looking for my fellow Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers to offer their view of the future! Does your original expectation match the reality of where you are at now, FANTASTIC! Please, let me know. If it doesn’t, in what ways does it not match?

I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Sharing the Vision,
Steven Gonzalez, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

62 thoughts on “A Perspective from a Baby Boomer”

  1. Steven,
    What is your opinion and summary about the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program once offered by NASA? It looks like they were on the right track, weren’t they? What went wrong? I suspect there was simply too much fringe science, with too much good money appearing to go down a rat hole. But isn’t this the way that history must go? Every truly great invention always comes out of obscurity and ridicule. Don’t you think the famous Warp Drive will appear this way?

  2. As a fellow member of the Baby Boomer Generation, a fellow Star Trek fan, and someone who has enjoyed seeing what NASA has been doing over the years (including taking our family to watch the the first Space Shuttle after Challenger land at Edwards, I really enjoyed this article. I appreciate the work y’all have done AND the great technology we all enjoy because of that hard work. Thank you 🙂

    PS Are you sure there’s not a transporter in the works yet? 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. Steven, I amnot of your generation but I have the strong feeling as a common consumer, that Nasa works are important for future generations. To be realistic we do not think that we might live on March one day, but we understood that many of your works are cruicial to improve our existing lives and those of my kids. The Universal approach that you provide is important to us. Nasa works goes throughout all nationalities and beings. I just want to thank you for keeping us
    dreaming and giving us hope for a better day.

     

  4. I am jealous of the baby boomers 🙁
    At least they got to see a moon landing… what do I have? I'm 23 now… we might not even have any more REAL landings until the day I die

  5. We would need an infinite energy machine and a way to displace the weight of the craft tom make space flight easy and very cost efective. Otherwise we would spend all our resources trying to get to and travel in space. I do Have some Ideas about an engine that may solve both problems at once(energy and weight) yet I can’t get it going. limited resourses. sorry ths seemd like a possible place to find some one interested in such things and it sounded like you are really looking to spaceflight.

  6. I have doing some research in this field on how to effictively manage the cost.I am sure i will come out with something in the near future.
    Ronit
    9008909743

  7. IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME TO HAVE GOOD NEW SCIENCE INFORMATION AVAILABLE RIGHT AWAY. THANKS FOR POST THIS AND I WAITING FOR NEXT POST.

  8. NASA has always been outdoing its previous research and dis tym also its the same..This research will bring up NASA as the best space research company..But What is Baby Boomer means??

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  9. Steven,

    Per your previous post… “to be the source of Innovation that pushes the limits of Human space Exploration. /…the Agency’s value delivery focused in the future beyond LEO. They believe the key to deliver this value lies in our ability to be Innovative.”

    Exploration without innovation
    This assumes that innovation will be a predictor of our ability to explore. I agree this is partly true, but you have other value streams that result in exploration without innovation (leveraging existing technology – hubble, rovers, others). If innovation is a bottleneck (your ability to innovate is limited). Then exploration without innovation should be maximized to elevate the total amount of exploration that can be achieved.

    Expanding innovation.
    Innovators dilemma post addresses this. How can we maximize the effectiveness of our innovative process? Is there a collectoin of the best known methods and mechanisms for maximizing innovation? There has been a lot of work already including the innovation process(TRIZ), org structures (skunk works), mechanisms for allocating additional resources as projects proceed through gates, etc. What is the cutting edge here?

    -Steve

  10. Well I'm a baby boomer but missed the first moon landing by a few years! I did get to see the first space SHuttle though and still think the original Star Trek is the best even without those new fangled CGI effects.

    I always think what Arthur C Clakre said about technology, for most societies if they don't understand it, it's close to magic.

    Just think how we will look back in 30 years and think how quaint those iPhones were!

  11. I was 3 when the original moon landing happened! dont remember a thing, some people remeber stuff from when they are like one or two but me nothing, it is so not fair.

    I agree first star trek is by far the best. I cant keep up with the advances now, save for a few blogs i leave it to the kids.

