Archiving NASA's social media

By Phil Plait | March 21, 2010 8:36 am

NASA logoI sometimes make fun of NASA for being a bit stodgy, but in truth a lot of the folks there are pretty savvy when it comes to new tech and social media. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were on Facebook pretty quickly, and a flood of other space probes followed suit. Twitter is well-populated by NASA people, including astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who has been tweeting tirelessly from orbit recently, posting one amazing picture after another of cities, landscapes, and even the Moon.

One thing NASA is careful about is archiving material. They are well aware of the importance of the work they’re doing, and public outreach is a critical aspect of it. That’s why I’m happy to see a new effort on the part of the space agency to archive all their social media outlets.

It’s just started, so it’s a bit sparse, but I can see this being very useful to future historians. It may seem silly to have an online record of all the official tweets from NASA people, but in fact there is a wealth of information there. And it’s not just Twitter; it’s also Flickr for pictures, and YouTube for videos. I can see this expanding to Facebook, too, and other social networks. There’s a brief intro to the archive on the NASA images blog as well.

NASA does a pretty decent job of being transparent to its stakeholders — that’s you, folks — far better than most other government agencies, despite being online in far larger proportion than them as well. And I know that I’ll be able to use this archive for blogging; it’ll make linking to NASA efforts a whole lot easier. Not only that, but I found a couple of new Twitter streams form NASA I’m interested in, too! So take a look at the archive and dig around. I just bet you’ll find something cool there.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, NASA

Comments (33)

  1. Mchl

    Hopefull no tapes from first step on Mars will be lost….

    Oh wait… no holodiscs from first step on Mars will be lost.

  2. Plutonium being from Pluto

    This is great news. :-)

    I think we all owe NASA a lot of gratitude -far more than it ever seems to get – & yes, I’m sure we’ll find lots of great stuff there. Probably incl. lots more we’ll see linked here over the coming days, months, years and (if we get the sort of life-extension medical tech Kim Stanley Robinson imagined in his Mars trilogy) even centuries to come! 8)

  3. Pi-needles

    I just hope this doesn’t mean NASA is now history! ;-)

    @ 1. Mchl Says:

    Hopefull no tapes from first step on Mars will be lost….

    And also hopefully with good audio recordings no words arguably missed from the first speech on Mars, eg. “One small step for [a] man .. ” ;-)

  4. LcNessie

    In the category of “Bad ideas that may sound good when you first hear them”:

    What if we instruct every NASA sattelite to twitter their status from now on?

    :P ;)

  5. QuietDesperation

    What if we instruct every NASA sattelite to twitter their status from now on?

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Wait. Was that…? No. Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Tiny course correction.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Not much happening.

    Kuiper Express: Finally! Pluto! Rotating platform. Sending updated telemetry. Taking pictures. Scanning for- hey, what’s that? ZOMG! It’s-

    [Character limit exceeded]

    [Signal lost]

  6. QuietDesperation

    Hopefull no tapes from first step on Mars will be lost….
    Oh wait… no holodiscs from first step on Mars will be lost.

    Virtual quantum memory particles, you Luddite. ;-)

    Just don’t stop believing they exist!

    Scientist 1: Argh! We just lost the 21st century physics archive!
    Scientist 2: Wasn’t Dr. Wilkins in charge? What happened?
    Scientist 1: He had a crisis of faith!

    Ha! Quantum physics humor! Guaranteed to be funny in one universe or another.

    Yeah, I know. Clearly not this one.

  7. John Paradox

    I’ve been marking NASA images (movies and photos) at the Internet Archive via RSS. For more information, you can go to : http://www.archive.org/details/nasa
    IA also has various ‘basic science’ videos, as well.

    J/P=?

  8. Jamey

    I’ve noticed on Twitter a *HUGE* rate of using URL shortening services – are the original URLs for these services being archived, and the pointed-to pages?

  9. MadScientist

    I wonder if the many thousands of documents produced while developing the space shuttle have been put into electronic form and made available somewhere. It’s quite amazing to see the mountain of documents in printed form – I doubt anyone can read it all in a lifetime – it gives some idea of how complex the beast is and how much effort and collaboration is necessary to build it.

    One thing I’ve been trying to sell to colleagues (with absolutely no luck so far) is an open design of research instrumentation. Put in the money to design a system properly (rather than the literally hundreds of haphazard jobs done by numerous groups around the globe), make the software freely available, and make all the documentation available so that anyone can reproduce the system and even extend it.

