I’ve been following NASA for a long time. It’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan. NASA has always had a serious presence on the internet, but one of the things that I’ve noticed in the last few months is their huge push into the new web. Various projects are all over Twitter, and the Mars Phoenix Lander just guest-blogged on Gizmodo.
It all started with Twitter. If you go back and look at various NASA missions that use Twitter (Mars Phoenix, the Mars Rovers, Cassini, Mars Science Lab… the list goes on), most of them are unmanned missions that have had to fight hard for funding. Similar projects in the future will probably have to fight that much harder for money.
Unmanned missions don’t have the same glamour as manned missions, so they don’t get the same level of popular support. To secure funding in the future, you’ve got to have popular support.
What’s the solution to solving that?
Personalize the unmanned missions.
Seriously. Go back and read the Twitter histories of the missions, the Mars Phoenix being the best example. They Twitter as if it’s a person on Mars, and people send it (him?) her?) messages about feeling sad for it since it’s going into the Martian winter. The outpouring of support for this little lander on Twitter is amazing.
And it’s all because NASA personified the mission. I don’t know if this was NASA’s intent, but it seems to be working. Great advertising.