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Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

Source: NASA's Strategy for Human and Robotic Exploration, slide 11, Gary L. Martin, Space Architect, June 10, 2003.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Block That Metaphor! The Metro Space Exploration Map

This slide is from a series of PowerPoint presentations made to the NASA Advisory Council by NASA officials on June 10-11, 2003.

This slide might be an attempt at humor, but there are way too many other slides in the presentation that are similarly fluffy.

Nearly all the topics at the meeting are serious and interesting; yet the presentations are an odd mix of marketing and thin technical information. Many of the over-produced slides have a tone-deaf quality, and are simply not serious. Some slides are patronizing; nearly all the slides look like the product of marketeers rather than engineers. And yet the presentations are about fascinating content that, on its own, should easily carry the day--if only presented in a straightforward way.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

Interesting that the Earth is set as the center of the universe. Ptolemy would have been proud.

-- Steve Sprague (email)


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

I missed that!

Maybe the plan shown in the slide is undertake research that would distinguish between the Ptolemaic and Copernican hypotheses.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

Do I detect a graphic heritage from the 1991 NYC subway map?

If so, I think the fastest way from earth to mars, if starting on the Green train, is to transfer to the express Red train at Low Earth Orbit. If one just misses the Red train, then stay on the local Green train.

-- David Cerruti (email)


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

Expect to be mooned on the green train.

-- Gene Prescott (email)


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

Most likely the graphic heritage here is from the Washington, DC metro map. Note how the junction indicators at Earth, LEO, and HEO/the Moon closely match the major junction indicators for the DC metro map (Metro Center, Rosslyn, etc). On the metro map they indicate places where you can switch lines.

On the NASA map, they indicate that someone in charge is equating a subway system with space travel. Scary.

-- Scott Zetlan (email)


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

The metro-map itself fails to tell anything substantive. Viewing Earth in a gravity well, all rocket trips would be "up", hence Venus, Mercury and the Sun would present a more technical and payload challenge than Earth L1/L2. There were 100's of LEO shots compared to Pioneers, etc.

A Napoleon's March, tracing the number of flights to each end-point in our gravity well (logorithmically), would be far more useful as a teaching tool graphic. Throw in an elliptic super- of the solar system, with an Audubon's illustration of the space birds, wha-lah!

But I'd like to see a Napoleon's March of the US:Soviet Cold War nuclear weapons production:destruction cycles, beginning in 1945 to the present. Underneath, a mirror- graphic of US citizen treasure spent, and so destroyed!

Would beat a metro map of how we got here, from there.

-- R.M. (email)


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

What if Charles Minard had seen a metro map and then clubbed Napoleon's march into that metaphor? How data thin could it be?

-- Dave Nash (email)


Response to Block That Metaphor! The NASA Space Exploration Map

It is often the case that metaphor somehow tarnishes the original - the Hollywood version of Hopper's Nighthawks being an example. But here the quality of Becks' work on the London Underground is pointed up by the catastrophic failure of the NASA slide.

-- Martin Ternouth (email)


Here is a link to a PP pitch containing the NASA metro spaceplan map:

http://www.niac.usra.edu/files/library/meetings/annual/nov03/Martin_Gary.pdf

The slide shown at top is at "page 9" of the slides.

-- Edward Tufte




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