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Tweeting from space for the digital public

Three space agencies, DLR, ESA and NASA, as well as their astronauts tweet, blog and post messages on a wide array of social media channels; often, they or respectively their astronauts even do so from space. Why do they do this, and how does it work? Here is what astronauts and social media experts at DLR, ESA and NASA have to say on this subject.

On 22 January 2010, NASA astronaut TJ Creamer (@Astro_TJ) sent the first live tweet from space – or, more precisely, from the International Space Station. Following this, many astronauts have posted countless tweets, photos and blog entries. For example, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli (@Astro_Paolo), tweeted and flickered tens of thousands of stunning images during his recent mission, almost in real-time. At present, the Sspace station Station is manned by Russian cosmonauts, US astronauts and the Dutchman André Kuipers (@Astro_Andre), whose blog posts and tweets have been generating social media fever especially in his home country.

The space agencies use social media with one primary objective – digital public relations. They no longer wait for interested members of the public to find their way to their web portals – instead, they directly connect with those people, at any time and wherever they are. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, YouTube and many more platforms are used to report, almost instantaneously, about what is happening in space or on Earth with the readers’ tax contributions. Public relations work could hardly be more transparent; this is the view of those responsible for the space agencies’ communications departments, who will also sit on the panel. So, the feedback channel is always open.