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by Jim Algar
Washington DC (UPI) Dec 02, 2012
Visitors to NASA's website are currently being greeted with a request for public input on how the space agency's site should look as the agency ponders a re-design.
NASA.gov is of course just one of the outlets with which the agency presents itself to maintain public interest and support for its activities and missions.
Like space agencies in other countries, NASA has learned to be media-wise in dealing with an increasingly tech-savvy public, but many people are unaware of just how far back NASA's electronic outreach efforts go.
The agency's longest running media offering is NASA TV, which is broadcast by satellite and streamed over the Internet, carrying live coverage of it missions including the space shuttle and International Space Station, as well as space probe missions like the current Mars Curiosity rover.
The roots of NASA TV go back to the early 1980s when it was initiated to give NASA managers and engineers real-time video of missions.
NASA TV currently has four channels, one for the general public, one for educational institutions, one to provide footage to broadcast news organizations and an internal encrypted channel used to NASA's spaceflight operations.
Other space agencies have followed NASA's lead in keeping the public involved in their activities. The European Space Agency operates a satellite network broadcasting to Europe, while the Russian Federal Space Agency has TV Roscosmos, available just in Russia.
With the growth of the Internet, NASA quickly augmented its television offering with websites providing news, mission updates and multimedia, including images and video.
In addition to its main NASA.gov site, the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., operates a site at www.jpl.nasa.gov with coverage of missions run by the lab.
As technology progresses, NASA has taken pains to keep up. With the explosion of smartphones, the agency has created apps as yet another conduit to the public.
The NASA App is available for iPhones, iPads and for smartphones and tablets running Android, offering images, videos, mission updates and satellite tracking.
JPL has followed suit with several apps devoted to its various missions.
Social media has not been left out of the space agency's arsenal of public relations weapons: NASA has a Facebook page, as does the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
JPL even has a separate Facebook page devoted to the Mars Curiosity Rover mission.
"Who's got six wheels, a laser and is now on the Red Planet? Me. I'm Curiosity, aka the Mars Science Laboratory rover," the Facebook page declaims.
JPL also has a presence on Twitter where it regularly tweets updates written as though Curiosity itself was in contact with its fans.
"Drilling in on a Target: Scoping out the scene, looking for rock candidates for my 1st drill test.
"My REMS readings showed a drop in pressure during the dust storm.
"Here's an animation of some of my Thanksgiving-week travel. Good news: traffic is light!"
So with television, Internet websites and social media, self-admitted space junkies have no need to fear -- the next information fix is always available.
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