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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.” – The Late and Former President, John F. Kennedy

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave an inspiring speech which sparked a passion for science in an entire generation of people in the United States. This excerpt from the former president's speech at Rice University is often quoted from, especially when in discussions about space exploration. But his speech was vastly more significant than most people give credit to. President Kennedy was not just talking to a large crowd of college students, nor was he trying to persuade the country to pay for one of his campaign promises. Kennedy was inspiring a generation of people, that later became known as “Baby Boomers”, that would inspire generation after generation in the future to better themselves as a country, set lofty goals, and to begin to truly believe that the sky is no longer the limit. In the ongoing debate of the importance and logistics of Space Exploration, a recurring subtopic of debate often immerges about who should fund such ventures and what is the best way to go about financing such a massive undertaking. Research shows that, based on the General Social Survey results from the 1970's to present day, the preferences of the public concerning the funding of space programs are mostly apolitical; favor mostly depends on cohort or generation identity (because of world events different generations of people experienced) , age, education level, appreciation level for organized science, race,  and then political stance, relevancy of each variable diminishing in that order. Due to a lack of support from the public, and a government more concerned with non-scientific spending, a new-hybrid funding option may be the solution, or maybe a modern take on an old concept: Crowdfunding. Need is arising to find a solution to an ever-weakening space budget.

Before talking about any possible solution for funding space exploration, it is important to establish what the population thinks about the topic and it is also important to find the similarities among the groups that support increased spending on space exploration so that those seeking to put people in space can know the demographic of people which they must convince through marketing. One important statistical tool policymakers and politicians use is the General Social Survey, which is useful to get an unbiased perspective on what their citizens think on a multitude of different issues.  In his study, Francois Nadeau of the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, provides data from, an un-biased insight into and interpretation of data from the GSS. Nadeau explains that people who responded to the GSS have been asked a variety of questions that would give accurate data on their opinions on a variety of things that provide beneficial data such as opinions on spending related to space exploration, political standings, how people identify religiously and their political ideology, a section to determine scientific literacy was included , and questions were also asked that would produce statistics on support for organized science, and participants were also put into groups organized by generational cohorts based on birth dates. (Nadeau 161-162) The only limiting factor of this survey was that the majority of those who participated had taken on average 2-3 college level science courses. (Nadeau 161) Some people might point out that, although the GSS has been actively given from the 1970's to present day, that the amount of people who have actually responded to the survey does not accurately represent the population as a whole, this is however irrelevant as the people who did participate were very diverse in race, sex and age . Also, a major problem when marketing to people about space exploration is simply relating to the sheer number of people that make up the population.

One problem that advocates run into is swaying the public opinion on space exploration of such a massive country. President Kennedy was highly successful in gathering support from the country for his space crusade for a multitude of reasons, one such reason being his popularity with the nation as a whole, but also simply because he was the President of the United States of America. How would someone who is trying to gather support now do so without the platform of a very popular POTUS? One could conclude that the only possible way is from a very intense marketing campaign and the use of modern tools like social media to catalyze such a venture. From the evidence he gathered GSS, Nadeau concludes:

Firstly, spending preferences on space exploration are largely apolitical. Neither party identification, ideological leanings, nor religiosity were significantly associated with these spending preferences… Simply put, when asked about their spending preferences on space exploration, Americans are not likely to defer to their preferred political party's stance on the issue, nor are they likely to rely on political ideology or religious beliefs to guide their decision making. (Nadeau 163)

These findings are particularly helpful when using marketing practices to try and persuade people to support space exploration going forward. This tells the entity trying to fund a mission to space or a space program that, concerning the audience they need to persuade, that the audience's political standings, their ideology and their religious beliefs are irrelevant and should not be targeted in the marketing process. He goes on to say, “…the analysis did reveal an important finding: Americans are more likely to favor spending on space exploration if they are more knowledgeable about, and have a greater appreciation for, organized science.” (Nadeau 164) One thing marketers of space exploration may need to push for is a greater presence in easily accessible information about organized science and to try and persuade those who may not have a strong knowledge of organized science of its importance, thus increasing the odds said people will support increasing funding for space exploration.

