What Is NASA For? Space Enthusiasts Fight For Agency’s Reputation On Twitter

by Elizabeth Howell on February 12, 2014

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

The International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station. Credit: NASA

A week ago today, Slate published an article asking “What Is NASA for?” After the author opened the article comparing the United States’ space agency to a panda, he described a sort of loss of direction that fell upon NASA after the moon landings concluded in 1972. He then cited a litany of concerns he has about the agency, including human spaceflight scientific results not appearing in top journals, and the cost of the International Space Station.

Then Twitter space fans responded with a flurry of tweets under the hashtag #WhatIsNASAFor (3,994 tweets and retweets¬†according to this graph cited by NASA Watch). Participants included NASA officials, journalists,¬†industry and people who follow NASA and space exploration as a hobby. Several people also wrote essays in longer form (such as Deep Space Industries’ Rick Tumlinson, who argued the agency is in the middle of a paradigm shift). Below, we’ve collected some of the most interesting responses from Twitter.

Predicting climate change

Virginia’s Angela Gibson, who says in her profile that she has attended NASA Socials in the past, points to NASA’s ability to do scientific work to better understand climate change. She pointed to this animation of 2013′s warming trend as an example.

angela_gibson

Scientific inquiry and the human spirit

As always, Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait writes an eloquent essay talking about the benefits of NASA, which range from real-time observations of the Earth’s immediate environment to the longer-term goals of promoting scientific research.

badastronomer

NASA Socials

Frequent NASA Social attendee Charissa S. talks about the first NASA launch tweetup, STS-129, as a part of why NASA means so much to her. (Full disclosure: this article’s author also attended the tweetup as a reporter.)

charissa

International collaboration

We at Universe Today frequently write about the stunning images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). The HiRISE social media feeds are, thanks to volunteer effort, available in many languages, something they highlighted in a tweet.

hirise

Then there’s also the technical potential of nations working together, as feed OH, Star Stuff points out.

ohstarstuff

Career potential

NASA spokesperson Trent Perrotto talked about a long-ago trip to NASA Johnson that made him see the possibilities of working in space.

trent_perroto

And speaking of human potential, the Challenger Center’s Libby Norcross has perhaps the best retort ever by way of Tsiolkovsky.

libby_doodle

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Jeffrey Boerst February 13, 2014 at 3:39 AM

Trent Perrotto’s made me misty… I too have loved space since childhood.

RUF February 13, 2014 at 3:29 PM

“What is NASA for?”
Hopefully, they are in favor of better grammar.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: