NASA's Administrator Uses Technology Better Than The Space Industry Does

Keith's note: There is yet another space policy event in Washington, DC today aimed at another session of choir practice in an echo chamber by the proverbial usual suspects in the space policy clique. Its an event by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launching some sort of commercial space thing. Registration for the even closed a while back and only a few media representatives were allowed in. Of course, as is typical of these events the sponsors did not bother to webcast anything. Who cares. These events are all about talking about doing things instead of actually doing the things that they talk about.

Given that there is a Chamber of Commerce in virtually every community in America this could have been an excellent opportunity for the U.S. Chamber of commerce to go into grass roots mode and educate the remaining 99.999% of the population - the ones who pay taxes or work in companies that build space hardware. But no - these policy wonks are only interested in talking to each other and being quoted in trade publications that only they and their friends read.

But there was an exception to this cloistered event: NASA Administrator Bridenstine had someone on his staff stream his keynote speech live via a streaming account registered to @JimBridenstine on their cellphone. He does things like this a lot. Much of it is spontaneous - and much of it is done on his cellphone by him using his own actual fingers. He gets it. There is no reason why any event anywhere cannot be shared with anyone, anywhere. So long as there is cellphone and/or WiFI access you have a means to reach a vast audience.

Yes, the quality is sometimes shaky. I call this the "Max Headroom effect". If you are not familiar with this then go Google the name. Of course its shaky - its being done via a cellphone. The point is that while the quality may be lacking, it is understandable, and it is live, and it is being done so that you can participate - wherever you are.

In 2009 I spent a month at Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet doing education and public outreach with the Challenger Center as Astronaut Scott Parazynski climbed Everest. We had a commercially available HS 9210 BGAN satellite unit. I carried it to Everest on my back. With it we did live webcasts almost daily with Miles O'Brien who used his laundry room in New York City as our media command center. The quality was often lacking but, in pure Max Headroom mode, we did live webcasts from an extremely remote place where few had done such things before - because we could.

Now its easy to do things like this from Everest since there are people selling WiFI access and you can use your cellphone - the same access that people in these space policy meetings have. Oddly, a community that hypes the space spinoff benefits to the economy - including space-based communication satellites - is incapable of using the same resources to do a simple webcast from their events - something that kids in junior high school know how to do.

There is also this fetish with costs - and ignorance thereof. Space meeting organizers think that webcasts using cellphones and laptops need to be fancy or cost a lot of money. Yet they spring big bucks for expensive stage props and luncheons for their pals at these events. Its all about appearances - not substance.

People in the space industry are always keen to sniff for hints from NASA leadership as to what they are interested in so as to be able to say the right buzz words back to NASA and offer products and services that NASA seems to be interested in. OK: here's a hint: the Administrator of NASA personally streams live video of his comments on social media. He does so without an army of expensive contractors on the cellphone in his pocket. He is trying to reach people that have heretofore remained beyond the reach of NASA's traditional education and public outreach mechanisms.

When big aerospace companies and associations want to send messages to their audiences they buy full page ads in the Washington Post or blanket Metro stations near Capitol Hill with giant banners. Bridenstine uses his cellphone with the ability to reach a vastly bigger audience.

Bridenstine is also sending a message to traditional aerospace community: they need to adapt to his new mode of communication if they want to remain relevant. He is going directly to taxpayers and other stakeholders and bypassing the long-standing system that trade and advocacy groups have usually held a grip on.

He's already got a head start and he's not looking back.

- Keith Cowing Everest Update: Webcasting from a Foggy Buddhist Monastery, 2009

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 6, 2018 3:06 PM.

SpaceX Places A Dragon In Orbit - And Lands In The Water was the previous entry in this blog.

NASA Doesn't Want To Talk About A Messy Dragon is the next entry in this blog.

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