NASA Active on Twitter

Rocket science is hard to explain in 140 characters, but NASA is doing just that through a series of VIP tours for a number of its Twitter audience.

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It launched the events called tweetups, which offer ordinary science fans a kind of behind-the-scenes look at NASA’s facilities, including its astronauts and scientists. In their turn, the participants narrate their day via tweets, pictures and videos. Indeed, the space agency’s imagination-grabbing work provides it a bigger pool of fans to draw from than most organizations and government outfits. Although it is common for a company to provide special access to journalists or bloggers, NASA is considered to set itself apart by inviting people having just a few dozen followers.

The participants of the events are chosen in a lottery. NASA confirms that it draws people with a wide range of interests able to tweet to a varied audience. The agency’s first tweetup was two years ago, and the events can last from 2 hours to 2 days, covering from a few dozen participants to over 100, who have to pay their own travel expenses.

Although it isn’t clear enough how many new Twitter followers the agency has gained from the events, their number is obviously expanding rapidly. For instance, only over the last 6 months, around 600,000 people have started following NASA on Twitter. The events seem to be beneficial for both parties, because around 150 participants have been invited to Kennedy Space Center in Florida this past summer.

Meanwhile, the tweetup has become a good example of how the agency is harnessing social media in order to keep NASA in the public’s imagination while its most well-known program, the space shuttle, has come to an end. The industry experts admit that today people know more about Kim Kardashian than about important scientific events happening in the country. That’s the agency’s opportunity to educate a new demographic. Indeed, although the public generally has a strong positive reaction to the space agency, it is usually knows nothing about a lot of its work. For example, the wing design has been developed that allows airplanes to use less fuel, and now it is testing whether a craft for sending astronauts into deep space is able to survive falling into the ocean. This work is very important, but rarely attracts public attention.