UrtheCast

Will Social Media Save NASA’s Legacy?

From Space Station iPhones to astro tweeters — can social media save NASA’s legacy?

Firstly, does NASA’s legacy even need saving? If government budgets are any indication, some would say yes. Secondly, how do you make a legacy relevant to a new generation? It looks likely that social media, not nostalgia, will keep the National Aeronautics and Space Administration relevant to a younger generation.

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NASA knows this: Recently, back in December 2011, NASA gave  a shout out to students and young professionals with experience in social media to show “how social media and citizen science can be used … to enhance space missions and technology.” If social media brings relevance, then relevance can bring — you guessed it — tax dollars.

You can’t buy relevance per say, but social media does build a fan base that won’t be drawn to NASA by the nostalgia of space races and moon walks. So, what better way to prove your relevance by getting up close and interactive with the future taxpayers who will foot your bills. NASA’s recent budget announcement could be yet another sign that the future of space lies in making commercial stakeholders care. Meanwhile, NASA is taking the situation into its own hands by getting creative.

Got a Space Station Experiment? There’s an app for that. 

Mashable just reported that, even on a measly $15,000 USD per year, most young people buy smartphones. It’s almost no surprise then that astronauts would be using iPhones to conduct research on the International Space Station (ISS). So maybe it’s a bit surprising.

Back in 2011, Odyssey Space Research teamed up with Apple to develop SpaceLab for iOS, an app that performs experiments aboard the U.S. National Laboratory on the ISS. They also developed a public version of the SpaceLab app, which can still be downloaded by users at home. The smartphones were initially intended to “augment crew performance and productivity of operational activities”, but for about a dollar, you and I can get the fully-simulated experience of the experiments they conducted in space.

Astronauts are all a-Twitter

Astronauts are undoubtedly busy folk, but like us, they still find time to tweet. Acccording to GeekOSystem, there are about 25 astronauts to follow. If you can pry yourself away from Instagram dog photos, you can check out some down-right amazing imagery and updates from space. From a marketing perspective, what better way to get youngsters involved in space than by allowing for greater transparency and interaction. Be sure to check out Mike Massimino, known as @Astro_Mike on Twitter, who was the first of NASA’s astronauts to delve into the world of twitter.

Robonaut: a Social Media Darling

NASA’s robot-astronaut has become a veritable social media hit. After shaking hands with Astronaut Daniel Burbank last week aboard the International Space Station, Robonaut (R2) gave earthlings a “Hello, world” in American sign language — a phrase that was sent out over his own twitter account @AstroRobonaut.

NASA Goes Live

NASA TV is nothing new — it went to air about five years ago — though just last week, NASA TV went high-def. (Unfortunately, it was after debuting its humanoid robot on February 14.) Not only does NASA have its own cable channel, it’s on the web as a high-def, twenty-four-hour-a-week video feed. Not only does NASA’s UStream channel allow for a detailed look into its daily operations, but events like the recent Robonaut power-on are regularly televised for the eyes of curious earthlings.

Facebook Gets in On the Game

Have you played NASA’s game on Facebook yet? It isn’t the first game NASA has developed to educate the public on its history and research. Less than a month ago, NASA announced the launch of Space Race Blastoff. This facebook-based trivia game tests gamers’ knowledge of NASA-based topics, ranging from pop culture to science. According to NASA’s David Weaver, Associate Administrator for Communications, ”We’re hoping Space Race Blastoff opens up NASA’s history and research to a wide new audience of people accustomed to using social media.”

Social Rock Stars

Piggy-backing on one of the most popular music genres, NASA has launched Third Rock Radio: ”America’s Space Station”. Launched in December of 2011, this alternative rock station takes aim at 18-35-year-olds, and increased its social cachet by going mobile just a month after hitting the internet. In it’s first thirty days, Third Rock Radio boasted 2,000 listeners and and 5,000 Facebook ‘like’s. Not too shabby.

NASA is no doubt stock-piling its social arsenal. Despite not being around for the moonwalk (dance moves aside) a new generation is learning the true value of NASA by way of social media. Grooming future users is a tried-and-true method of marketing, but what about the baby boomers? As any marketer will tell you, it’s the boomers who have the cash, the political power, and the image of Neil Armstrong in their heads.

Social media has a good track record of creating movements — can it save NASA’s legacy?

Robonaut: The Human-Handed Robot Aboard the ISS

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