NASA’s Shuttle PR- Remembering the Good and Bad

by Jason Mollica on July 12, 2011

Like the vehicles that it has launched over the years from Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA has been enjoying a “lift” off of the waning days of the space shuttle program.  Not since Columbia’s first mission has the space agency seen this much popularity.

The July 8 launch of Atlantis marked NASA’s 135th in the 30-year shuttle history. Now all the remaining vehicles will be retired, once Atlantis touches down on July 20.

NASA probably wishes they could have a few more launches to keep the buzz going.  However, it hasn’t always been clear skies for the agency.

Ask someone if the agency would survive after the Challenger and Columbia accidents and the Hubble Space Telescope’s initial disastrous launch, they probably would have said no.

But NASA soldiered on, remembering those that had passed. The agency honored their memories by continuing to explore beyond the boundaries of Earth and our universe. They also triumphantly corrected the Hubble, which has become an important tool in NASA’s exploration and research arsenal.

NASA has also become a social media pioneer. In March of 2011, astronaut Doug Wheelock won a “Shorty Award” for an image of the moon he tweeted from the International Space Station.

NASA has been hosting “Tweetups,” as well. These events are an opportunity for randomly selected participants to learn more about NASA, explore Kennedy Space Center in Florida and experience a shuttle launch. The agency welcomed 150 people to Cape Canaveral to be their special guests on Atlantis’ launch day.

It’s not just social media that is propelling NASA’s positive PR. Traditional media outlets are also on board. The USA Today has run two stories in consecutive weeks about the program. The most recent was a story on the agency’s “unsung heroes;” the ones that helped build the rocket boosters and prepare the astronauts for flight.

The late President John F. Kennedy said when challenging NASA in 1961, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” NASA and those who gave their energies to developing, building, and launching the shuttle will most likely shed some tears when Atlantis touches down.  It wasn’t an easy 30 years, but it was certainly historic.

That’s not hard to see.