The Public Relations of NASA
Westley Casey
Jacksonville State University
The Public Relations of NASA! 1
Table of Contents
Abstract 3
History 4
Birth 4
Early Years 4
Resistance 5
Apollo Program 6
Shuttle Program 8
Current 9
PR ...
Abstract
For ages, we have thought of reaching the heavens and exploring news worlds. Today,
the organization leading the ...
History
Birth
" The history of NASA begins after World War II. President Eisenhower approved
the launch of a scientific sat...
Early years
" Only days later NASA conducted its first launch, Pioneer I. The Pioneer program
was intended for planetary ex...
interrupted the regular programming to cover a Gemini Launch, people called in to the
stations to complain about missing T...
air. Some accounts give the cause of death as burning and others as smoke inhalation.
Nevertheless, the astronauts perishe...
" By 1973, the mission to the moon was over – or at least put on hold. NASA
embarked on other ventures such as Skylab and ...
" The Space Shuttle Program enjoyed over decade of relatively smooth sailing with
its remaining three shuttles; a fourth w...
Current
" Mars, also, is in the sights of NASA for the future. Manned expeditions are still on
the agenda, though it has p...
PR Strategies and Crisis Response
" Public relations at NASA is a constant work in progress, just as at almost any
organiz...
open-information environment. This honesty and a healthy relationship with a free press
was what separated America from th...
" The 2003 tragedy involving Columbia was handled relatively well by NASA. If
nothing else, NASA conducts thorough investi...
Media
" The history of NASA/media relations has a few low spots of note. One significant
dispute was between ABC and the ad...
Private Sector and the Future
" The researcher assumed going into this study, that NASA and the private space
industry wer...
References
Greene, N. (n.d.). History of National Aeronautic and Space Administration.
" Retrieved from http://space.about...
Dean, J. (2014, Dec. 4). NASA scrubs Orion launch after multiple delays. USA Today
! online. Retrieved from: http://www.us...
Crane, R. (2014, Oct. 29). Will rocket's 'catastrophic failure' set back the private space
" industry? CNN. Retrieved from...
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Nasa Project

Published on: Mar 3, 2016
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Transcripts - Nasa Project

  • 1. The Public Relations of NASA Westley Casey Jacksonville State University The Public Relations of NASA! 1
  • 2. Table of Contents Abstract 3 History 4 Birth 4 Early Years 4 Resistance 5 Apollo Program 6 Shuttle Program 8 Current 9 PR Strategy and Crisis Response 11 Media 14 Private Sector and the Future 15 References 16 The Public Relations of NASA! 2
  • 3. Abstract For ages, we have thought of reaching the heavens and exploring news worlds. Today, the organization leading the way in this quest is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. For nearly 70 years, NASA has been on the forefront of space exploration, technology development, engineering and propulsion breakthroughs, and inspiring people all over the world to shoot for the moon – and beyond. Their journey has not always been smooth and trouble-free. Tragedy, failure, close calls, and condemnation have dotted its fascinating history. Public Affairs (NASAʼs public relations department) has been responsible for interacting with media and getting NASAʼs messages out to their publics and the general public at large. This work will study the history of NASA, its media relations, public relations strategies, crisis responses, and the challenges the administration faces for the future. Whether in the mist of a crisis or its planned missions, NASAʼs public relations has helped shape the space industry and, thus, the world. The Public Relations of NASA! 3
  • 4. History Birth " The history of NASA begins after World War II. President Eisenhower approved the launch of a scientific satellite into Earth orbit in 1955 and for the continuation of the Defense Departmentʼs efforts to advance jet and propulsion technology (Greene). Tackling this feat was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics along other military programs. The Soviet Union, though, was hot on Americaʼs heels. " In 1957, Russia launched the satellite, Sputnik. Many in America, especially those in the government and military, were sent into panic-mode. No country had ever sent an object into space before, thus, the implications for military use were frightening. In response, the US Congress and President Eisenhower created the National Aeronautic and Space Administration on October 1, 1958 to streamline research and development of rocket and aeronautic technology (“Defining events” n.d.). With its inception, NASA incorporated, according to its History Program Office,: " three major research laboratories-Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames !Aeronautical ! Laboratory, and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory-and two smaller test facilities. It ! quickly incorporated other organizations into the new agency, notably the space science ! group of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ! managed by the California Institute of Technology for the Army, and the Army Ballistic ! Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama, where Wernher von Braun's team of engineers ! were engaged in the development of large rockets (Garber & Launius, 2005) The Public Relations of NASA! 4
