A new partnership with Foursquare, tweets from Space Shuttle Discovery and a tweetup to celebrate the shuttle's scheduled launch next week are all ways in which the space agency is fostering engagement with the public about the space program.
Because of the nature of its work and the public's interest in it, NASA more than any other federal agency has leveraged social media to engage with the public. An online catalog of NASA social-networking activity and a Flickr page celebrating its history are just two of the new ways the agency has begun interacting with the public in the last several months.
Last week, a partnership with Foursquare allowed NASA astronaut and International Space Station Commander Doug Wheelock to "check in" from space.
Foursquare is a mobile networking application that lets people note their locations at various business establishments or landmarks by "checking in" virtually. It also connects to Facebook and other social-networking sites.
Foursquare now features a NASA-customized web page. On it, the agency provides official tips and information about the nation's space program in its U.S. locations. Foursquare users who check into a NASA-related venue also will get information about that location.
In other social-media activities, NASA plans to mark the final voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery with a tweetup on Nov. 9 at the Johnson Space Center. The space shuttle is scheduled for launch Nov. 1 for an 11-day trip to deliver components to the International Space Station.
The tweetup is open to 50 NASA Twitter followers, who will get a tour of the center and view various space-center facilities, such as mission control and astronaut-training facilities. They also will get a chance to speak to managers, flight directors, trainers and astronauts.
Registration for the tweetup opened on Oct. 26 and will close at 10 a.m. on Oct. 28. NASA will select participants randomly from those who register.
One of Discovery's astronauts also will use Twitter to keep people informed about the mission, which is scheduled to embark for the International Space Station on Nov. 1. Astronaut Nicole Stott, one of the crew on the mission, will be posting tweets from space on her Twitter page.
In another Twitter-focused event around the final launch of Discovery, NASA has invited 150 Twitter followers to a two-day event on Sunday and Monday to attend the actual launch event to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
People can find information about the different ways they can connect with NASA via social media on