WebQuest

Business Organisation and Management Review Resource, Nature of Business Unit, NASA

Task

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 After what appeared to television viewersas a successful landing on Mars of the NASA rover Curiosity earlier this month, scientists could be seen cheering and raising their hands in joy and pride. Schiff (2012) describes scenes similar to what several weeks earlier were the sort of reactions to sporting triumph at the London Olympics, America was said to have won the Gold medal, this time for Science.

 The cries of joy were not restricted to the United States, Australian Scientists could be heard on local radio elated at the success of the first part of the 

mission to Mars, and the program’s contribution to scientific knowledge. This raises the question, does America alone benefit from this space exploration coup or does it have a flow on effect globally, even to us down here inAustralia?

This question can also be asked differently in line with the topic of this essay: Who are the stakeholders in the quest to explore the so called Red Planet?

The a purpose of this essay is to provide background stimuli to Business Education students in examining the Mars exploration program from the perspective of the Nature of Business unit included in the syllabus of Business Organisation and Management and to provide background for students from which they are to respond to the WebQuest assessment instrument on this topic. It may appear to be unusual to include such a project as space exploration under the banner of business, which on the face of it is aimed at solely generating profit for its stakeholders. However, let us examine the definition of Business at is appears in the syllabus. The BOM Syllabus (p.1) describes Business practices as including the use of innovation, entrepreneurial creativity, strategic planning, management,marketing, as well as information and technologies. Space exploration clearly covers a number of these areas, especially innovation, strategic planning, management information technology and to a large extent marketing.

NASA was established as a Statutory Authority by a declaration of Congress in accordance with the National Aeronautics and Space Act-1958.  NASA(2010).

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to initially examine the perceived benefit of the Mars exploration program to Australia. The reasons from the perspective of the intended audience of this essay, namely Australian students and the dated nature of the source Hoffman and Luntz(2001),which discusses an opportunity offered to Australia to participate in a program investigating the needs of Martian colonists, if and when the technology to transport humans to Mars is developed. The paper cites Mars expert Dr Hoffman as stating that the first manned mission to Mars would be launched in our era, about 15 years from the time the paper was written. The next challenge after sending humans to Mars would be to ensure they survive therefore studies in habitats and climates, described as similar to Martian conditions, have been identified in a number of places around the world including in the Australian Antarctic territory and areas containing exposed fossil hot springs to be of value in researching human habitation  ofMars.

Frank Morring, a space journalist for Aviation week magazine, speaking on Australian radio, Cowan (2012), sees great similarities between Mars and earth, and says learning about Mars may assist in preventing disaster on our planet. We can learn whether there was water on Marsat any stage and if there was and that’s no longer the case perhaps there are lessons to be learned here. This issue is also explored by Hoffman and Luntz(2001), if there is no water on Mars they see no chance of finding life on Mars, but if water did run in Martian rivers as it still does on earth, perhaps something happened that caused all this to cease. A scary thought and one worth exploring.

Joyce, Chantal & Weinstein (2009) conducted a study of public support for Mars missions among Australians. The study amongst school children and adults investigated whether they believed there was ever life on Mars, their opinions on space exploration in general and concerns regarding bringing samples of materials back from Mars to earth,described as Mars Sample Return (MSR). Their findings were that both Adults and school children considered space exploration in general to be more useful than Mars exploration, suggesting there may be limited public support for the MSR mission and further Mars explorations. The researchers determine that it may be necessary to generate interest at the community level, particularly amongst school children who in several years time would be the generation directly affected by any future missions.

 The authors conclude that there are important implications for policy makers indicating a stronger emphasis is required on space science education at multiple levels. Support for space science within the school curriculum as a means of reaching a large number of people, students can also be educated about space in places such as astronomy science centres where they can learn in a fun and innovative environment. Learning can also take place at grass- roots level through the creation and promotion of activities such as space camps and scholarship-funded trips to national or international space centres.

Meanwhile in the United States the, home base of the NASA Mars exploration program, Jim Green, head of NASA’s planetary science division, expresses hope that the success of the Mars Curiosity Mission would convince decision makers to reverse recent cuts to the agency’s annual budget, which was cut from 1.5 billion to 1.2 billion, Wall (2012).

The agency’s Mars program which has had a string of successes recently including the phoenix lander and the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity has taken a particularly hard hit with funding dropping from$587 million to $360 million in 2013, and is expecting a further decrease in 2015 to just $189 million.

“‘Losing 21% of the budget is very difficult” Green says, we should not let this opportunity go by without relaying it to our stakeholders, and that gets right down to the general public”. Wall (2012, p.2).

Schiff (2012) examines the reasons for the budgetary cuts which he feels are not a reflection of NASA’s performance but a move by opportunistic big, powerful industrial stakeholders clamouring to grab a chunk of the Mars program's budget winning over the interests of what they describe as a nerdy group of planetary scientists. The NASA administration cut the Mars program budget because they felt they could, perceiving their opponents to be weak.

 Schiff (2012) believes those greedy and selfish stakeholders were wrong, the public backlash was overwhelming, not just from those with a direct interest in the program, but from all walks of life,with people sending emails, calling their local representatives and visiting them in Congress, launching social media campaigns and even holding bake sales and shoe shine events to raise awareness. However, support also came from the highest profession body, The National Academy of  Sciences which rated a Mars Sample-Return mission as the No.1 priority for those involved in planetary science,removing any semblance of credibility from those calling for the program to be cut.

But Schiff also sees other perhaps more significant repercussions from axing this most successful space project to date. He  says that without the excitement generated by these missions, the ability to attract a new generation of American students to choose scientific and technical careers would be seriously undermined and immensely important research and development will be forsaken with all the economic benefits which are a by product of such efforts lost. Hoffman and Luntz had already in 2001 implored the powers to be in Australia to get involved in the Mars program which will derive considerable benefits in technical development, political standing and national identify for Australia.

But not everyone perceives the benefits from space exploration or bringing back samples from Mars. Salomon (2012) says her curiosity has been satisfied that more than $20 billion can drop a vehicle on Mars and that the US has won a Gold medal in the 560 Billion meter ultra marathon, against itself, as this is not the first such mission, just the most expensive.

  

References

Cowan, J. (2012) NASA’s curiosity arrives at Mars. In Lateline-Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Sydney, Australia,Retrieved August29 from: http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/1030939323/fulltext?accountid=13380

 Hoffman, Nick Luntz, Stephen (2001). The search for life on Mars, Australasian Science, Vol 22:7. Retrieved August202012, from:  http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/223684546

NASA (2010). The National Aeronautics andSpace Act, Retrieved August 29 from:

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ogc/about/space_act1.html#SHORT%20TITLE

 Queensland Studies Authority. (2007).Business Organisation and Management, senior syllabus. Brisbane: QSA

Schiff, A. (2012). In the name of Curiosity, fully fund the Mars mission. Retrieved August 26 from:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-the-name-of-curiosity-fully-fund-the-mars-mission/2012/08/10/fb4af58e-e26f-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_print.html

Salomon, D. (2012). What happens of Mars Stays on Mars. Retrieved on August 28 from:

http://www.thepilot.com/news/2012/aug/26/what-happens-on-mars-stays-on-mars/?print

Wall, M (2012). NASA's Planetary Science FutureRides on Huge Mars Rover's Success. Retrieved August 20from: http://www.space.com/14959-mars-rover-curiosity-nasa-planetary-science.html

 

 

 

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