25 Things You Must Know About How NASA Uses Twitter

By Neal Wiser. Follow him @nealwiser

Yesterday, What’s a TweetUp, and Should I Wear My Spacesuit? Twitip told you what it was like to attend a TweetUp at NASA Headquarters. Today, learn more about how NASA uses Twitter.

Why and when did NASA decide to use Twitter?

NASA always is looking for new ways to engage the public and spread the word about what we’re doing, so it was natural that we would look into using Twitter. The @NASA account really began its use in January 2009.

What are NASA’s goals for Twitter?

To connect and communicate with people interested in what NASA does.

Does NASA have a Twitter strategy?

NASA’s overall social Web strategy is to think about how to do our jobs as communicators differently. Services like Twitter give us an opportunity to speak directly to audiences who might otherwise not hear about what we do.

Are there any rules, restrictions, policies for using Twitter at NASA?

There are several rules and regulations that govern the release of government information. The rules that existed before Twitter are much the same as they are today. The only difference is the media being used to communicate. That said, there is an agency-wide social Web policy that is working its way through the system. In the meantime, employees have been encouraged to treat Twitter commenting as we do any other release of public information, following NASA’s existing communication policies.

How many people at NASA use Twitter?

NASA has nearly 50 Twitter accounts for NASA centers, programs and projects. In addition, several NASA astronauts tweet. Several people often tweet for different center, program and project accounts, so probably more than 100 NASA employees are tweeting. In addition, many NASA employees have their own Twitter accounts from which they often tweet about NASA’s work. You can find links to all of NASA’s Twitter accounts here.

Who was the first astronaut to tweet from space?

NASA astronaut Mike Massimino (Astro_Mike) began tweeting in early April 2009 and was the first person to tweet from space on May 12, 2009.

1st Tweet from Space

The First Tweet from Space

How many astronauts tweet and when did they start?

Nine NASA astronauts have set up Twitter accounts. You can follow them individually or through the NASA Astronauts Twitter account or click on the @ links below.

Astro_Mike-sm

Mike Massimino

April 6

@Astro_Mike

Learn More

Astro_127-sm

Mark Polansky

May 8

@Astro_127

Learn More

Astro_Jose-sm

Jose Hernandez
(Bilingual, English/Spanish)

July 2

@Astro_Jose

Learn More

Astro_Sandy-sm

Sandy Magnus

July 5

@Astro_Sandy

astro_tim-sm

Tim Kopra

August 4

@astro_tim

Learn More

Astro_Nicole-sm

Nicole Stott

August 29

@Astro_Nicole

StationCDRKelly-sm

Scott Kelly
September 4

@stationcdrkelly

Learn More

ShuttleCDRKelly-sm

Mark Kelly
September 4

@ShuttleCDRKelly

Learn More

Astro_Jeff-sm

Jeff Williams

Sept. 17

@Astro_Jeff

Learn More

Who will be next?

Where can I find a list of all of NASA’s Twitter accounts?

You can find all of NASA’s Twitter accounts, as well as links to other social networking pages here.

How does the tweeting process work from the shuttle or International Space Station? In other words, how does one Tweet from space?

Astronauts in space have a minimum of two downlinks a day, during which they can send and receive their e-mail. They write their tweet and e-mail it to Mission Control on the ground which then tweets the message.

What has been the public reaction to NASA Tweeting?

The response has been excellent.

Can you describe NASA’s Twitter Control?

There really isn’t a “NASA Twitter Control” per se. Twitter activities are shared by lots of people in lots of different places.

When did NASA decide to hold a TweetUp?

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory held the first NASA Tweetup on January 21, 2009. NASA Headquarters held its first Tweetup on July 21. The September 24 event is the second Tweetup from NASA Headquarters. NASA is planning others in the near future at various agency locations. TweetUps are announced at http://www.nasa.gov/tweetup and on the @NASA.

Why did NASA decide to hold a TweetUp?

NASA had a great response on Twitter and always experiences strong interest for people to meet astronauts. So when the STS-125 crew, which includes the first astronaut to tweet from space, was coming to Washington, D.C., it was a good time to hold the first Tweetup.

Who’s behind the TweetUp? Is it a specific department or can any NASA employee have one?