  10. Allen Thomson

    Speaking of archiving, I was just looking at the cost of storage for such and came across this, which is pretty neat (IMOSHO):

    http://blog.backblaze.com/2009/09/01/petabytes-on-a-budget-how-to-build-cheap-cloud-storage/

  11. At Dragon*Con last year I went to several of the space panels and one of the issues that was brought up several times is that NASA now has data going back more than half a century. Unfortunately, a plurality of that data from earlier missions, basically up until the shuttle era, is stored in forms that we can no longer read. Tape drives, proprietary cartridge drives and even punch cards full of data languish and decay by the tens of thousands because we no longer have the hardware to read them.

    Archiving all this social media is a great idea but most of that social media data is second-hand. It was generated by some other project and will be archived elsewhere. Is there any project in the works to try and recover all that historical data that will otherwise rot?

  12. Radwaste

    HEY!?

    How can you miss GRIN?

  13. Messier TidyUpper

    Off topic sorry – but there’s been a spectacular volcanic eruption in Iceland :

    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/glance/1030225/volcano-forces-hundreds-to-flee

    No body hurt but hundreds evacuated. Thought the BA may want to blog on this – have sent him a facebook message but not sure if he gets these.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 5. QuietDesperation Says:

    What if we instruct every NASA sattelite to twitter their status from now on?
    Kuiper Express: Not much happening. …

    LOL. :-)

    But you’ve got too few “Not much happenings” – you’ll need another five years worth of them! ;-)

    Plus “Kuiper Express?” I think you mean New Horizons don’t you? ;-)

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/

    Hmm .. looking at the webpage now it seems that NewHorizons *is* on twitter .. :

    Mar 19, 2010
    NewHorizons2015: In just 2 months NH wakes up for a busy summer of activities after a nearly-continuous slumber since August. Preparations are in full swing!

    .. & sending messages back through time too! ;-)

    Wonder how long that’s been up for & how long its going to be there for? Could be some kind of record! ;-)

    @ 7. John Paradox Says:

    I’ve been marking NASA images (movies and photos) at the Internet Archive via RSS. For more information, you can go to : http://www.archive.org/details/nasa
    IA also has various ‘basic science’ videos, as well. J/P=?

    That’s a good idea – the more back-ups widely spread across the planet the better the chances that some will survive the rigors of time & who knows what. If anything of our history & culture deserves to be preserved then I think this does. :-)

  15. QuietDesperation

    But you’ve got too few “Not much happenings” – you’ll need another five years worth of them!

    I used data compression.

    Plus “Kuiper Express?” I think you mean New Horizons don’t you?

    Meh. I liked Kuiper Express better since they didn’t accept my “Plutonian Screamer” suggestion. “New Horizons” sounds like a place you might go to kick your coke habit or get marriage counseling. Or both.

  16. I’m grateful for the attention they’re giving social media and their own web-based resources. I just wish they’d spruce up NASA TV once in a while.

  17. Pi-needles

    @15. QuietDesperation Says:

    Meh. I liked Kuiper Express better since they didn’t accept my “Plutonian Screamer” suggestion. “New Horizons” sounds like a place you might go to kick your coke habit or get marriage counseling. Or both.

    Yeah, the NewHorizons name is a bit blah & vague and weak.

    Although “Plutonian Screamer” sounds like a horror-SF movie title to me – that or, well, something I can’t post here but (hint) features a bloke who comes to “kleen ze pool!” ;-)

    “Kuiper express” gives too much credit to Kuiper who, good as was, probably doesn’t quite deserve the credit or “naming rights” for the Edgeworth-Kuiper cometary belt.

    See : http://www2.ess.ucla.edu/~jewitt/kb.html & then go to “introduction” then “Why is it called that” where Jewitt notes

    Gerard Kuiper (it is pronounced like “Viper”[thanks, Maaike] although a lot of people try it as “Coyper”, for reasons which remain unclear) was an astronomer interested in the solar system at a time when this interest was even less fashionable than it is today. He wrote a paper including a mention of objects beyond Pluto (note: not Neptune) in 1951 and the Kuiper Belt is so-called because of this paper. The reference is G. P. Kuiper 1951, in Astrophysics: A Topical Symposium, ed. J. A. Hynek, New York: McGraw-Hill. The problem with Kuiper Belt is that Kuiper did not, by any objective reading, really predict the object to which his name is given. Kuiper’s paper refers to a primordial set of bodies that he supposed were scattered out to the Oort Cloud by massive Pluto, so that if taken at face value his paper predicts there should be nothing where we now see Kuiper Belt Objects. Kuiper in fact anti-predicted what we now call the Kuiper Belt. We now know that Pluto is tiny and has too little mass to eject objects to the Oort Cloud. Kenneth Edgeworth wrote papers about objects beyond Pluto in 1943 and 1949. His work was not cited by Kuiper, presumably because he had overlooked it (although one sometimes hears dark rumors that Kuiper chose to ignore Edgeworth’s prior work). Worse, for both Kuiper and Edgeworth, is the recent finding that Fred Leonard of UCLA mentioned in print the possibility of trans-Plutonian objects as early as 1930 (the reference is suitably obscure: Leaflet Astron. Soc. Pacific No. 30, pp. 121-124). Presumably, the intent should be to do the right thing [in naming the “cometary belt”] by attributing credit where it’s due. Unfortunately, it’s not clear to me where, if anywhere, proper credit is due. Just hand-waving on the possibility that there might be something “beyond Pluto” is not sufficient. Some of the above seem a bit like the predictions of Nostradamus: read into them what you will. If anything, I would say that J. Fernandez most nearly deserves the credit for predicting the Kuiper Belt based on clear statements and physical reasoning. His 1980 paper (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 192, 481-491) is worth a careful read. The Logical Alternative Call them “trans-Neptunian” objects.