  • 5. Early years " Only days later NASA conducted its first launch, Pioneer I. The Pioneer program was intended for planetary exploration, but Pioneer 10 and 11 are remembered today for leaving the Earthʼs orbit and venturing outside the solar system. The popular Mercury missions in the early 1960s were largely responsible for determining how man would fare in space (Garber & Launius, 2005). During these significant missions, Alan Shepard (on Freedom 7) and John Glenn (on Friendship 7) became the first Americans to enter space and to orbit Earth, respectively. With Russia making faster advancements in space missions at this point, America was finally starting to catch up. " 1962 was a pivital year, not only for NASA, but for communications. NASA launched the Telstar satellite on July 10 1962 aboard Echo 1. This satellite carried the first telephone and television from space. Designed by Bell Telephone Laboratories, this feat set the foundation for modern wireless technology (Telstar, n.d.). " Gemini continued the progress with a successful space walk by Edward White, Jr. in 1965, the first by an American (Garber & Launius, 2005). Resistance " Some Americans, especially some in government, were not so pleased about spending vast sums of money on something they thought might not yield substantial returns. “How can the government justify giving millions of taxpayersʼ dollars to flight projects when so many people are poor and hungry?” This was the question on so many minds throughout the space program. " For some, apathy was prevalent rather than distain. After the first missions of Shepard and Glenn, some became disinterested in space exploration. When networks The Public Relations of NASA! 5
  • 6. interrupted the regular programming to cover a Gemini Launch, people called in to the stations to complain about missing The Viginian or Batman (Makemson, 2009, p.108). Othersʼ attitudes were ones of anger. The “Poor Peopleʼs Campaign,” created by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was heavily opposed to sending people to the moon. A SCLC leader, Hosea Williams said, “Why should we be worrying about sending three men to the moon when here are [a mother and her children] dying of starvation? If we can spend $100 a mile to send three men to the moon, canʼt we, for Godʼs sake, feed our hungry?” (Makemson, 2009, p.182). Apollo Program " By 1966, NASA was preparing to enter into the moon-exploration phase. The Mercury and Gemini projects had been leading up to an end goal of landing men on the moon. In May, 1961, John F. Kennedy gave a landmark speech in which he declared: "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth" (Greene, n.d.). This may have been responsible for the publicʼs outcry. Although, unknown to many Americans, the Russians had already successfully sent an unmanned probe to the moon in 1959 and made the first controlled lunar landing in 1966 (Cavendish, 2009), slightly ahead of Americaʼs first unmanned landing. This only solidified NASAʼs determination. " Apollo 1 was to be the first in a series of important scientific endeavors. This mission, however, collided with tragedy. During a routine test on the launch pad, a fire broke out in the astronautsʼ capsule due to exposed wiring and the highly oxygenated The Public Relations of NASA! 6
  • 7. air. Some accounts give the cause of death as burning and others as smoke inhalation. Nevertheless, the astronauts perished and NASA subsequently made several changes to improve crew safety (Agencies, 2014). " Apollo 7 returned Americans into space in 1968. Apollo 8, 9, and 10 were manned missions to prepare the final steps and analyses for lunar landing. On July 20, 1969, two of the three-man crew of Apollo 11 touched down on the moonʼs surface. Neil Armstrong made his giant leap for mankind onto the dusty soil, followed by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Samples were collected, pictures were taken, and a flag was placed as the two men marveled at the scene and the experience. After 21 hours on the moon, Aldrin and Armstrong rejoined orbiting crew member, Michael Collins, and returned to Earth (Launius & Gibson, 2012). " The world watched the events live at home on television. Stories are now abound of people forgetting disputes between enemies and feeling a sense of pride and unity of the human race. This project is largely credited for getting a generation interested in science. " Five more successful Apollo missions were carried out through the early 1970s, with a multitude of tests and experiments undertaken. The lunar rover was introduced on Apollo 15 – a longer, expedition-like mission (Launius & Gibson, 2012). The most dramatic Apollo mission (other than, perhaps, Apollo 11) was Apollo 13. During the journey to the moon, an oxygen tank exploded which presented a drastic problem. NASA scientists and engineers formulated a plan to conserve the crewʼs oxygen supply and sling-shot around the moon and back to Earth. The mission was technically a failure, but the country rallied around the astronauts for making back safely. The Public Relations of NASA! 7
