Want Good PR for Your Expensive Scientific Program? Appeal to the Geeks!

Space travel achieved a new milestone last week with the mission of the Dragon space capsule -- the first commercial craft to dock with the International Space Station. In doing so, Space X CEO Elon Musk also accomplished the impossible by reinvigorating the public's exceitemtnt over the notion of manned space flight, and not a moment too soon.

With the cancellation of NASA's shuttle program last summer, budgets plummeted, projects languished and entire dimly-lit government departments in charge of assigning ass-kicking patriotic names to space craft closed their doors forever.

Had our national space program continued, we'd currently be veering into Michael Bay/Armageddon territory with giant rockets dubbed Freedom and Independence blasting off for 5-year missions of jingoism in deep space.

Instead, with the promise of commercial space travel we have now have private interests in low earth orbit via a "Dragon" spacecraft, propelled by a "Falcon"-class rocket with a "Merlin" engine.

Fanciful creatures and majestic wizards. Wait, is this a space agency or the cover of a Rush album?

It's apparent that if anything can cut through reams of stodgy bureaucracy, it's the power of fandom, so we've commissioned a blue ribbon panel to assign a little geek PR to three large-scale science programs.

Mars Colonies Mars One, a Dutch organization, promises to "establish the first human settlement on Mars by April, 2023" with over 20 permanent residents on the red planet by 2033. According to the Web site, the organizers of the mission admit that their challenge is currently how to attract sponsors and convince them of the plan's feasibility.

Because this summer's Total Recall remake is allegedly Mars-free, I'll pledge a few bucks to the Mars One project if they'll use one of their "habitat pods" to recreate "Venusville" from the original Schwarzenegger movie. I'd even volunteer to wear my Kuato costume up there for the first six months until things were up and running.

Particle Accelerators Admit it, save for a few egg-heads, no one really knows what's going on at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Talk of supersymmetry and the Higgs-Boson abound, but how is esoteric theoretical particle physics relatable to the general public, especially as a new super-collider is set to go online in 2019? Two words: Ghost.Busters.

Since we'll probably never see a Ghostbusters three-quel anyway, let's all kick-in to get Dan Aykroyd into costume an onto a plane to Geneva to record a corporate video.  There's no one better to deliver a rapid fire barrage of terms like "electro-weak symmetry" and "quark-gluon plasma."

Aerial Drones This one's not so much for the masters of unmanned surveillance planes as it is for you and I.  Recent legislation now permits the use of drones in domestic airspace, primarily for, but not limited to, law enforcement and other first responders. As defense contractors are, no doubt, already perfecting their pitches to municipal governments far and wide, I'd propose that at the very least we get to name this buzzing "eye in the sky" something fitting, like "Nimbus 2000." Somehow an invasion of privacy is more palatable when accompanied by images of whimsical wizards.

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Bob Beard