Tag Archives: What’s Happening

Preparing for STS-135

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Homepage Screenshot

As we prepare for the final space shuttle mission, NASA.gov is planning special coverage for the end of this era. Today, the first element of our special coverage rolls out onto the homepage in the form of a promotional graphic and link to get the latest information about the STS-135 mission and the end of the Space Shuttle Era. Keep checking back as we rollout additional new features and special coverage in the coming days and weeks ahead.

P.S. – Have you read some of the wonderful stories in the Space Shuttle Era section detailing every part of over 30 years of the Space Shuttle Program? If not, you really should. It’ll give you a great many perspectives on the entire monumental program.

World IPv6 Day

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On June 8, NASA joins organizations from across the globe to test out the next generation of the Internet, called Internet Protocol version six or IPv6. As more devices and people come online, the older Internet Protocol version four (IPv4) addresses — those sets of numbers that uniquely identify every device on the Internet — are rapidly running out, making a new series of addresses and protocols necessary. That’s where IPv6 comes in since it uses longer strings of numbers and letters to create new addresses.

Upgrading to IPv6 means we can have far more addresses for the continued growth of the Internet. Nearly 20 years ago, a similar upgrade happened to the telephone system in North America when ten-digit dialing became the norm, which greatly expanded the availability of telephone numbers. This Internet upgrade also presents challenges as entire networks from industry, government and universities must be overhauled to simultaneously support both IPv4 and IPv6 — hence the need for a test day.

Other organizations such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo will be among those participating in World IPv6 Day on June 8 for a 24-hour ‘test flight’ of the new IPv6 running from midnight UTC to midnight UTC a day later. The organizations participating in World IPv6 Day hope that the test will provide the motivation for Internet service providers, hardware makers, operating system vendors and other Web companies to prepare their services for IPv6 and to ensure a successful transition as the old IPv4 addresses run out.

During World IPv6 Day, the following NASA websites will be reachable via IPv6 for 24 hours:

Let us know if you are testing out the IPv6 sites! For more information on World IPv6 Day, please see www.worldipv6day.org.

Rolling Out New Buttons and Improved Streams

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Screengrab of the new buttonsNotice something different on the homepage? In a subtle switch, late yesterday we changed three of the topical buttons on the right side of the homepage to reflect NASA’s new path and new programs. As we said before, websites are organic creatures — growing, shrinking and constantly changing as the organizations they represent are themselves changing. NASA is moving forward on a new path, investing in the commercial space industry for access to low earth orbit, while developing a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to carry astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit.

As a result, we added Commercial Space and Beyond Earth buttons to the homepage to reflect this transition of direction for the agency. We removed the Moon & Mars buttons as the content previously there was covered under these two new buttons or the existing Solar System button. We also combined NASA History and People into one button since there was often a lot of overlap between those two topical areas. Over the last two blog posts, we asked for feedback about the icon and label for what became the Beyond Earth button. We really appreciate all the feedback we received. It was truly helpful to hone our concepts down to the finished product.

Following up on another blog post from the end of April, we also have some good news to report. After launching NASA TV streaming to Android-based smartphones, we realized we had a compatibility issue with certain versions of the Android system. This produced a scrambled picture for the affected users and was widely reported in the comments. We worked for a few weeks on a fix and soft-launched a fix for the scrambled picture prior to the current Space Shuttle mission.

While this may not solve our stream compatibility issue for every type of Android-based devices, we have been monitoring the blog comments, our hq-webcomments@nasa.gov e-mail account and feedback on NASA’s Twitter and Facebook. We think at this point the major scrambled picture issue has been resolved. We’ll continue to monitor it and troubleshoot compatibility issues as they arise. We hope it’s working significantly better for everyone out there than it was when we first loft-launch Android streaming of NASA TV. Check it out today by visiting http://mobile.nasa.gov on your Android smartphone and selecting the ‘Watch NASA TV Live’ link at the top of the page.