The two Headquarters TweetUps have been held in coordination with many offices at NASA, including the Astronaut Office, the Space Operations Mission Directorate, and the Office of Public Affairs. Any official NASA TweetUps need to be coordinated with other offices. Any NASA employee can host a Tweetup, but if it’s not coordinated, they need to make it clear that they are speaking on behalf of themselves and not the agency.

Is there a specific format for the TweetUp?

The two TweetUps with the astronaut crews follow a format that works well with their schedule and activities, i.e. an opening mingle time for the Tweetup participants to talk and get to know each other, followed by the crew presentation during which the astronauts introduce themselves, show a video from their mission and explain what they did while in space. Then the Tweetup participants can ask questions of the astronauts. After about an hour, the presentation and Q&A portion ends and Tweetup participants can talk with the astronauts and each other. TweetUps do not have to follow this format, but it works well with the astronaut crews.

Do other NASA centers/programs host TweetUps?

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory hosted the first NASA Tweetup, and we are planning others around the agency.

Is the public invited (i.e. how can my readers “score” invitations)?

Yes. Anyone 18 or older with a valid government-issued photo ID can register for the Tweetup when registration opens (at a set date and time that is advertised in advance). Registration is at http://www.nasa.gov/tweetup. Registrants must show a photo ID that matches the name on the registration upon arrival. We’ve had Tweetup participants come from Spain, California, Arizona, Canada, etc. For this Tweetup, we know of at least one attendee coming from Venezuela.

Will NASA hold a TweetUp in space? Can I come?

We’ve had two tweeting astronauts in space simultaneously. During the STS-128 mission @Astro_Jose tweeted from the space shuttle crew and @astro_tim tweeted from the space station crew.

What tools do you use to manage Twitter?

No one tool is universally used. Each tweeting employee can use the tools that work best for them.

What other Social Media tools/platforms/services does NASA use (have to ask)?

Facebook, YouTube, UStream, mySpace, Flickr. You can find links to these pages here.

Are there any Facebook Fan pages for the various astronauts and missions?

Yes; it’s a mix of profile pages, fan pages and groups. You can see one of the fan pages here.

What is Twitter’s (and Social Media’s) future with NASA?

Social media evolves. What was widely accepted yesterday is forgotten today. We will need to evolve with the social media environment.

Will anyone tweet from the Moon?

It’s certainly possible. However, no country currently is sending people to the moon. The space shuttle travels only to low Earth orbit (about 220 miles in altitude compared to about 240,000 miles to get to the moon).

Can I have a moon rock (maybe just a small one)?

NASA’s Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston allocates about 300 samples from the 842 pound collection each year for scientific research and engineering studies. Today, about 90 active lunar principal investigators worldwide, mainly from the university community, have 4 percent of the collection on loan for their studies. NASA also provides a limited number of lunar rock samples to be used for either short-term or long-term displays at museums, planetariums, expositions, or professional events that are open to the public.

Which NASA employee/astronaut has the most followers?

Astro_Mike had more than 1 million followers as of Sept. 23.

Btw; the folks at NASA are really interested to get your feedback and seeing how far this post spreads, so be sure to leave a Comment, and please Retweet.

Thanks again to Stephanie Schierholz, Michael Curie and the rest of the crew at NASA’s Public Affairs Office (follow them @NASA) for being so helpful during the preparation of this post, and especially the crew of STS-127 (not to mention all of our astronauts) who risk their lives so that we can not only learn more about the Universe, but our home as well.

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Comments

  • October 8, 2009
    Jan DuRaine
    @rockteacherjan

    Hi Neal,
    As always a great article. Thanks for all the useful information. I didn’t realize there were 2
    commander Kellys. Are they twins?
    Jan :)

  • October 8, 2009

    It’s so good to see NASA making such great use of social media! I always loved space as a kid, but let that passion slide for 15 years. Then, when the Phoenix was powering down, I began following the accounts on Twitter, and that old passion for space came back with a vengeance! The highlight of 2009 for me was being at the first Tweetup at JPL–mindblowing!

    All of that to say: NASA is amazing, keep doing what you’re doing!

  • October 8, 2009

    NASA twitters are awesome.

