Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

One Giant Leap

August 25th, 2012

Science House Foundation Executive Director Joshua Fouts at Science House during our recent Enterprise and the Moon event to honor the anniversary of Neil Armstrong's legendary first step on the lunar surface (watch the landing live!)

Design Alchemist Heidi Lee was at Science House for the event (she took the above picture). When she found out about Armstrong's death today she posted the invitation:

Science House cordially invites you to “Enterprise and the Moon,” to celebrate NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise on July 20th, the day after the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City launches its permanent installation featuring the shuttle. 
The date also marks the anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969, a day when the “human race accomplished its single greatest technological achievement of all time when a human first set foot on another celestial body.” Using NASA’s elevation data, Science House portfolio company PopView Maps has created a spectacular 3D moon map using the Infinite Perspectives algorithm. Cartographer Jeffrey Ambroziak will say a few words about the technology and treat the crowd to a first glimpse of his PopView Moon
Since my star-gazing childhood, I've loved NASA, so I was thrilled when, a couple of years ago, I was asked to give a talk about Creativity and the Design of Identity and Community at TEDxNASA

After my talk, a gentleman was waiting at the base of the stage to speak with me. His name was Dr. Robert Lindberg (he became chapter 17 of our project, Imagination: Creating the Future of Education and Work)

A scientist and engineer, Dr. Lindberg was the founding director of NASA Langley's think-tank, the National Institute of Aerospace.  He commissioned me to work on a feasibility study for the development of a science park in the Hampton Roads region. During our first group meeting, he introduced me as the organization's Futurist. The childhood me (who had memorized the winter hexagram of constellations to win a telescope as my reward) was quietly thrilled.  

This title, however, wasn't just a sheepskin. The group wrestled with serious issues related to creating a regional economic and cultural strategy that would be both visionary enough to promote growth and stable enough to satisfy the need for generating revenue in predictable ways. We tried to attack the problem from every angle. We stuck together while grappling.

I took Science House Founder James Jorasch to work with me at NASA when I went to Langley to brainstorm creativity and he gave such a good talk that they obliged my request to get him in a space suit. 

I soon started to learn everything I could about NASA. I learned about funding cycles and priorities, organizational culture, current projects and future possibilities. I was asked to participate in many a number of brainstorming sessions at NASA Langley regarding group dynamics, mission structuring, NASA's self-identity and public perception. We brainstormed the very future of NASA. 

I loved every moment I spent in the company of brilliant engineers, many of whom could easily leave their steady government jobs to create high-growth potential startups but have no real incentive to do so. I love the candid glimpse into the heart of NASA and the depth of space that they shared.  

I learned that in questing ever outward, NASA has created the clearest data looking back at the tiny blue planet that we share and its dangerously shifting climate. I came to understand more about the kaleidoscopic relationship between NASA, Congress and the American public. 

Always, in my mind, my love for NASA drifts back to the moon shot. Neil Armstrong's step will live forever in the popular imagination because it is reminder that as intelligent life forms living in a mysterious cosmos, we are able to choose not only the path of rigorous, maybe even infinite, exploration--but also embrace the awe and wonder of it all. And we get to do it together. 

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