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A letter to the ROSAT User Community
This letter is to urge each of you who are working with space data to
publicize your science results via press releases, Space Science Update
press events, talks at conferences, radio/television interviews, school
visits, and other public outreach activities.
I cannot emphasize enough that a broadly healthy space science enterprise
is at stake. Our success at winning new missions is directly proportional
to the public visibility of our current science results.
The space science community enjoys the advantage of a healthy flight
program in astrophysics, including within the Structure and Evolution of
the Universe (SEU) theme area. Currently, the community has: ASCA,
Astro-SPAS ORFEUS, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, EUVE, ROSAT, Rossi X-ray
Timing Explorer, the Very Long Baseline Interferometry Space Operating
Platform (VSOP), and gamma-ray instruments on WIND. Despite this rich
suite of capabilities, much of this research remains unsung in the press
and unknown to the public. Shortly, the additional missions will be
launched: Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, Astro-E, Gravity Probe-B,
INTEGRAL, Spectrum X-Gamma, Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite,
Microwave Anisotropy Probe, and XMM.
(The Structure and Evolution of the Universe theme at NASA is described at
the WWW site
As just one example, unless the scientific results from Rossi XTE get told
to the public in an understandable, engaging, and visible way, the
prospects for a mission extension or the prospects for winning a new
mission in X-ray astronomy are lessened. This is the contract that we have
with the public - to keep the tax-paying public (and their representatives
in Congress) informed of the exciting discoveries and progress in
astrophysics as they happen. There have, of course, been several good
press successes in the past year, but we can do better.
I suggest the following steps and guidelines:
If you feel you have a new and interesting result, let your Project
Scientist (Rob Petre for ROSAT) know about it right away - (don't worry;
they'll be discrete). Your Project Scientist can suggest which kind of
press event is most appropriate. Another expert who can provide wise
advice on publicizing your results is Steve Maran (GSFC, 301-286-5154,
firstname.lastname@example.org). If a Space Science Update press conference
is warranted, you should inform me too, with at least 2 months of advance
notice. (Space Science Updates are live, televised news conferences on
discoveries of special importance.) Let no opportunity go by for
publicizing your research efforts.
Never overlook the local media, hometown newspapers, and school groups.
Many of our most productive scientists live and work outside major
metropolitan areas and smaller media are often "hungrier" for interesting
local stories than is the case in big cities.
The NASA Administrator has frequently stated that it is important for the
beneficiaries of the taxpayers' generosity to regularly visit Congress to
explain the significance of their work. Such organizations as the AAS and
the AIP are equipped to guide you in your first visits to Congress.
Congresspeople really do want to hear from you.
In addition, search for opportunities to give public talks on your research
or on other astronomy or space science topics, such as at schools,
planetaria, and museums, and reach out to the public. It's your
responsibility as a recipient of space data or NASA funding. And your
future and the future of the field really do depend on it.
Finally, I'd appreciate your sending me copies of newspaper or magazine
coverage of your work, as we are posting such information here at NASA .
Science Program Director,
Structure and Evolution of the Universe
Alan.Bunner@hq.nasa.gov (Please note new e-mail address)
(Mailing address: Code SA, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546)