  18. Pi-needles

    &, yes, that Jewitt guy is the same astronomer David Jewitt who discovered 1992 QB1 the first ‘Cubewano’ & also the first* Trans-Neptunian Object found in the (Fernandez?-) Edgeworth-Kuiper cometary belt.

    See : http://www2.ess.ucla.edu/~jewitt/David_Jewitt.html

    My suggested name on the keep it simple principle would be the Cometary Belt – and for “NewHorizons” how about the :

    United states
    New
    Domain
    Exploring
    Research craft for
    Worlds
    Outside our
    Region’s
    Local
    District

    or UNDERWORLD to Pluto. Contrived yes, but apt. ;-)

    Or maybe “Hades’ or ‘Orpheus’ instead? Or just ‘Pluto Express’ but that’s a bit bland.

    —————————————————————-

    *After Pluto & Charon that is.

  19. Astrofiend

    God help me. What a bunch of crap.

    Twitter and all it’s rubbish ilk can go jump. I lost a serious amount of respect for NASA the day they started ‘embracing the new media’. Man, just typing that phrase means that I have to fight a primal urge to vomit repeatedly on myself. The great men of yore from NASA, ESO and the USSR space programs would be sick too. Imagine what Korolev would do! He would kick some ass for this debacle, then proceed to build an amazing rocket that literally crapped on constellation from a great height, flew to Alpha Centauri and back twice in a few days just because it could, and then he’d hit the Vodka. My thoughts exactly.

    Is there a more self absorbed bunch of narcissistic morons than people who *gag* ‘tweet’? How can anybody possibly think that it is cool for NASA to make up these stupid 100 character comments on behalf of inanimate objects, pretending to be them telling us what they are doing?

    “SOHO: staring @ tha Sun now rly brite hehe LOL!”
    “Spirit: im all stuck n stuff dont worry my parents will get me out LOL”
    “New Horizons: Im bored not much to do out here flying in a str8 line TCM in 2 years cant wait LOL”
    “NASA: Man were a bunch of tools we forgot no one under the age of 50 who isnt a celebrity uses Twitter LOL ROFLMAO”

    Damn right NASA – you are a bunch of Tools for embracing the new age media. Only massive losers embrace this sort of rubbsih. It is the bastion of washed up baby boomers who are too stupid to realise that nobody cares about the minutiae of their boring lives, celebrities who are too stupid to realise that nobody cares about the minutiae of their boring lives, and nobody else. Now, we can add NASA to this prestigious list.

    I can just imagine it in 100 years time – “Thank GOD that we kept all of this boring BS on tape. It provides a unique insight to the weirdos who used to work at NASA. No wonder the agency went downhill”. Sociologists everywhere at that time will literally jump for joy at such a unique treasure trove of boringness. Man I hate sociology. Sociology and ‘the new media’. I think the day that NASA started tweeting will be shown by history to be the day that NASA started a tortuous decline into mediocrity.

    Nothing should be released by NASA to the public that isn’t at least 100 pages in length, full of abstruse technical detail so as to frighten off morons (mostly people who tweet) entirely, with enough mathematics to melt every neuron in most people’s brains. That is what made NASA great. NASA using the new media simply encourages dumb kids to think that they have a hope of one day understanding science, which they patently do not.


  20. “SOHO: staring @ tha Sun now rly brite hehe LOL!”
    “Spirit: im all stuck n stuff dont worry my parents will get me out LOL”
    “New Horizons: Im bored not much to do out here flying in a str8 line TCM in 2 years cant wait LOL”
    “NASA: Man were a bunch of tools we forgot no one under the age of 50 who isnt a celebrity uses Twitter LOL ROFLMAO”

    Yeah I can safely say that I’ve never seen language like that from the NASA stuff I follow on Twitter. Though it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been on Twitter… I always forget I have an account. :-o

  21. “Nothing should be released by NASA to the public that isn’t at least 100 pages in length, full of abstruse technical detail so as to frighten off morons (mostly people who tweet) entirely, with enough mathematics to melt every neuron in most people’s brains. That is what made NASA great. NASA using the new media simply encourages dumb kids to think that they have a hope of one day understanding science, which they patently do not.”

