Philip P. Ide

Author, programmer, science enthusiast, half-wit.
Life is sweet. Have you tasted it lately?

User Tools

Site Tools


NASA Receives 2 Emmy Awards

NASA recently won (14th-15th Sept 2019) two Emmy's for interactive content. Aside from the obvious achievements of winning the awards, there is something else going on here that should be recognised and encouraged. Awards, of course, are intended to recognise, encourage and promote excellence, but I'm talking about NASA not only reaching out to the public, but interactively engaging them.

Science and Activity

NASA get up to all sorts of stuff, from launching satellites and preparing to send a crew to Mars, to examining the nature of the interstellar medium using spacecraft that are in-situ. It's not just science, it's engineering, exploration, design, architecture, construction, accounting (seriously important), communications, technology, education and a whole bunch of other stuff.

NASA eats up a lot of money from the public purse, so the public - in one way or another - should benefit from whatever they do. However, some of the stuff NASA gets up to, doesn't do this - it's pure science in the pursuit of knowledge which may or may not have social or commercial benefits. For example, knowing when and for how long the Martian Wet Epoch existed almost certainly won't have any tangible benefit (to the public) beyond education. Was Mars wet all year round, or did it only have liquid water during a part of the Martian year?

The first award:

On Sept. 14, a team from NASA's Kennedy Space Center and SpaceX won in the category of Outstanding Interactive Program for multimedia coverage of Demonstration Mission 1, a test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station - the first human-rated spacecraft to lift off from U.S. soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

The second:

On the second night, Sept. 15, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, won Outstanding Original Interactive Program for the agency's coverage - including news, web, education, television and social media efforts - of its InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission to Mars.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight was an exciting event, not least because it opened a whole new era of human exploration of space. The InSight coverage is an ongoing effort. The weather data on my own Mars Weatherplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Weather Reports

This webpage will soon be converted to be the top level page for Mars Weather Reports. It will contain links to the sub-pages, the clocks, the current location of Mars graphic and other data not spcific to the weather readings. The sub-pages will display the weather data from Insight, Curiosity and Perseverance.
page is based on (and adds further detail to) the InSight Mars Weather page maintained by NASA.

To most people, I imagine the Mars weather reports are a matter of idle curiosity. To me though, they are much more than that. The data records meteorological data, but hidden beneath all that data is the climatic data. Only by collecting meteorological data over an extended period of time can the climatic data be teased out. Meteorological data is relevant to only the place where the data is collected, but climatic data can be extrapolated to much more of the planetary surface. I'm writing a story about Mars, and I'm using the data to do real science in order to achieve a level of realism (or at least get my facts right) that I otherwise would find difficult.

Engaging The Public

By engaging the public, NASA are of course doing themselves a favour. It helps get funding if the public are excited about what they're up to. It also encourages the public, as they rise through the educational system, to choose career paths that may benefit NASA and the space industry in the future. The public are thirsty for knowledge, and feeding those that are interested in NASA's activities is definitely a good thing.

I've been following regular updates on the construction of the Mars 2020 Rover, which in turn has been informing me not only of the scientific instrumentation being carried, but how much they weigh, how big they are, and even how many people it takes to install them. When it arrives at Mars, it has a new landing system designed to pick the best spot possible, which in turn will pave the way for future landings in more difficult terrain. This is a key technology, and I covered it in an article entitled Landing the Mars 2020 Rover Safelyplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigLanding the Mars 2020 Rover Safely

Autonomous landings are always fraught with danger. One of the most dangerous terrains any landing might occur on is a boulder field. Not only would the impact of the landing on these hard objects be a threat, but the boulders are likely to be jagged too. Another threat are the steep cliffs of the crater - not falling off them (although that's a possibility), but crashing into them.

What NASA get up to, and how they go about it and the extreme lengths they have to take in order to increase the likelihood of a successful mission, isn't going to excite everyone. For those of us it does though, it does much more than feed our interest. It gives an insight into their world which is just as fascinating as what they do.

The Cost

There is a cost involved with opening up their world. Websites are on servers that cost money, and someone has to post updates at regular and irregular intervals. The same goes for social media - someone has to do it. NASA produce a lot of educational material for schools too. Is it worth it? I'm not an American and I don't live in the USA, so it's not my tax dollars being spent, but I'd say yes. Space is a major concern for all sorts of commercial reasons, and in those terms it's on an exponential curve: it will become even more commercially important as time passes. You can re-read that last sentence replacing 'commercial' with 'political' and it still holds true.

Congratulations to NASA on winning the awards, and I hope it points the way to deeper engagement with the public in the future.

This website uses cookies. By using the website, you agree with storing cookies on your computer. Also you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy. If you do not agree leave the website.More information about cookies


Enter your comment:
blog/articles/general/nasa_emmy_awards.txt · Last modified: 2019/09/23 12:05 by Phil Ide

Except where otherwise noted, content on this wiki is licensed under the following license: Copyright © Phil Ide
Donate Powered by PHP Valid HTML5 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki
  • ISSplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInternational Space Station

    This page has a portal through which you can view the current location of the International Space Station, updating in real-time. The tracker itself comes from the European Space Agency (ESA).

    There is also a handy link to get email notifications direct from NASA when the ISS is visible in your night sky.
  • Mars Weatherplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Weather

    Weather Reports Insight Lander Perseverance Rover Curiosity data to come [Current positions of Earth and Mars] Image courtesy of and © Dominic Ford

    This image is updated once per week. A daily update is available on the Mars Solar Conjunctions page when such events are active.

    You can check the position of Mars vs the Sun and Earth for any date here:
  • Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

    Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

    A full description and a list of the features are available
  • Orbital Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator

    I needed to calculate orbital characteristics for any orbit around any gravitational mass (because I write sci-fi stories), so I wrote this program because I'm a programmer and I'm too lazy to do it by hand all the time. The program has expanded over the last few years, sometimes from suggestions by other writers. I make it freely available and as simple to use as possible. It now has a list of functions as long as your arm (assuming you're not a tentacle user), and the numbe…
  • Cookie Policy & GDPRplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCookie Policy & GDPR

    There are NO tracking cookies on this site!

    The Cookie policy is straightforward. This site only uses cookies that are required to make your experience of using this site better, and only uses session cookies (see exceptions below). Session cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
  • Book Reviewsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigBook Reviews

    Here you can find all the book reviews, broken down by genre, and further subdivided by author. If you want me to review your novel, please read my Rules on Reviewing.

    * Science-Fiction * Fantasy * Non-Fiction
  • Contactplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigContact

    If you have a burning desire to contact me, use the discussion form below. Anything you say remains private between you and me.