  • 8. " By 1973, the mission to the moon was over – or at least put on hold. NASA embarked on other ventures such as Skylab and the Pioneer and Voyager probes which sent back images and information from their journeys through the solar system and beyond (Launius & Gibson, 2012). Shuttle Program " Throughout the 1970ʼs NASA experimented with idea of a reusable spacecraft that could glide back to earth with no propulsion assistance. This project came to fruition in 1981 with the birth of the Space Shuttle Program (Garber & Launius, 2005). The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first to launch (A prototype, Enterprise, was the first to be constructed for test purposes). The Space Shuttle Challenger was next to debut. Among the crew was astronaut Sally Ride, who became the first female American in space. " Discovery and Atlantis were put into commission in 1984 and 1985, respectively. NASA proceeded to perform many successful missions with satellites and research craft, such as Spacelab, until disaster struck once again (National Geographic, n.d.). Garber & Launius (2005) explain: “On January 28, 1986 a leak in the joints of one of two Solid Rocket Boosters attached to the Challenger orbiter caused the main liquid fuel tank to explode 73 seconds after launch, killing all 7 crew members. The Shuttle program was grounded for over two years, while NASA and its contractors worked to redesign the Solid Rocket Boosters and implement management reforms to increase safety” (n.p.). The Public Relations of NASA! 8
  • 9. " The Space Shuttle Program enjoyed over decade of relatively smooth sailing with its remaining three shuttles; a fourth was introduced in 1992 – Endeavor. Missions included construction of the International Space Station and the launch of the Hubble Telescope. " The third major, and most recent, NASA disaster occurred in 2003 involving the shuttle Columbia. Columbiaʼs research tasks on microgravity were completed and the shuttle was able to reenter the atmosphere and prepare for landing. Due to damage sustained from foam debris during take-off, the heat-resistant tiles failed and the ship broke apart into fiery pieces, killing all seven members (Agencies, 2014; Launius & Gibson, 2012). " President George W. Bush announced the retirement of the shuttle program in 2004. The shuttle missions pressed on until 2011 when Atlantis flew the last shuttle mission in July, 2011. Bush did, though, recommit our vision for space exploration. He said, the “cause of exploration and discovery is not an option we choose; it is a desire written in the human heart” (Launius & Gibson, 2012). " Although, not part of the shuttle program, the Mars missions deserve notable mention. NASA executed the most successful mission to Mars in 1997 up until that time with the Mars Pathfinder. Previous expeditions had been undertaken in the past, but the 1997 mission (along with orbital data collection later that year) gave the world a host of new Martian information (Missions to Mars, 2014). Subsequent Martian-lander missions have added to our wonder and understanding of the Red Planet. The Public Relations of NASA! 9
  • 10. Current " Mars, also, is in the sights of NASA for the future. Manned expeditions are still on the agenda, though it has pushed back through the years. The administration is working on a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and a heavy-lift rocket to take loads deeper into space than manned missions have ever gone (National Geographic, n.d.). " Orion is the most recent venture by NASA. It is a MPCV designed to take payloads or crew members beyond low-earth orbit. The first Orion launch is due in one day, at the time of this paperʼs completion. Although, designed to be paired with the developing Space-Launch-System (SLS), it wonʼʼt actually fly upon one until 2018 (Dean, 2014). The Public Relations of NASA! 10