Shifting Trends

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Launch of STS-133 Space Shuttle DiscoveryLast week, we launched our first shuttle mission in nine months and first of the remaining three space shuttle missions. Given the lull in shuttle missions and the ramp-up to the end of the space shuttle era, we weren’t shocked to see an increase in traffic on the website. The places we received traffic, however, were enlightening and reflect growing trends we’re seeing elsewhere. This was our fourth largest online video event to date on NASA.gov with over 284,822 unique streams of NASA TV being watched during launch with an average of 42,189 website users per second.

Demand for mobile coverage of NASA is growing at an incredible pace. Over 30,000 people watched the launch on their iOS devices. During the docking of Discovery to the International Space Station, over 20,000 of you were watching on a mobile device. This is incredible growth given that this time last year, we were not even running a beta test of mobile streaming. While we’re elated that this is extremely popular, we still have work to do. We have seen incredible growth in the number of people viewing the stream to the point that it has tested some of our hardware to their limits and we are now looking to expand the capacity of the mobile streams.

> Watch NASA TV on your iOS Device

We are also working to add Android-compatible streaming of NASA TV. While the iOS stream was fairly straight forward with a standard MP4 encoded stream, Android presents a more complex array of formats and software versions to grapple with. We’re working with our vendors and content hosts to sort this out as soon as possible so that NASA TV will be available to as many of Android users as possible. We hope to have an Android-compatible stream within the coming weeks.

Additionally, NASA TV is broadcasting in HD during this STS-133 Shuttle Mission via UStream. This is a new way to see NASA TV in high definition online. We’re still evaluating this stream given our operational requirements. We hope to continue this after the mission, tweaking it to improve the performance along the way.

> Watch NASA TV in High Definition

As we work towards the successful completion of the Space Shuttle Program, there is more interest in the space shuttle than we’ve seen in a while. Some wonderful writers and program officials throughout the agency have helped to begin a compilation of the entire space shuttle era from every angle. This retrospective will only grow with new content being added all the way until the end of the last mission. It’s worth reading these wonderful stories about the nuts and bolts of the program to really see the program from all perspectives.

> Take an in-depth look at the Space Shuttle Era

NASA's First Android App

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You’ve probably heard all the hype about Tang being invented as a drink for the astronauts. Well, we hate to say this — but that’s not true. But lots of other amazing technologies have been invented by NASA or through NASA-funded research and now we’ve got an App for that.

Screenshot from App showing a Map of Spinoffs  Screenshot from the App showing the timeline

Since our creation in 1958, we’ve sought to solve the many challenges of space, aviation and exploration through innovation, invention and engineering solutions. We’ve met these challenges head-on by the hundreds, if not thousands. And now we’ve created a new way to explore each and every one of NASA’s Spinoffs — or innovations created for our nation’s space program now in use in your everyday lives — called the NASA Spinoff App for Android.

The NASA Spinoff App highlights the direct impact NASA innovations have made on the everyday lives of citizens. Commercialization of NASA technology has contributed to products and services in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, environmental resources and computer technology.

This is NASA’s first Android app and allows you to explore NASA technologies developed in your own backyard. The App contains a feed of NASA’s latest technology news, a searchable database of NASA-derived innovations, a map of spinoff locations, a historical timeline and a database of NASA’s available licensing opportunities to inspire the spinoffs of the future.

Additional Android, iPhone, iPad and other Apps are in the works. We’ll continue to keep our list of Apps fully up to date.  But in the meantime, explore our newest NASA App and learn about how space technologies are impacting life right here on Earth.

NASA.gov: Working to Be the Best

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Webby StatuetteEvery day, hundreds of thousands visit the NASA web site seeking information about the agency, our missions and programs, and we’ve been getting feedback that they’re liking what they’re seeing. Recently NASA.gov received the highest customer-satisfaction rating of any government web site. NASA.gov also was included in a map of the most far-reaching web sites. And just today we received the statuette representing our third Webby award.

