NASA’s Brilliance in Marketing

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.


Amazon recently (today?) launched what they’re terming “Frustration-Free Packaging.”  Basically, instead of getting things in the retail packaging, you get it in a brown box with plastic pillow packaging.  The number of things you can get in FFP isn’t high right now, but it’s a huge start.

From their description of the FFP on a Fisher-Price pirate ship:

This item is delivered in an easy-to-open recyclable box and eliminates 36 inches of wire ties, 1,576.5 square inches of package inserts, and 36.1 square inches of printed carton materials. Also eliminated are 175.25 square inches of PVC blisters, 3.5 square inches of ABS molded styrene, and two plastic fasteners.

Brilliant.  I hope to see more products offered like this, because the retail packaging is irrelevant when you’re buying stuff over the internet.

At least they’re honest…

My webhosting company sends out a monthly newsletter.  Unless most bits of marketing drivel that hit my inbox, I actually enjoy reading this one, because it’s typically hilarious.  An example from this month:

4.  New! Webmail Upgraded to 1.4.15!
Of course, putting a ribbon on a turd doesn’t stop it being a turd.
We’ve tried upgrading squirrelmail (our open source webmail software) to
version 1.4.15 recently to see how big a ribbon they put on it: or
and as far as I can see, the ribbon, it does nothing.
What a waste of time that was. No obvious changes or benefits at all.

That’s downright awesome.

Lay off McCain/Palin?


McCain’s campaign on Wednesday angrily called for an end to questions about its review of Sarah Palin’s background, deriding a “faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee” for vice president.

Don’t get me wrong here – I agree with what Obama said last week – family is off-limits, and pretty much irrelevant.  However, the way that the McCain campaign is pitching this is just wrong, but in line with what they’ve done in the past.

For those of you keeping track at home:  can’t pick on McCain cause he was a POW (which I admire the man for, but as Fred Thompson said last night, “being a POW doesn’t qualify you to be President”), and you can’t pick on Palin cause she’s the first female Republican nominee for VP.

Goldendale Star Party

This weekend, a few members from the Seattle Astronomical Society held an unofficial star party out near Goldendale, WA.  Since I didn’t get the chance to take on the Table Mountain Star Party a few weeks back, I was determined to make this event.  It was an easy sell on the homefront as well, what with the vineyards in nearby Yakima. 🙂


Tons of Messiers were knocked out, and now I’m ready to apply for the Messier certificate from the Astronomical League.

That’s 31 new Messier objects, bringing my total up to 98 out of 110.  The remaining 12 will have to wait until the dead of Winter and one or two left until Summer of 2009. 

Finally, some of you (ok… really just Michael) have asked me to post pictures of my observing.  I’ll post a picture here of the telescopes set up for the star party, and I’ll also note that I’m taking donations to buy gear to hook up to my telescope for observation photos. 🙂