NASA 2.0

Posted on June 27, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |

that NASA is looking to partner with Web 2.0 startups like Facebook and Twitter to “save itself from turning into a dinosaur in the Internet age.” I checked the date and it is June 27, not April 1.

I think this may represent the pinnacle of two things: Bubble 2.0 and NASA’s fall from grace. Without regurgitating the entire article, the idea that the use of Web 2.0 technologies is going to help NASA achieve its mission and vision statements seems downright absurd. For a taxpayer-funded organization facing significant problems on many fronts, including the safety of its own astronauts, I believe it’s a colossal waste that any resources get spent on “Moon Twittering.”

Some of the more humorous yet saddening excerpts from the article:

“How can NASA become hip?” NASA CoLab Project Manager Robert Schingler asked here Tuesday at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “For me, it’s allowing other individuals (and companies) to participate in the program.”

Yes just what we need. Let’s have Kevin Rose run spaceflight operations by harnessing the wisdom of the Digg crowd. Let’s have Mark Zuckerberg plan lunar colonies using the Facebook social graph. Brilliant. Maybe instead of focusing on being hip, NASA should actually work on addressing substantive issues that are more important.

To that end, it plans to open offices in San Francisco, and it’s already plotted virtual space in the virtual world Second Life.

Great news. If you can’t visit NASA headquarters in real life, you can visit it in Second Life. As a taxpayer I actually think we should move all of NASA completely into Second Life.

Now NASA is trying to reach out to the technology industry to help market itself to a generation of kids growing up online and who seem less inclined to study science or math.

Trust me: NASA’s use of Web 2.0 services is not going to make science or math sexy. Don’t they realize that social networking is just for hooking up?

Still, there are some minor signs that NASA is catching up with the times. Hoppin said the agency is building a social network for space alumni, for example, so that former astronauts like Buzz Aldrin can connect with peers online.

I’m sure this is just what the space alumni need. I can’t wait to see how Buzz Aldrin pimps out his NASA Space page. And I can’t wait to see what happens when the astronauts start stalking each other online using AstroFeeds.

Similarly, NASA’s CoLab is investigating an internal, collaborative use of Twitter to share more information among agency officials.

“Having a problem Houston but going for lunch in the cafeteria. about 5 minutes ago from TeamLeader31422″

And although NASA’s mission to travel back to the moon is 10 years out, it has grand ambitions for these types of partnerships: According to NASA’s pitch, “Imagine: As the first controlled lander to the moon in 40 years comes to rest on the lunar surface, millions of citizens participate in the descent through an interactive high-def video link. Millions more have already flown a simulated descent on the wildly popular lunar exploration game developed privately and distributed free on”

For some reason I think NASA might want to focus on actually landing something on the moon safely as opposed to making it an interactive experience for earthlings.

“I encourage NASA to open up its data via APIs so that it can be used in mashups,” Linksvayer said.

I think NASA has already had enough experience with “mashups.”

“We need developers to put some type of space element in all kinds of games, not shooter games,” said Beth Beck, NASA’s Outreach Program Manager Space Operations. “We have to get those kids who are young to really care about what we do, because we tend to make it boring.”

Games that don’t have shooting = boring.

Conclusion: private industry and other nations are probably the only hope for the future of space exploration. It’s clear that NASA has hit rock bottom. It’s hard to imagine that an organization that put a man on the moon is now talking about Twitter and Facebook. In my opinion this current gibberish is no different than if NASA had looked to partner with Webvan for grocery deliveries to the space station or to supply pet food for lunar colonies.

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One Response to “NASA 2.0”

  1. Erik Kalviainen on June 29th, 2007 11:07 am

    Just discovered D2.0. It is a breath of fresh air (ex-TC reader myself). As for the NASA thing, great post! I agree, NASA doesn’t need to try be cool. For crap’s sakes, THEY LANDED ON THE MOON! Compare that to inventing, designing, and implementing Twitter. One of these tasks can be accomplished in an afternoon by any one of 10 million programmers. The other requires billions of dollars of research, a deep understanding of math/science/engineering, physical skill, and the guts to pull it all off at risk of horrible death. Why is NASA dumbing itself down to a guy who wears a webcam on his head all day?

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