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Public Opinion About Space Exploration - Ntv

nasa program radio people

NASA operates its own television network called NASA TV or NTV. NTV broadcasts via satellite and cable and is streamed over the Internet. It features live coverage of NASA activities and missions, video of events for the news media, and educational programming for teachers and students.

The show NASA Education Hour plays at 8:00 AM EST every weekday morning and is rebroadcast at regular intervals throughout the day and night. Hour-long coverage of the ISS mission is presented live at 11:00 AM EST daily.

Ham Radio

Ham radios vary in signal strength and capability. The strongest stations can reach operators on the other side of the world by bouncing signals off the upper atmosphere or using satellites.

In November 1983 astronaut Owen Garriott (1930–) carried a small ham radio with him aboard the space shuttle Columbia (STS-9). During his spare time he used the radio to contact fellow ham operators around the world. This was the first of more than twenty-four shuttle missions that carried ham radio equipment so astronauts could communicate with their families and other ham operators worldwide and perform interviews for school children. The program was called the Space Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX). The Soviet space agency operated a similar ham radio program for cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station.

In September 2000 the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-106) carried a ham radio to the International Space Station (ISS) for use by Expedition crews. The SAREX program was given the new name of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). Under the ARISS program ISS crewmembers can communicate with ham radio operators all over the world.

Educational Programs

NASA's strategic plan says that one of the agency's primary goals is to "inspire the next generation of explorers." In order to accomplish this goal NASA operates an extensive student education program designed to encourage young people to pursue studies in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering and careers in aeronautics and space science. The program's proposed budget for 2006 was $190 million. NASA prides itself on its educational programs and the partnerships it establishes with schools, museums, libraries, and science centers around the nation to reach as many young people as possible.


The NASA Explorer School program was started in 2003 for educators teaching grades four through nine. Each year NASA selects fifty schools for the program and enters into a three-year partnership agreement with them. The schools are eligible for grants and summer training courses for science and mathematics teachers. The courses are provided at NASA centers around the country and present new teaching resources and tools to better educate students. According to a May 2005 press release, 87% of all NASA Explorer Schools are located in high-poverty areas and 76% are in predominantly minority communities ("NASA Selects Florida and Puerto Rico Schools for Explorer Program," May 25, 2005,


Teacher Resource Centers (TRCs) are offices maintained at NASA facilities around the country. TRCs serve as libraries that loan educational materials including lesson plans, audio and video tapes, slides, and miscellaneous print publications to teachers.


One of the most innovative ways that students can interact with astronauts in orbit is via ARISS, which is sponsored by NASA in conjunction with the American Radio Relay League and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation. Volunteers set up ham radio stations at schools so that students can interview ISS crewmembers.


In 2004 NASA announced a new partnership with Pearson Scott Foresman (PSF), a leading publisher of educational products for elementary schools. PSF will draw upon publications in the NASA archives to create new science textbooks and other learning materials for the classroom. According to NASA, the goal of the program is to "spark student imagination, encourage interest in space exploration, and enhance elementary science curricula."

Art Program

In 1962 NASA administrator James Webb established the NASA Art Program to encourage and collect works of art about aeronautics and space. As of 2005 the NASA art collection includes more than 800 works of art in a variety of media including paintings, drawings, poems, and songs. NASA has donated more than 2,000 of its art works (including a number by Norman Rock-well) to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Other famous artists that have participated in the program include Annie Leibovitz, William Wegman, Andy Warhol, and Jamie Wyeth.

More than 200 artists have provided art works to the program. Many of the pieces are displayed at art galleries and museums around the country. NASA centers, particularly the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, also display the art works in their visitor areas.


Astronauts have always been NASA's greatest public relations agents. The early astronauts became instant heroes during the 1950s and 1960s. They were flooded with fan mail and held up by the media as sterling role models of what was great and daring about America. After the first Moon landing in 1969 public interest in the space program began to fade. The astronauts of later decades were still admired and respected, but not treated to the same level of hero worship as their predecessors.

During the early 1980s NASA decided to include a new type of astronaut on space shuttle flights to catch the public's attention. The agency began the Educator-in-Space program. NASA hoped that sending a teacher into space would excite the nation's schoolchildren and foster goodwill toward the space program. Teacher Christa McAuliffe (1948–86) was selected and trained for a mission aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Sadly, she was killed with the other crew members in 1986 when the shuttle exploded soon after liftoff.

NASA's public relations experiment turned into a nightmare. The catastrophe brought harsh criticism of the agency. The shuttle program was found to have serious management and safety problems. The loss seemed even more poignant to the public because a teacher, an everyday kind of person, had been one of the victims. NASA decided that space shuttle travel was not routine enough to risk the lives of private citizens as good-will ambassadors.

In 1998 NASA relented somewhat and allowed former Mercury astronaut John Glenn to ride aboard the space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-92. At the time Glenn was a seventy-seven-year-old senator from Ohio. NASA said the mission would reveal new knowledge about the effects of weightlessness and bone loss in older people. Critics complained that it was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Whatever the motivation, the event did greatly improve NASA's image. The public was entranced by the idea of an old hero traveling back into space.

Tourist Attractions

Many NASA facilities have become popular tourist attractions. This is particularly true for centers associated with the Apollo and space shuttle programs. Most NASA facilities operate their own visitor centers for which admission is free. Johnson Space Center (Houston, Texas), Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, Florida), and Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, Alabama) have privately operated tourist centers that charge a fee for admittance.

Contests and Gimmicks

One relatively new way that NASA engages the public in space travel is by holding spacecraft-naming contests. During the 1990s NASA held contests that chose the names for the Mars Pathfinder mission's Sojourner rover and the Magellan spacecraft.

In 1998 the agency asked people to suggest names for an x-ray telescope to be launched as part of the Great Observatories Program. Each entry had to be supported by a short essay justifying why the name was appropriate. More than 6,000 people entered the contest, representing every state in the country and sixty-one other nations. Two winning essays were selected. Both suggested the name Chandra, in honor of late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910–95). The winners were a high-school student from Laclede, Idaho, and a high-school teacher from Camarillo, California.

During 2001 a similar contest was held to name an infrared telescope intended for the Great Observatories Program. More than 7,000 entries were received from people around the world. NASA chose the name Spitzer in honor of the late American physicist Dr. Lyman Spitzer (1914–97). The winning essay came from a Canadian astronomy enthusiast.

In 2002 NASA held a contest for children to name the planned Mars Rover craft. The contest was held in partnership with the Planetary Society and the Lego Company. A nine-year-old girl from Scottsdale, Arizona, wrote the winning essay, which suggested the names Spirit and Opportunity. Hers was one of nearly 10,000 entries in the contest.

Another public relations device used by NASA is to ask people to submit their names for inclusion on CDs or DVDs carried by spacecraft. Numerous NASA missions conducted since the 1990s have included electronic disks carrying the names of millions of people. In 1999 the Mars Polar Lander carried a CD containing the names of one million schoolchildren from around the world. Unfortunately, the spacecraft was lost before it landed on Mars.

The highly successful Mars Explorer rovers Spirit and Opportunity carried mini-DVDs including the names of more than 3.5 million people. In 2003 and early 2004 hundreds of thousands of people registered their names for inclusion on a CD that would travel aboard the Deep Impact spacecraft to comet Tempel 1.

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