The last thing Nadeau talks about is the idea of what Roger D. Launius coined “Apollo Nostalgia” (Nadeau 165) (Launius 136) which refers to the fondness the Baby-Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) had for the era during the sixties of which many consider to be the “Golden age of Space exploration”.  As Nadeau puts it, “…the findings in this study suggest that Americans who benefit most from the old social order of the 1960s – namely white upper-class male Boomers with higher educational prospects – are the ones most supportive of increasing NASA's budget.” (Nadeau 164) From this very important fact, Entrepreneurs seeking to fund space exploration should market towards anyone and everyone other than those nostalgic to the Apollo era, because this demographic is already the most supportive demographic of increased funding. Nadeau concludes that more research should be done on the reach of “Apollo Nostalgia”, and the positive and negative effects of such a phenomenon, as well as “distinguish(-ing) the effects of belonging to a given birth cohort from those of aging when predicting public spending preferences over time.” (Nadeau 165).  Christopher D. DeSante, a professor at Indiana University who holds a Ph.D. in Political Science which he earned at Duke University, found that, after his research,

…as people age … they become less likely to support an increase in funding for space exploration. … (This is) consistent with other findings that Americans grow more socially and fiscally conservative as they age, those in the highest age group (85+) are estimated to have just a 5 percent probability of favoring increasing spending on space exploration…. At the other end of the spectrum, those respondents aged either 18 or 19 were estimated to be three times more likely to favor increased spending in this domain… we can see that those under 55 are warmer to the spending increase and those older than 70 are more likely to oppose it. (DeSante 1182)

Doctor DeSante also highlights that events such as the failure of the Soviet Union to reach the moon first, the end of the cold war, the Challenger disaster, and the collapse of the Soviet Union all directly and immediately effect the likeliness that people were to support increasing or decreasing spending on space exploration, respectively. (Desante 1182) What this means for marketing campaigns in pursuit of funding for space programs is that they should directly target younger people, specifically those aged 54 and under, and if they are to proceed to try and get more money from people who could be described as ‘Apollo Nostalgic baby boomers', they must remind such groups of how they felt at the end of the cold war, when the Challenger disaster occurred, how they felt towards the end of the cold war and the fall of the Soviet Union.

However, knowledge of your market and the skill to better manipulate your market does not translate to ease and ability of execution. Currently NASA, America's space program is restricted by the funding that the US Government gives it, as well as what congress will give it permission to do, and funding from the private sector does not have the structure and ability to reach the American people like the US Government does. Would it be possible for the private sector to use the resources and structure that the US Government could provide without the restriction congress puts on NASA politically? What if there was a way to directly find out the opinions of the American people as a whole, and have millions of people directly send funds towards a project, in addition to whatever federal funding, if any, the hypothetical private sector-entity may have? With all the technology available to investors, a possible solution emerges as a new-age take on an age-old concept. Caleb Pomeroy , a graduate student working towards a Ph.D in Political Science at the Ohio State University, Abigail Calzada-Diaz, who has a Ph.D in both Philosophy and Geology from Birbeck College, University of London, and Doctor Damian Bielicki, who formerly taught at Birbeck College, have produced some interesting research on the relationship between space exploration and crowdfunding as a feasible method of financing, and as a system to directly hear from the public as a whole, a sort of “Pure Democracy”. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a direct or pure democracy as a “democracy in which the power is exercised directly by the people rather than through representatives” (Merriam-Webster). Crowdfunding is already being used as a way to fund space exploration, however, it is doing so through mostly small-scale startups on websites like Kick-Starter. (Pomeroy 2) If large-scale private-sector entities like Elon Musk's company were to outsource their projects with government contracts, thus gaining possible federal funding via the US government and possibly gaining structural assistance or even the influence of the government, and to further this financial monster, it would not be hard to get support and funding from around the globe via crowdfunding tools like Kickstarter, and social media tools like Twitter and Facebook make the marketing of such ventures even simpler. Although there are several potential downsides to scientists using crowdfunding, like the possible added need for scientists to add marketing and social media expertise to their daily lives, or un-predictable timelines associated with space that would affect crowdfunding. (Pomeroy 5) However, the potential of marketing on social media combined with the funding opportunities from concepts like crowdfunding that are only made more powerful when the internet was introduced, and possible backing of government agencies, would outweigh the potential disadvantages, and would make financing space exploration initiatives and programs virtually infinitely easier without congress endlessly debating and tainting the soul of space exploration, which in the end is human curiosity. There also arises possibility for new jobs in the fields, new scientific discoveries with increased initiatives, with similar systems appearing in other fields, like, for instance, potentially local infrastructure, or other political topics of varying scale, the possibilities are endless.

As the world progresses and becomes more technologically advanced, the need to adapt is ever increasing. With ever increasing political strife, maybe there is a need to explore space other than simply because it is possible to do so. Every time there has been advancements in the field of space exploration, throughout history, these discoveries have spilt into almost every other area of the technology that makes up the world we know today. Whether there is simply a need for smarter marketing strategies, like breaking away from politics, and targeting younger less educated demographics, on behalf of advocates for space exploration, or the current system that relies on the congress to allocate funds really is outdated and broken. More research needs to be done on what has an effect on the public's opinion of space exploration. Maybe there is indeed a need for large-scale hybrid partnership between the public domain and private sectors, or maybe private sectors should utilize modernized techniques like crowdfunding on the internet. One thing must remain the same: humanity must continue to curiously seek the unknown to be known.

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