Apollo, Voyager, Hubble … The Dorito? — NASA’s ‘On Spacecraft’ Advertising Crashing on the Launch Pad

 

Recently, Budweiser announced its plans to be “the first beer on Mars,” as part of a plan to study barley in the weightless environment of the International Space Station. how its ingredients react in microgravity environments so that when we get to Mars, Budweiser will be there,” it said in a press release.

But ET’s may be too smart to buy the hustle. As Marina Koren asks in today’s Atlantic: Apollo, Voyager, Hubble … The Dorito? The constant creep of corporate America into all aspects of everyday life — from the Allstate Sugar Bowl to Minute Maid Park — may soon conquer a new frontier, continues Christian Davenport in the Washington Post.

Former republican congressman and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the space agency to look at boosting its brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft and allowing its astronauts to appear in commercials and on cereal boxes, as if they were celebrity athletes.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft?” Bridenstine asked during to a meeting of a council that advises NASA. “Or the naming rights to its rockets? I’m telling you, there is interest in that right now.”

Don’t expect to see astronauts in Coca-Cola commercials any time soon, or NASA’s Mars rover rebranded as Curiosity, brought to you by Aflac, reports the New York Times. But Mr. Bridenstine has asked a committee of the NASA Advisory Council to explore whether it might be done, despite regulations or laws that seem to prohibit such activities. He also raised the possibility of allowing NASA astronauts to sign endorsement deals.

“The question is: is it possible?” Mr. Bridenstine said in remarks that were broadcast on NASA TV and have been debated in press accounts since then. “And the answer is, I don’t know.”

While officials stress that nothing has been decided, reports the New York Times, the idea could mark a giant cultural leap for the taxpayer-funded government agency and could run into ethics regulations that prevent government officials from using public office for private gain. Astronauts may be the most venerated employees in the federal government, but they are still civil servants bound by regulations.

NASA has steadfastly stayed away from endorsing any particular product or company — even going so far as to call the M&Ms astronauts gobble in space “candy-coated chocolates” out of fear of appearing to favor one brand of candy.

But during a recent meeting of a NASA advisory council made up of outside experts who provide guidance to the agency, Bridenstine announced he was setting up a committee to examine what he called the “provocative questions” of turning its rockets into corporate billboards the way advertisements decorate NASCAR race cars.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”

“I’d like to see kids growing up, instead of maybe wanting to be like a professional sports star, I’d like to see them grow up wanting to be a NASA astronaut, or a NASA scientist,” he said. “I’d like to see, maybe one day, NASA astronauts on the cover of a cereal box, embedded into the American culture.”

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The image above shows a he United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to the Sun at Cape Canaveral, Florida, August 12. (NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via Reuters)

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