That’s gratifying of course, but what does it mean besides a chance to blow our own horn? Mainly it’s validation that what we do here works for you, the Web public. We take your feedback seriously and rigorously incorporate it into our efforts to improve the site.

To find out what the site’s users think of it, and most importantly if they’re finding what they’re looking for, we get feedback through multiple sources: e-mail to the site, traffic statistics showing what content people are interested in, and a customer-satisfaction survey. We use this information to prototype new features, which we then test with representative users before releasing it. Our goal is to constantly improve our site and make it consistently one of the best on the Internet.

The latest customer-satisfaction data says we’re headed in the right direction. Starting in 2001, we had a rating of 73. More recently we have rated a 79 in 2007, 80 in 2008, and 82 in 2009 and most recently as high as 84. In plain English, NASA’s web site is closer to industry leading websites like Google.com (an 86 in 2009) or Amazon.com (also an 86) in customer satisfaction ratings than it is to other web sites both inside the federal government (74) and in the private sector (72).

Icons of the Web showing NASA.govWith continual growth in daily visitors to our site, increasingly high ratings of customer satisfaction, and additional recognition of our efforts to communicate effectively online, we are proud to be ranked among the best websites on the Internet. Earlier this year, Google released what it considers the top 1,000 web sites in the world by website traffic and NASA made the list. And, on Aug. 25, NMap released a poster of favicons, or small icons used by your web browser to represent a website, scaled to size based upon Alexa traffic rankings. NASA again made this ranking and was within the top-third of the rankings of the top 3,000 sites online.

This year’s People’s Choice Webby Award in the Government category was our second in a row and third overall. Earning recognition as a Webby winner is a tremendous accomplishment, one we humbly accept. With nearly 10,000 entries from all 50 states and 60 countries around the world, the 14th Annual Webby awards was the largest competition in the award’s history.

With all of these rankings, ratings and awards, we believe that the public is finding NASA.gov to be an authoritative source for the latest science, technology and mission-related news from the agency. We continually strive to improve and serve our site’s visitors in new and innovative ways. Our teams of web editors, multimedia producers and technical specialists meet at least weekly to discuss ways to enhance NASA’s online experience.

With more than 50 staff located across the country and internationally, we are always on call and always posting the latest news from NASA. We are always listening to feedback, planning for the long term, analyzing what it will take to get the word out and rolling out enhancements to the NASA site.

In the next few weeks, look for a new presentation of news stories on the home page, a revamped version of the mobile site and online streaming of NASA TV in HD. And remember your feedback is always welcome.

NASA @The Webby Awards

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NASA was well represented last night at the 14th annual Webby Awards Gala in New York City. Six of us were there, representing the teams behind the three award winning sites: NASA.gov, NASA Home and City 2.0 and Global Climate Change.  It’s not our first time as winners (and we hope it won’t be the last), but is was the first time a real-life moonwalker took the stage to accept the awardWebby Award event photo of Buzz Aldrin and wife Lois.  Few who were there are likely to forget it.

Legendary Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and his wife Lois joined us at the NASA table at the beginning of the night. From the start, it was clear that the stars of the web world were starstruck by Buzz. A steady stream of admirers lined up for handshakes and photos throughout the night.  There were plenty of celebrities on hand for the event, but it was clear that Buzz had an entirely different level of star power.

Near the end of the evening, Buzz was called to the stage to accept for the three NASA groups. Even before he took the stage, the crowd and other awardees cheered him on (with some sometimes colorful language I can’t share here). Once he was announced, the room erupted with a standing ovation and sustained applause that outshone any other moment of the night.  After some playful mugging for the cameras, Buzz gave the traditional 5-word Webby speech: “Humanity. Colonization. Phobos. Monolith. Mars!” (see it on YouTube).