  • October 8, 2009
    Sonia Ro
    @sosonia

    I love that NASA is tweeting. I started following @Astr0_Mike and now I’m hooked. It’s a great way to connect what you are doing to the population at large. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • October 8, 2009
    Carri Walters
    @carriwrites

    Thanks for the info. I love hearing directly from the astronauts and many other people about what they are working on at NASA. It is such a relief to have access to “stuff” I am interested in without having to rely on the news media to decide if it is fashionable enough to make it through their filters.

  • October 8, 2009
    Ollopa

    Hi Neal, I have just one issue with your blog, which is now RT by @NASA: It does not give credit to @MarsPhoenix and the robot’s human cypher, Veronica McGregor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. @MarsPhoenix was way ahead of the rest of NASA, tweeting from the surface of Mars before most people at HQ had even heard of Twitter! @MarsPhoenix has been covered in eight feet of carbon-dioxide snow, but they will try to make contact again with the Spring thaw (maybe this month). It’s a long shot, but it would be great to hear one last tweet from a Twitter pioneer. BTW, my favourite astro-tweeter isn’t a NASA astronaut, it’s @CFuglesang of the European Space Agency.

  • October 8, 2009
    Paul Blaauw
    @pblaauw

    #26 Who tweets on behalf of NASA’s projects? LCROSS for example tweets in first-person, but of course, a machine can’t actually ‘tweet’. Who’s really tweeting?

  • October 8, 2009

    Like Joi, above, I was passionate about space travel as a kid. As I got older, I lost track of all the launches and other interests took over. It was a pleasant surprise then, to find that NASA and some of the astronauts were on twitter. Deciding to follow was spontaneous and the tweets, pictures from space and the live launches quickly enticed me back into feeling the excitement and interest I thought I had lost. The incredible moment came when the STS-127 Tweetup was announced. I registered and made the trip to DC to meet the courageous and fascinating men and women who are our astronauts.

    I think NASA has made a brilliant move in joining Twitter and allowing the public such seemingly direct access to it’s programs. I thank you for helping to reignite my passion for space travel and for making it possible for me to meet in person the real life heroes of today and the future.

  • October 9, 2009

    Ollopa, Although I was writing about human spaceflight, I believe you are correct that @MarsPhoenix (via Veronica McGregor) was the first at NASA to tweet. Thanks for the clarification and thoughtful comment.

  • October 9, 2009
    Red Eyes
    @Red_Eyes

    The first “tweet from space” wasn’t from space. This is not another conspirasy theory! The article itself (above) says so. The data was transmitted to Earth by e-mail and then tweeted by Mission Control. Let’s see a real Tweet which says “from space” at the bottom. Surely the guys at NASA could make that happen. It isn’t rocket science.

  • October 9, 2009

    True, the tweet wasn’t actually transmitted to Twitter directly from space. I asked about that and the reality is that there is no actual connection between ISS and the internet. All available bandwidth is committed to monitoring the ISS’s systems and experiments. So, the Tweet’s message was sent to mission control, then posted on Twitter. This fact does not change the spirit of the event.

  • October 11, 2009
    Glenn Houtary

    thanks for
    the open, honest and informative overview of twitter and NASA, I am always curious to know what is going on at NASA, i have held curiosity since as a
    grade schooler… long ago; NASA captured my imagination with an astronaut school visit explaining the new space shuttle. Keep it up! I’ll be following the progress

  • November 18, 2009

    Neal, it was a pleasure meeting you and all the other space fans and space advocates at the STS-129 NASA Tweetup. Thank YOU for all YOU do to promote our space program, science education and collaboration & connection thru Twitter and other tools. And I think if memory serves you were the one that made sure we gave due thanks to NASA folks who made the tweetup possible. For that, alone, you earn my mega kudos. Thanks again!

  • April 11, 2010

    Seems like Twitter is going to be the biggest thing around very soon – not too many organizations out there that DONT use there service.

  • September 19, 2010

    I want to work for @NASA TWEETTEAM……PLEASE READ OVER my TWEETS. I would love to start this job @ the first of the NEW YEAR…..because I AM TOO BUSY RIGHT NOW………Let my Tweets and my behavior over the next several months……be a tool ur welcomed to utilze to VETT me……THANKS

    MOX HOOD

    maryjanezane.blogspot.com

    AMAZING INFO AND ARTICLE THIS WOULD BE MY DREAM JOB!!!!!!!!

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