The thing that blew my mind today was a session I went to on how NASA uses social media in space. An awesome topic that gave me a totally different perspective on things: basically the whole point of being in Austin during March.

I’ll start with all the ‘on-topic’ information that justifies me writing this for an ad agency, and then share more really interesting facts and stats shared with us by a legit Astronaut, Reid Wiseman.

NASA has 490 social accounts. A mind-bending amount of profiles to manage by our standards. But they need this many for all the projects and missions they run. Imagine managing and moderating all that content? I can hear our Vyv whining as I type.

Over the last few years NASA has been using social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine mainly) with a huge degree of success. The main purpose was to make people care more about space. This is especially important as government funding drops and people aren’t as interested in space exploration as they were a few decades ago. Where social has really helped is giving people real time access to what is going on 10km above the earth.

The missions are mostly about science – what kind of science is beyond me – so social allows the general public to better understand what’s happening during these missions and what the team is trying to achieve. Social really helps to drive engagement between important trips in to space and maintain the interest in the space program for NASA. However it’s always the view of outside that captures the most attention from people.

Ried Wiseman was an Astronaut who used social to a great degree while he spent 6 months at the International Space Station (ISS). His images, tweets, updates and vines were incredible and it gave the people back on earth a real view of what he was experiencing. He pretty much had a Go-Pro on him from the moment they blasted off from earth capturing his reaction to accelerating from 0 to 17000mph (that’s miles per hour) in a matter of seconds. His total trip in to orbit was recorded and took just over 9 minutes. Which leads me to the off-topic facts and stats that I found really interesting and mind blowing…

Wiseman was an ex-Navy pilot with over 15 years experience flying fighter jets. He then spent 5 years training for his 6 months in space. His first feelings when entering the ISS was that he felt so full in the stomach. Over the next few days nothing in his body worked. Everything he learnt and had meticulously prepared for was forgotten when gravity was removed from the experience. By Day 4 everything had adjusted nicely.

The space station that he would call home for half a year was roughly the size of a football field, but that’s not the living space, just the total surface area of the structure which was mostly made up of solar panels that power everything. It’s been built by a collective group of countries – Russia, Europe, Japan and the US. It’s orbiting the earth at 18,000mph (that’s miles again so virtually 27,000 kph). They would circumnavigate the earth about 19 times a day. Wiseman managed to record a huge amount of content from the station and uploaded it straight to social. It would help being so close to satellites I guess. No one competing for WiFi. I’d highly recommend liking NASA on Instagram, the images and videos are incredible.

In all it was a really engaging session that demonstrated, at the very least, that social media is being used in amazing inspiring ways. And the measures of success for NASA are the same as any one person, brand, business, team etc. Keep people engaged and involved in a topic with great content. I personally think that NASA has it easy. Who doesn’t want to see stunning images of the planet in all it’s glory, solar flares, black holes, and video of the effects zero gravity has on water.