It’s easy sometimes for those of us who work at NASA to start to see it as routine. It is after all, a job for us, with the ups and downs and stresses of any other job. But events like this remind us that what we do is just inherently cool to the outside world. The Apollo 11 landing happened before many of the people in the room were even born, but Buzz still has the power to inspire, because of the simple but awe-inspiring fact: He traveled a quarter million miles from Earth and walked on the surface of the moon. All in an age before the technology behind the Webby Awards even existed. 

It was a great feeling for the whole NASA group. I can only close with my own five word speech: “My government job is cool.”

 

A Day of Firsts

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President Obama in the Preview Television at the EventLast Thursday was a very busy day for those of us here at NASA.gov. It was a day of many firsts, as we worked hard on special coverage of President Obama’s visit to the Kennedy Space Center, where he spoke about the new course for NASA and the future of the U.S. in human spaceflight.

In a first for NASA.gov, we streamed live video coverage of the visit in high definition (HD). Web users increasingly expect to see HD video online, with sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo offering increasingly higher and higher quality video. Thursday was an important test of this capability for the team here and overall, it went really well.

In today’s online world, single-person teams armed with cell phones and social media accounts seem to accomplish this type of work routinely, and technology has made it much simpler. But most people in those situations don’t worry too much about technical risk. If the gear fails, it fails. At NASA.gov, we worry a lot about the risk. Regardless of technical difficulties, people still expect to see what they came to see. We tend to spend most of our time not worrying over how to make something happen, but how to keep things from going south once we’ve got it working.

That takes a lot of geographically dispersed people working closely together. We were getting our HD video from a team on the ground at the Kennedy Space Center who fed it to the encoding team at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Their encoded web stream went to our commercial data centers in Texas and Virginia, then out to the globe via Akamai and Yahoo!. Only then did it get on to your computer.

Additionally, there was the NASA.gov Web and Multimedia Team, plus the NASA TV Master Controllers at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. who helped provide support and coordination of the video streams and coverage. Also involved were our colleagues at the White House’s operations. With coverage on streaming NASA TV, NASA.gov, internal NASA websites, and on White House Live, there was an incredible breadth of locations where viewers could watch this event online, including Yahoo!’s main web page for a while.

In addition to the HD streams, the space conference following the President’s speech was streamed in standard definition. This conference included several sessions, including four simultaneous breakout sessions that were webcast only. With the standard three channels of NASA TV streaming, plus the Space Station views stream, we were broadcasting eight unique feeds of video at one time, another first.

Beyond the streams, we provided a full-spectrum of coverage before, during and after the event. One hour into the event, multiple photos were online, and the arrival video was posted. We continued this level of coverage throughout the remainder of the conference and well into the evening as more and more materials became available.

Additionally, all of these materials were also posted in multiple locations across cyberspace. This included photos going into photo galleries on NASA.gov and on Flickr from teams of photographers located on the ground in Florida. It also included videos being posted to the NASA.gov video collections, the NASA.gov HD page and also on YouTube. We also posted MP3 soundbites on the NASA Audiofile page, and supporting documents across the NASA.gov site.

In all, this was a busy, but exciting day for us here on the NASA.gov team as we provided this special coverage of the event. Hopefully, some of these technologies will be used again in the future and eventually, become standard fare for our online offerings. Let us know what you thought of it all. Did you like our coverage? Did something not work right for you? Please let us know. We’re always listening.

2009: An Online Year of Milestones

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As our turkey comas wear off from Thanksgiving and the chilled air of December settles in, a New Year looms around the corner. 2009 held many large events for NASA.gov. Almost 392,000 people watched the LCROSS impact video live on NASA.gov with 5.4 million visitors simultaneously looking at the NASA.gov Web site, the second-largest online event in our history. We also set a new bandwidth record during the LCROSS impact with data transfers of over 75.5 gigabits per second spread among live video and the Web site. All-told during the LCROSS impact event, we moved a total amount of data equal to over 85 terabytes or about the equivalent of 127,327 CD’s.

