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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NASA Needs a Public Relations Overhaul

While going through my after lunch review of all the space news on the web, I ran across this statement Mark Whittington made as a comment to Rand Simberg's post of Iraq and Space.

Not enough is being articulated about the economic benefits of doing so. Of
course, NASA public relations has been dysfunctional since the birth of the
space agency.

Now I have been an advocate of NASA having better PR for a while now. I had kind of given up hope, but I have been thinking about some stuff lately and this prompted me to put fingers to keys, as it were.

How many of you watch NASA TV? If you are like me, you wish you did, but
its like watching public access TV with cable rates. What are they
thinking? Let's go through the problems one by one.

#1) No schedule - I can even pull PBS up and see what shows are coming on a week in advance. With NASA TV I can't even tell what is on right now. It is either Video File (which means whatever crap they have laying around) or ISS Coverage (which is usually shots of mission control). Even if you are putting on random crap, at least tells us what it is. We might be interested in some of it. Get an intern to do it. You are already broadcasting a digital signal, how hard could it be.

#2) No Plan - it is obvious to me after about 3 hours of watching NASA TV that there is no plan on how to use this forum. Does NASA want a PR vehicle, a information channel on space science (much like the science channel), or a CSPAN like just shoot everything we do. (Note: CSPAN, at least, usually has some kind of schedule). I would vote for a PR vehicle, but I would take anything organized.

#3) No interest - Now this is a bit subjective, I admit, but I am a science/space guy. I watch the discovery channel, science channel, Nova, and congressional hearings on space (on CSPAN usually). I am the ideal NASA TV viewer. And yet I almost never watch it (except for the occasional press conference on the Mars Rovers). What does this say to us? Why not, at the very least, use this medium to promote the ESAS and space in general to your base. Show your plans. Show simulations of Mars missions. Show debates on exploration architectures. It doesn't have to be Hollywood, but at least make an effort.

Now, before you go calling me a complainer, I have some ideas that NASA is welcome to take and run with.

#1) Reuse existing programming - Make with deal with Discovery or PBS. Get some documentaries about space, rockets. Play them every day at some specified time.

#2) Have some general information shows. VSE or whatever. But play to adults. So much of the stuff is video of an astronaut talking with a 3rd grade class. Adults like this stuff. We pay taxes. Get us excited about your plans. Don't let the newspapers tell us what you are doing with all the bias they bring to the table. Tell us directly.

#3) Space Movies. Some stuff that paints space exploration in a good light. Old stuff is fine. I am sure Tom Hanks would help.

Anybody else have any thoughts.

As I write this, ISS Mission Coverage (replay no less) is running on NASA TV.


PhysBrain said...

Maybe there's hope yet. The new JSC director thinks that the astronauts should get out and sell the space program while they are waiting for their rides.

Personally, I agree with you about NASA TV. They've got some good educational content and some nice material to work with, but it is definitely not put together very well. Educating and inspiring people about space exploration is part of their mission, but they could probably stand to put a little more effort into the latter of the two. Me, I'm already hooked, but certainly not because or their great PR.

As for listings, they do have a schedule available.

Dan Schrimpsher said...

That is true. But did you look at the schedule? It would be like the SciFi channel having:

6:00pm SciFi show
8:00pm SciFi movie
10:00pm Horro Movie
12:00 SciFi show

I would like a little more detail.

NERVA said...

Agree. How about a name change... to The Space Channel. NASA should get with Hanks and the folks who did "From The Earth To The Moon" and show that. Do some shows on where NASA is planning to go... the Moon and on to Mars. Should also show what's going on in the commercial sector... Bigelow, SpaceX, Rutan. I'd even go with bringing the Missile Defense Agency in and show some ballistic missile defense work. In a nutshell..

1. Change the name to The Space Channel
2. Put out a more detailed schedule.
3. Team up with some of the pro-space Hollywood/media folks and show some of their stuff.
4. Bring in the commercial and defense folks and air what they're doing.
5. Bring us the future. Give the public an idea of where America is going in space... to the Moon, to Mars, colonization, etc.

Anonymous said...

How about just making time available to various space societies to do with what they will?

ken anthony