From the Archives of a Dead Profession: A journalist in space.


Or Space Journalist.

That was the nickname for Toyohiro Akiyama, the first journalist who went into orbit way back in 1990.

He was also the first Japanese citizen to go up in space, and that happened because his employer paid the tune of $12 million to the Russian space agency for the opportunity.

NASA had intentions of doing so in 1985 with their Journalist-in-Space program, but the Challenger Disaster put a kibosh on it (FYI: Walter Cronkite made the final cut of 40 when the program was terminated as well as Jay Barbree). They tried again in 2003 with Miles O'Brien set to go, but then the Columbia Disaster put a stop to those plans as well.

It is interesting that journalists haven't had a bigger influence here: mind you, it would cost a media outlet millions, and in the case of Toyohiro Akiyama, the initial television ratings in Japan were great, and then plummeted. His reporting wasn't probing, and came off as a publicity stunt than serious reportage (it came down to frogs and craving a cigarette), but I doubt that would have been different if other journalists had the opportunity. STEM-based reporting is more deferential than critical or skeptical by nature.

Journalists didn't push boundaries, even when they have the opportunity to do so. We often forget to take full advantage of a rare gift of the uncharted territory. 

Arriving is only one half of the equation. You also have to deliver; otherwise, there will be no encore. Arriving is akin to having a key, but in order to deliver, you still have to place the key in the lock and turn until you unleash all that you can.

That is the element the profession always lacked: that genuine enthusiasm to experiment and explore. An alternative must push beyond the arriving to actual deliver something to create a new path -- or else we can head for the stars, but never try to touch them...