We quite often have someone suggest that some program or destination should be pursued because it has public support. Or that some project should be started to increase public support. My questions are, “what is public support exactly?” and “how does it affect the goals I think important?”
There are varying levels of public support, most of which have very little to do with accomplishing anything important in space. One level is someone choosing to watch something space related on television instead of another Friends rerun. I fail to see how this level of support generates much in the way of useful work. How many of these does it take to equal the effect of one Musk?, millions?, thousands?, tens of millions?…I would suggest x10^8 or so. How many to equal a Goff, Greason, or Carmack? IMO, the spectator public has very little to do with progress in spaceflight except occasionally voting against shutting down some jobs program, and might even be considered a negative in some of those cases.
Perhaps a level up from the couch potato in public support is the talkers like me and some of the ones I argue or discuss things with from time to time. Some of the talkers are doers, but it is hard to tell which ones unless paying real attention. Realization of x10^7 of us to equal the effect of one of the real players is a bit humbling to us near spectators. For most of us at this level, $ome lack of ability is usually involved, even if it could be worked around with more motivation. However, moral support is often neither.
In my opinion, public support is often vastly over rated. The public support for SLS/Orion is still likely ahead of that for Falcon9Heavy, and even further ahead of Vulcan, New Glenn, or any of our other favorite launchers or launchers to be. Public support though, doesn’t seem to have much effect on launcher manufacture or dropped LOX domes.
Before Falcon 9, and especially before Falcon 1, public support for SpaceX was close enough to zero to be lost in the noise. Before New Shepard, how much for Blue Origin? How much does public support affect ULA unless there are jobs or votes involved?
I’m good with somebody proving me wrong. I would like to think my effect is more than 1/x10^7 of a real player. I am not good though with more people just asserting that the spectators/public are super important for some reason.
To me, the public support that counts is when a customer plunks their money down. Whether it is a satellite launch or a hamburger, paying customers are the ultimate measure of useful public support.