NASA hasn't been doing so well in the public relations department lately, if you hadn't heard. George Deutsch, Lisa Nowak, budget cuts, some odd management decisions... NASA could use a PR boost.
The funny thing is, when they try it themselves they tend to screw it up. Many are the times that manned spaceflight PR from NASA comes across as, well, uncool. Unhip. Square. Not every time, of course, but sometimes I watch the press conferences for the space station, for the Shuttle, for the Moon intitiative, and I cringe. I know that in some manners NASA has lost its way, but I wonder what they can do to recapture that feeling of zest, of adventure, of can-do.
Then something comes along, something that brings those feelings back. Something that is honest, and good, and feels right.
Enter Damaris Sarria. She's a young aerospace engineer for Boeing who works at the Kennedy Space Center. She wants to be an astronaut, and she decided to document her voyage on a blog, How I Am Becoming An Astronaut.
She is a wonder. Cheerful, dynamic, energetic, enthusiastic, and seemingly honest about her mission: to fly in space. "It's my ultimate goal, my dream" she says, and reading her writing, I believe her.
NASA can't buy that kind of PR. But I think that's a good thing. Let Ms. Sarria do this on her own, untouched by the PR machine. She benefits by being honest, we benefit by reading about her life, and NASA benefits too. She makes them look good.
But most of all, she makes me feel good. She reminds me of why I like space exploration in the first place. It's cool, it's fun, and it's exciting. I hope she does become an astronaut, and I hope she keeps on telling us all about it.
Update (March 23): In a weird coincidence, Ms. Sarria's blog is featured in a Florida Today article today. Nice timing!