    Well, preserving our precious knowledge in the ivory tower of jargon to keep the “dumb kids” at bay should be a novel way to inspire new generations of Koralevs, Mathers and Riess’s. In fact I know enough of Mathers and Riess to posit they would patently disagree with you on this count.

    Inspiring the next generation is exactly how you get a renaissance in science.

  22. Bill Bones

    I think the first commentor summarized it.

    They overwrote the moon landing tapes in order to save a few bucks ($ 250,000?) and yet now they find it appropiate to preserve for eternity, huh, you know, Tweets.

    I am so overjoyed by this that not even 100 characters can express it. True.

  23. gss_000

    @16. Jon Lester

    Yeah, it would be nice. But they’d have to be given a bigger budget than $1. 5 million.

    @19. Astrofiend

    “The great men of yore from NASA, ESO and the USSR space programs would be sick too.”

    Nope. They’d have their own accounts and blogs, make raps with Snoop Dogg, and go on Dancing with the Stars. Or does Buzz Aldrin not count?

  24. QuietDesperation

    Or does Buzz Aldrin not count?

    Dunno. I’m pretty sure he can read, though.

    (blank stare)

    That was much funnier in my head. Man, I’ve been in a weird mood lately.

    in order to save a few bucks ($ 250,000?)

    Hey, buddy, can I borrow a few bucks?

  25. NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md, has been one of the agency’s early adopters. We are now transitioning our Facebook profile to a fan page at http://bit.ly/doQ7rL

    We have thoroughly enjoyed the rich interaction with our fans, friends and even detractors and hope the social media experiment does, as BmoreKarl said, inspire the new renaissance in interest in space exploration.

    Please visit and fan us.

    Sincerely,

    NASA Goddard

  26. Astrofiend

    21. BmoreKarl Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Joking about the dumb kids. I thought that that would come across…

    23. gss_000 Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Buzz Aldrin used to count but no longer does, solely based on his rap video. That Snoop Dog thing was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen – it literally provided I = -|B^G|, where I = inspiration, B = the magnitude of crapness of Buzz’ rapping (a large positive number), and G = Graham’s number. But due to my love of astronomy, even that astronomically large value of negative inspiration could only put me off for a brief while.

  27. Jeff

    The reason NASA is stodgy is because it consists of scientists, who are bores for the most part, you excepted of course, Phil; I always listen to you when you’re on George Noory’s show, you are good at that stuff. You, Carl Sagan, …., end of list!!!

  28. NASA is awesome, old school and new. Twitter is a new kind of medium that excels at telemetry repeating and news syndication — all things that NASA likes to do.

    Now if we could just get real time launch telemetry somehow, maybe multicast! :)
    The world could build an infinite variety of video game like launch displays. Oh, would that not be soo much fun!

    TDRS where are you!?

  29. the Archiving all this social media is a great idea but most of that social media data is second-hand. It was generated by some other project and will be archived elsewhere. Is there any project in the works to try…and so we care with our world

  30. Boris 504

    Did they archive this:

    http://www.bautforum.com/space-astronomy-questions-answers/102297-apollo-school-project.html
    [quote=Boris 504;1705355]
    We have been assigned with the school project on polemics class
    to defend the thesis: “USA astronauts have been on the Moon”.

    The teacher lays down rules of the discussion:

    1) Each notion should contain verifiable fact or a statement.
    Generic references to “common knowledge”, “many scientists confirm”, etc. are not acceptable.

    2) It cannot be assumed that the claim is true only because the opposite was not proven or the necessary information is missed. The burden of proof lays with the claimants, i.e. with proponents of the thesis.

    3) Every relevant question of opponents of the thesis should be answered, otherwise a claim or notion should be withdrawn and deemed void.

    Your help will be appreciated!
    [/quote]
    Posted 24-March-2010 05:33 GMT
    User banned and thread deleted 09:00 GMT

    Boris 504 posted 1 message.

  31. Vinod Mehta

    I would like to see on video clippings of NASA deep space probes being launched or in operation presently and see pictures of deep space stars, galaxies etc. Anything regarding space intersts me immensely.

  32. we must be grateful of what NASA has been doing. we should be grateful from the first time that a man walked in the moon. we should be grateful now that they are open, now that they are sharing their discoveries. their job is not as easy and wonderful as it looks. they sacrifice more than what every other human sacrifice everyday. we should be thankful for their discoveries. fly high NASA.

  33. I find it quite extraordinary that NASA only just started archiving social media outlets.

    It’s certainly been a long time coming.

    Light years ? … LOL

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