NASA is considering selling the naming rights of its missiles and spacecraft to private companies and making astronauts appear in advertisements.
The Trump administration has been heavily involved in NASA's programs, including the shutdown of the Space Agency's Carbon Monitoring System in May and the proposal to transfer the International Space Station to private companies. The sale of naming rights to NASA rockets could now be added to the list, although it remains unclear whether the idea is gaining ground.
NASA is thinking of selling Rocket naming rights
NASA administrator Jim Briddenstine has commissioned the agency to look into improving their brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft, and enabling astronauts to appear like celebrity athletes on commercials and cereal boxes.
At a recent NASA advisory meeting with outside experts advising the space agency, Bridenstine revealed that he is setting up a committee to investigate the question of masking NASA rockets with sponsor logos, similar to NASCAR vehicles and sports.
"Is it possible for NASA to offset part of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft or naming rights to its missiles?" said Bridenstine. The question is, is it possible, the answer is, I do not know, but we want someone to advise us if that is the case. "
Bridenstine added that he wanted to make NASA astronauts more open to journalists and participate in marketing initiatives to strengthen their own brands and those of the space agency.
"I would like to see kids growing up, rather than being like a professional sports star, I'd like to see them grow up if they want to be NASA astronauts or NASA scientists," he said.
Here's why Branded NASA Rockets is a bad idea
The proposals are part of a wider effort to increase private sector involvement in NASA missions. However, the initiatives have several limitations that they consider a bad idea.
First and foremost, NASA has long maintained the principle of not promoting commercial products or services. To change this requires new laws of Congress or amendments to the Charter of the Space Agency.
In addition, advertising on NASA missiles does not matter in the long term. This is because NASA projects typically require a budget of several hundred million to several billion dollars, so selling name rights is likely to offset only a fraction of the cost of transporting rockets and astronauts into space.
After all, the masses see space as "the last frontier", untouched by corporate interests. When brands and logos enter space, the negative response of NASA fans can be immense.