According to this meandering article in the MIT Technology Review The Apollo Program brought to bear some amazing resources:
In all, NASA spent $24 billion, or about $180 billion in today’s dollars, on Apollo; at its peak in the mid-1960s, the agency enjoyed more than 4 percent of the federal budget. The program employed around 400,000 people and demanded the collaboration of about 20,000 companies, universities, and government agencies.
Yes, I know that comparing today’s NASA (at just over 18K employees, and half a percent of the budget) is not fair. But I am more concerned with the collaboration bit: 20,000 companies, universities, and government agencies. I wonder what those numbers are today, in the age of the internet? I would expect them to be incalculable, but I see no evidence of that.
I re-iterate: what does/can NASA do to engage all levels of participation?
NASA et alia are already getting some “public” participation through prizes, a practice that dates back to the 16th C. Famous examples include the Longitude prize of 1714, and more recently, the X-Prize. But competitive systems are not collaborative, and although excellent ideas can be discovered from the edges of the network, the power of the network itself is not leveraged in development or creation of an idea.
Science and engineering research is obviously one way that space agencies are drawing upon the network of universities, but I am talking about an even wider base, including enthusiasts, scitizens, amateurs and secondary professionals. I draw your attention to the collaborative design platform OpenIDEO. This is an interesting experiment to discover and develop solutions proposed from the edge of the network. Do the world’s space agencies have something like this? Can we build it?