Not your daddy’s NASA.

This video is clearly dated but it’s clever.  NASA SHOULD have produced this but they didn’t (the U.S. Space Foundation did). However, NASA’s moving in the right direction to become more connected with the people who fund the agency (us). Here’s Bart with a report on how NASA is keeping up with the times.

NASA is arguably the most popular and well-known agency in the U.S. federal government today. Studies by Dittmar Associates more or less confirm that the more the public knows about what the nation’s space agency does, the higher their opinion of it. However, one of the complaints I often hear is that “NASA doesn’t do enough to get out their message.”

While the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act, is looser than many federal agencies’ charters generally preventing them from marketing themselves, NASA itself restricts itself to education and outreach. That is, they will inform the public about what they’re doing through conventional channels and through educational institutions, but they will not take actions or positions that might be unwelcome by the President, who sets policy, or the Congress, which pays the bills (well, with our money).

All this said, NASA continues to do some very cool things in the field of outreach, and they are getting better at using the internet as a communication tool. More importantly, the agency is finding ways to get the public involved what it is doing. Take, for example, the “My Exploration” site launched (so to speak) by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

This site includes new video updates on NASA’s current exploration efforts, video and still-image galleries, a feature section about the upcoming (October 27) Ares I-X flight test, information about past and future space launches, a “space IQ” quiz, and—a big favorite of Darlene—a place for private citizens to post their own comments about space exploration via video.  Here, in 60 seconds or less, use can use video to explain why you think Space Exploration is important. Your video will be included on NASA’s next launch!

The My Exploration site is not the only way NASA is trying to get the word out. NASA.gov is a very important high-volume portal and outreach tool, as when it provided live video and streaming interviews for the Ares Projects’ recent Development Motor 1 (DM-1) test. The agency site is organized, like the agency itself, along two tracks: NASA centers and individual missions, like the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which is due to impact the Moon October 9. And for those who can’t pry themselves away from the computer, NASA TV is also online.

The agency is also expanding its reach into more recent social media sites, like YouTube and Facebook, with individual missions and vehicles like the Mars Exploration Rovers having their own pages and Twitter feeds. Another educational tool NASA has opened up to students is a “Do It Yourself Podcast” page, which provides raw video and audio clips that students can use to create their own “news.” The Walt Disney Company got one of their Buzz Lightyear action figures aboard the International Space Station in an effort to get kids interested in space.

In a 500-channel and multi-gadget media environment, it takes more effort than ever before to “get the word out,” but the agency is getting its stories out there through multiple outlets. Multiple tools are necessary, and will become even more so, as NASA strives to reach the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers.

Plus, they’re just plain cool.