  • 11. PR Strategies and Crisis Response " Public relations at NASA is a constant work in progress, just as at almost any organizations. In the administrationʼs early years, the public relations (PR) function first put to the test with the launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik. In what, by modern standard, had seemed like the right PR move, NASA presented all of its (failed) satellite information to the public. Ridicule and embarrassment befell NASA for not producing as successful a satellite as the Soviets. Makemson explained the attitudes of many Americans: In a sampling of person-on-the-street opinions compiled by the New York Times, a bartender said that Vanguard (a failed, televised rocket launch) “should have been kept top secret. The rest of the world will think weʼre damn fools in view of what the Russians have done.” A Wall Street stock Broker added, ʻI think the way the whole thing was handled was very stupid. We should have kept our mouths shut, the way the Russians did, until we got our missile aloft. A professional public relations representative noted, “We put out a lot of advanced publicity, so this failure makes us look foolish. Had we kept quiet until we made a successful launching, we would have inspired the world” (Makemson, 2009, p.35). This illustrates the difficulty from a PR perspective concerning issues which have national and global political impact. NASA started to keep a tighter lid on things for about a year (Makemson, 2009, p.50). " During the Mercury program, it became increasingly apparent that the hushed lips of NASA could not be maintained and keep a good relationship with the media and the rest of its publics. Walter Bonney, a top public affairs official brought to NASA an The Public Relations of NASA! 11
  • 12. open-information environment. This honesty and a healthy relationship with a free press was what separated America from the Russian, to whom everyone seemed to be looking at as ahead in the so-called” space race” (Makemson, 2009, p.51). This strategy was the basis for PR operations throughout Mercury and Gemini. " The Apollo 1 tragedy found NASA officials in heated contention with the media. After the deaths of three astronauts during a routine test, officials made many mistakes. The most immediate mistake was taking to long to even acknowledge an accident had happened. They reported “a fatality” instead of “three” or “multiple” giving the wrong impression and false hope (Dalton, 2013). An audio tape tape which recorded the events of Apollo 1 were also extremely damning as it contradicted what officials had said in previous days (Makemson, 2009, p.137). " The Apollo 13 crisis was handled very differently. Having learned from the previous fiasco, NASA PR made timely statements, invited journalists into mission control, and continued to keep open communication with the media and the public (Dalton, 2013). " Throughout the late 1960ʻs and 1970s astronauts appeared regularly in television shows and magazine features, such as Life. Drumming up support was key NASA to continue its missions and keep its funding up (OʼCallaghan, 2014). " After Apollo, the public seemed to lose interest in space. Even with the creation of the new space shuttle, enthusiasm was down. The Challenger explosion, once again, prompted NASA to react quickly and honestly. Public favor with NASA wavered, but eventually restored after the administration took almost three years off to improve safety standards (Launius & Gibson, 2012). The Public Relations of NASA! 12
  • 13. " The 2003 tragedy involving Columbia was handled relatively well by NASA. If nothing else, NASA conducts thorough investigations and testing to determine causes of mishaps. In respect to the Columbia crisis, a case study by Emily Schult concludes that NASA was responsible and cooperated expertly with the media (2006, p.55). and CNN correspondent, John Zarrella asked, “Would there have been more national support for the shuttle program, for NASA, and would there have been more public outcry about the end of the shuttle program if NASA had done a better job promoting itself? I donʼt know the answer to that, but itʼs worth asking.” The Public Relations of NASA! 13
  • 14. Media " The history of NASA/media relations has a few low spots of note. One significant dispute was between ABC and the administration in 1965 and 1966. ABC claimed NASA was withholding too much information about its Gemini project. A sour personal relationship between ABCʼs president and one or several NASA officials may have been a factor (Cressman, 2007, p.133). " CBSʼs Walter Cronkite was especially fond of NASA and the space program and had no qualms about showing it on air. He often made it a point to show models and demonstrations of various technology and spacecraft (Makemson, 2009, p.189-90). " During the shuttle era, the press seemed to lose some of the interest it had in NASA in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact when Challenger exploded, CNN was the only channel to cover it as it happened (Stelter, 2011). Despite the surge of coverage afterwards, coverage waned throughout the 1990s. The news rooms were convinced the space program was stagnant and that NASA was not doing a good job of promoting itself (Stelter, 2011). " It does seem, however, that Nasa is pushing its new Orion project with strength. Demonstrations, NASA-hosted media days, and increased coverage are more common today (Media Day . . . 2014). Perhaps it is only the start of something new and novel with another coverage decline in the future. The Public Relations of NASA! 14
