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Biden Space

NASA And JPL Public Affairs Dropped The Ball Again

By Keith Cowing
March 5, 2021
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NASA And JPL Public Affairs Dropped The Ball Again

Keith’s 7 March update: Update: it took @NASAJPL and @NASA two days to tweet something about the event. There is still no mention about the event at the JPL website or on
Keith’s 5 March note: Yesterday morning the President’s schedule was released. At 5:00 pm EST was “The President participates in a virtual call to congratulate the NASA JPL Perseverance team on the successful Mars landing” with a note that this was restricted to “in-house Pool Spray”. In other words the only people in the room would be the small group of cameras and personnel that taped the event so as to provide the footage to all media outlets. In keeping with a rule set by the White House Correspondents Association, no one else can broadcast that event. Yes, it sounds silly and restrictive to the free flow of information, but it is what it is. Eventually C-SPAN and other news outlets posted it – within a matter of minutes after the call ended.
NASA had the better part of a day to prepare for this. The intended audience was NASA JPL but over 6,000 employees and associated researchers were invited to listen and watch. The full text of the event was posted by the White House between 7:00 and 8:00 pm EST per standard procedure. (Here is a sentence by sentence analysis).
You would think that NASA and JPL would have had more than enough advance notice so as to arrange for a recording to be made for later posting as well as to have a transcript made. Failing that, you’d think that they could have posted links on their websites and massive Twitter accounts.

@NASAJPL has 3.2 million followers, @NASA has 44.6 million. Their websites reach audiences in the hundreds of millions. The official White House transcript and the C-SPAN video were promptly posted after the event – by C-SPAN and the White House. NASA and JPL could have posted links to them immediately, right? Guess again. It has been 24 hours. There has been no mention whatsoever by NASA or JPL. Still nothing.
FWIW I posted the transcript when it came out and had video links up within minutes and I am just some guy sitting in his basement (see Biden Calls JPL But We Can’t Listen In (Update)). Meanwhile NASA sits on its ass. Had they gotten all of this online as fast as I did they could have made much more of a showing in the evening and morning news cycles.
Weirdly, NASA was highly promoting the call from Vice President Harris to the ISS the other day – and they prominently feature it on and other locations. NASA folks love to complain when no one seems to be paying attention to them – especially when their programs cost too much and they need more money. Well, this White House is still settling in but they just can’t stop giving NASA good press – several times a week from both the President and Vice President. At some point you’d expect that the White House would like a little return on that with some prominent mention by NASA.
The President seems to be really jazzed by NASA. Genuinely so. He also seems to clearly grasp its potential – its soft power – an emergent property form all of this space excellence that goes well beyond the scientific and technical accomplishment – especially when we are beset by a pandemic and an economic calamity. Indeed, he said “I tell you what: I just wanted to thank you and tell you, you know, you — it just seems that, you know, we’re on the side of the angels. Just at the moment when things look like they’re really dark in America over our history, something has come along. Something has come along. And you guys came along and you did this.” So what does NASA do? They snub the President by ignoring his message.
Oh – NASA will get something online eventually – but really NASA, and JPL: how hard would it have been to been just a little more proactive? So the next time NASA complains about not getting enough money just remember how lazy they were when it came for them to make the most of their time in the Presidential spotlight. These opportunities are not going to last forever.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.