Graph Comparison of Major NASA Events

Astro_Mike's First Tweet from SpaceNASA.gov also set milestones with the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission during STS-125. In addition to all the normal online activities that any shuttle mission usually garners, astronaut Mike Massimino captivated space enthusiasts around the world via Twitter by sending the first tweet from space. His Earth-shattering tweets also managed to amass @Astro_Mike over a million followers on Twitter, rivaling the likes of Ashton Kutcher. Additionally, the launch of STS-125 also resulted in our fourth-largest online event in NASA.gov history.

Tweetup ParticipantsNASA delved deeper into our enthusiastic group of followers on Twitter by hosting ‘Tweetups‘ where Twitter users learn about our programs and speak with astronauts. Thus far, Tweetups have been held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Demand for attending the Tweetup to learn about STS-129 and view the launch of the Space Shuttle from Florida culminated with the filling of our 100 registration slots, plus all the spaces on our wait-list, in less than twenty minutes.

Operation Ice Bridge WebisodesOther ground was broken in NASA’s online communications with this fall’s Operation Ice Bridge campaign, which featured an unprecedented level of near-real time coverage across cyberspace with tweets on Twitter, Webisodes on YouTube, photos on Flickr, and a blog on NASA Blogs. This precedent-setting social media coverage exceeded all expectations and is something that we hope to repeat in the years ahead.

Another large online event for NASA.gov was the launch of the Ares I-X Development Test flight. While lasting just a few minutes, the intrigue of the new rocket and it’s successful test launch showed sustained interest in the days leading up to the launch, even after the first launch attempt was scrubbed.

Now that we’ve talked about some of our online highlights from 2009, what other NASA events interested you from throughout the year?

Tweet,two,one … Liftoff!

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Group photo ofThere was something different this time.  From the veteran reporters and public affairs officers at the NASA News Center to mission managers in the firing room, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center was buzzing about the fresh burst of enthusiasm as the clock ticked toward liftoff of Atlantis on STS-129.

In the shadow of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building and just a quick stroll from the famous countdown clock sat a white tent filled with 100 NASA Twitter followers from 21 states, the District of Columbia as well as Canada, England, Morocco and New Zealand.

They came to Florida from all over for a two-day Tweetup (an informal meet-up of people using the social media tool Twitter), including a tour of the center and a chance to talk to the people that help send the shuttle to space. They got an up close look at shuttle hardware and face-to-face time with astronauts and reporters. Some were pleasantly surprised to become part of the story themselves, as members of the news media came looking for interviews.

But for many, it was simply about the joy of being there. One was overheard telling a reporter, “NASA could’ve bused us out to a big field and let us watch the launch and we would’ve been thrilled, but they did so much more.” Twitter user Karim Jazouani from Casablanca, Morocco, uses his laptop

So what’s all the fuss about? Think of Twitter as an ongoing conversation with a few thousand of your closest friends. There may have been only 100 “tweeps” in that tent, but many more were following the conversation using the #nasatweetup hashtag (988 according to one metrics site). The people who attended have more than 150,000 followers among them. And many media outlets reported on the event, spreading the excitement even further.

It’s not just “how many?” but “who?” Some web users, no matter how much they’re interested in space, aren’t coming directly to NASA.gov for their news.  There’s a whole generation of web users who get their news and share their interests on social media sites. Engaging with them on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and other sites is bringing the story of NASA to new audiences that may not otherwise connect with us.

Tweeters who came to NASA Headquarters in October got to talk live to the International Space Station, and others have talked with shuttle crews and scientists exploring Mars and Saturn. About a dozen NASA Astronauts are tweeting already, sometimes from orbit. One — Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) — has more than a million followers. You can find NASA Twitter accounts and other social media efforts on the NASA Connect page.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

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