Getting the Message Across in Congress?

Getting the Message Across in Congress?

Editorial Comment

I clicked on this article in The Hill newspaper today to read about something going on in Washington politics (the Tea Party Caucus and its role in the debt limit debate) and was astonished to suddenly see a photo of the STS-135 crew appear in the embedded advertisement.

The advertisement is very effective in catching one’s attention. The crew, the space shuttle, the space station (though I wonder how many people outside the space community recognize it). Beautiful images.

What message the advertisement is trying to convey is a mystery, though.

The words that appear in the ad are: “30 years of inspiration,” “exploration,” “leadership,” “America’s space shuttle,” “enduring legacy,” and, at the end, “Boeing.”

Perhaps this ad has run elsewhere, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. I can’t help but wonder what message Boeing is trying to send to the readership of The Hill, which I imagine are people like me who for whatever reason remain fascinated by the inner workings of Capitol Hill and Washington politics in general. I, at least, follow the space program as closely as I follow Washington politics, but even with an understanding of both, I can’t discern what Boeing wants me to take away from the ad.

Is it a simple tribute to the space shuttle now that’s it’s over? An effort to highlight that Boeing was involved in the shuttle program with the expectation that The Hill’s readership therefore will think positively of Boeing? An indirect lament that the shuttle is over and there is no U.S. system to take people to the space station now? An implied statement that the shuttle was part of U.S. “exploration” and “leadership” and we’ve lost that now?

The ad is in an article about Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus, but I clicked on other stories and it appears there as well, so there’s no apparent tie between the ad and the content of the articles. Instead it looks like a campaign to bring the human spaceflight program to the attention of Capitol Hill, but to what end?

It’s a shame to waste an opportunity to effectively engage Congress and the Washington political establishment about the future of the human spaceflight program. With all due respect to Boeing, this ad seems to contribute to the confusion.

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