One Giant, 50-Year Leap: How Apollo’s story can help fix NASA’s current brand problem

Imagine an organization with a name recognized in every country in the world, whose every move was watched by hundreds of millions of people, and whose successes fulfilled the dreams of a nation and inspired awe and admiration around the world. This was NASA in the 1960s. I was five years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the Moon during the flight of Apollo 11. Like many people, I watched the event on a black and white television, and then went outside to look up at the Moon, knowing people were there. For the millions of children across the globe who were inspired by that occurrence, this was a defining brand moment for NASA. The Apollo program set a new and dramatic benchmark for our abilities as a nation. If we can go to the Moon, then what other feats long considered impossible could we accomplish? While President Kennedy’s 1961 announcement to send humans to the Moon was primarily political, it became a driver for imagination, scientific discovery, and engineering. The research and development underpinning the Apollo program presented many challenges that called for new solutions. These solutions influenced the growth of high-technology industries and ultimately thousands of products were spun-off into new commercial markets, such as semiconductors and computers, microwave ovens, batteries, cordless power tools, kidney dialysis machines, MRI and CAT scans used in healthcare, solar panels, fire-retardant fabrics, polarized sunglasses, water purification, advances in food preservation, improved satellites, and more. Studies indicate a societal return on investment as high as 14 dollars for every dollar spent, causing the returns on most other forms of investment to pale in comparison. Despite Gallup’s research showing that over [...]