Posted by: crudbasher | May 24, 2012

What Can These Photos Tell Us About Education?

I have to admit I have been on a bit of a high the last few days. SpaceX, a space startup company has been flying their unmanned Dragon cargo ship up to the Space Station. So far, everything has been going really well.

Here is video that was taken this morning as Dragon approached within 1.5 miles as a test. Tomorrow it will hopefully be captured and berthed by the station’s robot arm.

There are several remarkable things about this mission. They are the first private company to do it as all previous cargo missions were done by companies as government contractors. Second, after the docked part of the mission, the cargo ship will reenter and (hopefully) be picked up intact off the coast of California. Currently no other cargo vehicle can do this so this will be a capability restored after being lost with the shuttle’s retirement. All of this is being done cheaper than any other company can do it, which is also remarkable.

So to sum up before moving on, 1. private company not government, 2. capability nobody else has, 3. cheaper too. Got it.

So onto the photos.

The first photo is of the launch center when NASA sent Apollo 11 to the moon back in 1969.

Apollo 11 Firing Room –

There is no question it was one of the greatest achievements in human history. It was also hugely expensive but it had to be with the technology at their disposal.

This photo is of the mission control center of SpaceX.

SpaceX mission control room – via tumblr:

If you compare the two photos you can see some differences. First, notice that in the NASA pic, every single person is wearing a tie and white shirt. While not everyone in the modern NASA mission control is wearing a tie, most of them still do. It’s part of their culture that says that dressing like that is what you do when controlling space missions.

Did you notice that in the SpaceX mission control room nobody has a tie? They have a very different culture and yet they seem to be proficient at what they do.

You will also observe in the NASA pic that all the control consoles have screens and buttons all built into specially designed consoles. I have actually been in that exact control room at the Kennedy Space Center in the mid 1990s. It had been updated quite a bit but it was still purpose built. What was really scary was they still had equipment they were using from the 1970s! I guess things were built more rugged back then. 😉

In the SpaceX control room you see IKEA desks and standard office workstations. This is an order of magnitude less cost than the custom NASA stuff. Not only that but all the control consoles are virtual ones on their screens so they can be changed very easily. You don’t have to add a physical button or knob. Technology has revolutionized the job they have to do and make it much easier.

So how does this tie to education? Well let’s look at two more pictures. The first is a classroom from almost 100 years ago.

(cc) Yvonee Thompson

The second picture is how too many of our classrooms look today.

(cc) hoyasmeg

Get the picture? It’s not rocket science. 🙂

Why can’t modern technology create a way to learn that is lower cost and just as effective (or more?) I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.



  1. […] completely from scratch. Like SpaceX we are rethinking how to accomplish this mission. They got rid of ties and changed their […]

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