  12. Science fiction has always been way too far ahead of reality, even the technological progresses imagined in the first Star Trek series. Back then some people thought we were 50 maybe 100 years away from “warp” space flight. In reality it is probably thousands if not tens of thousands of years away.

    Back then believing we were close to that kind of technology is what fired our imaginations and made us believe anything was possible. Today we have a more realistic expectation of how difficult it is to travel in this universe. Yeah, I guess it is a little bit of a let down. We just need some other angle to fire us up again.

  13. A Perspective from a Baby Boomer “These baby boomers are finding way back to the cities. They are moving into revitalized communities in these big
    and near large college towns”

  14. we were close to that kind of technology is what fired our imaginations and made us believe anything was possible. Today we have a more realistic expectation of how difficult it is to travel in this universe. Yeah, I guess it is a little bit of a let down. We just need some other angle to fire us up again.

  15. It takes a long time to create new technology. I am in my mid 20's and to me, it seems like the progress made by NASA is slowing down. We landed on the moon 40 years ago. In the past 40 years, NASA has done many things but you always expect more to be accomplished.

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  16. I am very interesting in science fiction, maybe in the future we can access other planet just like today we go to next city. Of couse we need technology evolution, but I think everything is possible.

  17. I do Have some Ideas about an engine that may solve both problems at once(energy and weight) yet I can't get it going. limited resourses. sorry ths seemd like a possible place to find some one interested in such things…

    Thanks and Regards

  18. These articles are great stuff, really impressive reads, I was reading this the other day on my mobile and it kept me entertained for ages lol… I need to get out more!

    I may go play my as this site is addictive!

  19. Thanks I did know this stuff about NASA in our country we can only think of it. And NASA is doing it for years.

    Thanks and Regards

  20. thanks for the share. The article was too good enough covering mostly the valuable information that need to be know. You have done a wonderful work.

  21. Thanks I always Love reading about NASA and there great achievements this article is written superbly! Thanks

  22. Many things which we held for utopia in the past have nowadays become to reality. Your article reminds me of my first PC with incredible 1 kByte of memory. If we already had at that time USB-Sticks with 16 Gbytes, where would we be with our development today?

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  23. Very well written article indeed, thank you so much for sharing such information with us, i hope we will see more from author in the future. Cheers.

  24. Do you really believe the original vision of NASA wasn't achieved? It is very difficult to say this unless you know what the original vision of NASA for your generation was. However, I do think the entire vision is difficult to realise. I guess the funding cut backs NASA has had over the years meant projects had to be rescaled.

  25. I know this is an old post but I just had to pitch in. This is a great article and I love everything on NASA as do my kids very informative.

    You very rarely here much going on with NASA anymore? and its always good to see whats happenin in the blog.

  26. Now- what I don’t understand is why was there such an interest in space back then and there hasn’t been too much since then. I mean, why don’t we have any space lunches anymore? Last thing I ever heard or read anything about space was maybe 3 or 4 months ago when they hit the moon with something and realized that there is frozen water there..

    Joseph
    Phoenix SEO

  27. I just found your blog and love it, when i’m over here in the US it gives me a warm feeling being carded, i’m 31 and was drinking in bars back home at 15!

  28. Great article, just goes to show how far we are advancing especially with private flights starting to become a reality.

  29. we were close to that kind of technology is what fired our imaginations and made us believe anything was possible. Today we have a more realistic expectation of how difficult it is to travel in this universe. Yeah, I guess it is a little bit of a let down. We just need some other angle to fire us up again.

  30. Star Trek idea is a great idea but it won't happen very soon especially there are more important issues on the planet. There are no money in any country to spend on this.

  31. I admire NASA and their goal to explorer space and give us 'normal' humans an idea how exciting and fascinating our universe is and how less we still know. I not even can asume how excillerating it must be to be out in space and looking down at our beautiful earth.
    Keep on going! Thanks for this great article.