  • 15. Private Sector and the Future " The researcher assumed going into this study, that NASA and the private space industry were at odd and were competing for the lone spot in space and major propulsion. This does not seem to be the case. NASA has always relied on the private industrial sector. Since the retirement of the space shuttle, NASA has not had much a a choice but to contract companiesʼ rockets to ferry their equipment into orbit. Although, if government funding were larger, NASA could once again monopolize the space industry in America. (Crane, 2014). " As for the future, Mars is next on NASAʼs radar. Another moon landing has been proposed as a stepping stone to the Red Planet. The Orion mission just might revolutionize the way human beings travel in outer space. " Neil DeGrasse Tyson sums up the spirit of the cosmic perspective – that is, the vision of unity that NASA and all others who wish explore the universe have – and shares the common desire for discovery: “The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values are chemical kinship with any yet-to-be-discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself” (Tyson, 2012, p.260). The Public Relations of NASA! 15
  • 16. References Greene, N. (n.d.). History of National Aeronautic and Space Administration. " Retrieved from http://space.about.com/cs/history/a/nasahistorya.htm Garber, S. & Launius, R. (2005, July 25). A brief history of NASA. NASA History ! Program Office. Retrieved from: http://history.nasa.gov/factsheet.htm Launius, R., Fries, C.,& Gibson, A. (2012, Jan. 3). Defining events in NASA history, " 1958-2006. Retrieved from: http://history.nasa.gov/Defining-chron.htm Agencies (2014, Oct. 29). Five worst accidents in NASAʼs history. The Telegraph. ! Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/11194485/Five- " worst-accidents-in-Nasas-history.html Stelter, B. (2011, July 8). A demonstration of science seemingly made for TV. The New ! York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/us/ " 09coverage.html? _r=1& National Geographic (n.d.). Space Shuttle Program: Cosmic commuters. National ! Geographic. Retrieved from: http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/ " space/space-exploration/space-shuttle-program/ Telstar (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from: http:// " www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/586427/Telstar Cavendish, R. (2009). The Soviet Union is first to the moon. History Today, 59 (9). ! Retrieved from:http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/soviet-union-first- " moon Missions to Mars (2014). The Planetary Society. Retrieved from: http:// " www.planetary.org/explore/space-topics/space-missions/missions-to-mars.html The Public Relations of NASA! 16
  • 17. Dean, J. (2014, Dec. 4). NASA scrubs Orion launch after multiple delays. USA Today ! online. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/12/04/nasa- " orion-test-launch/19879129/ Makemson, H. (2009). Media, NASA, and Americaʼs quest with the moon. New York, " NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Dalton, D. (2013, July 3). Actually, it is rocket science: NASAʼs professional crisis " management. MP Star Financial. Retrieved from: http://www.mpstarfinancial.com/ " small-business-blog/actually-it-is-rocket-science-nasas-professional-crisis- " management/ OʼCallaghan, J. (2014, April 24).Nasa's Mad Men: How the agency sold the Apollo " missions to the public and inspired a golden age of space exploration. The Daily ! Mail Online. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ " article-2612074/Nasas-Mad-Men-How-agency-sold-Apollo-missions-thr-public- " inspired-golden-age-space-exploration.html Schult, E. (2006). Itʼs not rocket science: NASAʼs crisis communication efforts as a " public sector organization following the Columbia shuttle disaster. Thesis. " Retrieved from: http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-06042008-133647/ " unrestricted/ Schult_thesis.pdf Cressman, D. (2007). Fighting for Access: ABC's 1965-66 Feud with NASA. American ! Journalism, 24 (3), 133-51. Media day at Johnson to explore NASA's journey to Mars. (2014, Nov. 7). PR Newswire. " Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/media-day-at- " johnson-to-explore-nasas-journey-to-mars-281973411.html The Public Relations of NASA! 17
  • 18. Crane, R. (2014, Oct. 29). Will rocket's 'catastrophic failure' set back the private space " industry? CNN. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/29/us/rocket- " explosion-private-industry-effect/ Tyson, N. D. (2012). Space Chronicles. New York, NY: Avis Lang. The Public Relations of NASA! 18

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