  32. Having a vision is vital and even if it is never achieve the journey in the right direction has invaluable lessons.

  33. NASSA keep up the great work. What I would give to be a fly on the wall to see what they get up to!
    Great post. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

  34. Now- what I don't understand is why was there such an interest in space back then and there hasn't been too much since then. I mean, why don't we have any space launches anymore? Last thing I ever heard or read anything about space was maybe 3 or 4 months ago when they hit the moon with something and realized that there is frozen water there..

    I heard that they were going to attempt to “tap” it?

  35. I think this is actually a good thing, the more space programs we have the better off everyone will be in my opinion. It will hopefully bring our nations together as they share technologies to benefit everyone.

    Space programs need to look into supplementing their diets with Quinoa, the more that I read about the more I realize how amazing this food is and how it could help keep astronauts healthy.

  36. Now- what I don’t understand is why was there such an interest in space back then and there hasn’t been too much since then. I mean, why don’t we have any space launches anymore? Last thing I ever heard or read anything about space was maybe 3 or 4 months ago when they hit the moon with something and realized that there is frozen water there..

    i like the questions given here in the post like Or stated another way, how do we bring together the multi generations for creative new solutions. Can we hold both perspectives at the same time and find a creative path that is beyond the multiple generational perspectives? How will the multiple creative perspectives come together when we move from creativity to innovation?

  37. Call me a miserable baby boomer (50 tomorrow!!) but reading the news nowadays the focus and money seems to be very much about how we are destroying our own Earth. If the experts are right we will need space exploration to find another habitable planet.

  38. Here are most of the things are new to me but really this blog explains the every thing or clears my all the doubts.

  39. I think that the biggest advancements we are making (outside of obvious tech) that will help us to keep moving forward as a race are all in the nutrition field.

    I've personally experienced so much benefit as I get older from a series of new understandings about nutrition and how this effects us, holistically.

    The more people can start to educate themselves (and be educated) about nutritional approaches such as the approach or about the low intensity exercises such as – something I know NASA has been onto for a while – the better we will be and the more wellbeing we'll experience.

    It is no secret that we're putting more and more strain on our health care system as time goes by and it is high time we started to look at prevention rather than cure.

    My 2c worth

    Bryan

  40. Great article posing some interesting questions about NASA. I am also one of those that would love to see the mission of the agency to be, “To Boldly Go where No one has gone before.” Ahh the good old days.
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  41. NASA achieved more 40 years ago than in the last decade. Do you wonder why? It is simple. They don't have enough money. This is sad, but true.

    My 2 cents…

  42. Very useful article, thanks for sharing! It's great that people are actually trying to do good things for these world, unfortunately there are less and less each day!

  43. Hello fellow baby boomer’s and Mr. Gonzalez,

    I am just getting ready to retire after 32 years at A.T.T telephone Co. I am a young and hopefully healthy 58 year old. I have some security now and eagerly look towards a new passion a new challenge. But, with me its an old passion Nasa explorations, Star Trek’s vision dreams of my youth! I would like to leave something positive for the humanity of earth before I pass from this world.
    So, I have looked to see if space development has reached the stage for space stations vacations or simply flights into space for the general public. I must say I am very disappointed. As a child of the 1950’s I felt that by the time I was ready to retire I might find a second career in some job related to space travel. I hoped people by 2010 would have the option of spending a weekend in space. But, all the wars we have been invovled in and and corporate mismanagement have put us back many decades in making this true. I too feel sadly the only thing I have to look forward to in the space field is Star Trek conventions where some of the orignal crew have already died or are almost to old to function as a speaker for space travel. I still feel young but my original heros of Nasa the astronuats are now pushing 80 or even 90 years old. So, what is left for the generation that never got to realize space as we were promised? HOW CAN WE PUSH OR PROMOTE THIS DREAM INTO REALITY. I fear Nasa might shutdown and that will be the end of our dreams. As Captain might say,”I want that option, to engage the future and to discover what evers out there.

    Sherriea

  44. I think this article shows the side benefits of having a “national works” type of project. The main goal may not be that “Profitable” but what it can lead to usually will be. And not just in financial terms. Good writing!

    Milton

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