Billboards In Space: NASA Explores Placing Ads On Rockets

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In the near future, you may conceivably see a spacecraft to Mars featuring a Mars chocolate bar logo plastered across its wings.

NASA recently called for a new committee of the NASA Advisory Council to explore the idea of branding and endorsement opportunities. Despite current regulations and laws seemingly prohibiting such activities, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine recently posed the question, "Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft?" he asked during to a meeting of a council that advises NASA. "Or the naming rights to its rockets? I'm telling you, there is interest in that right now."

As much as news of seeing astronauts in Coca-Cola commercials, or NASA's Mars rover rebranded as Jordan's brought to you by Nike, it will take some time before a decision can be made. "The question is: is it possible?" Bridenstine mentioned in a video broadcast on NASA TV and which question has been debated in press accounts since then. "The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is."

Bridenstine also stated he would like to see astronauts participate in marketing and endorsement opportunities as well as transforming rockets into corporate billboards similar to ads on NASCAR racing cars. "I'd like to see kids growing up, instead of maybe wanting to be like a professional sports star, I'd like to see them grow up wanting to be a NASA astronaut or a NASA scientist,” he said. “I'd like to see, maybe one day, NASA astronauts on the cover of a cereal box, embedded into the American culture."

The White House recently announced the establishment of a National Space Council last year, led by Vice President Mike Pence, and wants to see mankind return to the moon. However, the administration's budget proposals so far suggest financing will remain flat through 2023, with wishes to end direct funding for the International Space Station and turn over its operations to a private entity. Bridenstine also said he wants the new committee to explore flying tourists to the International Space Station alongside government astronauts.

The committee, headed by Maxar Technologies’ Mike Gold, will pursue ways NASA could work with advertisers to brand its spacecraft and rockets as well as investigate how astronauts might engage in endorsements and media opportunities — both on and off Earth. He proposes that by allowing astronauts to do advertisements like appearing on cereal boxes, such endorsements will help "enhance the exposure of space activities in the popular culture," according to Gold. One of Bridenstine’s goals is to offset the costs of NASA missions by selling the naming rights of its hardware to private companies.

Among the next steps are branding and advertising that future commercial space stations might tap into Bridenstine said. “This is yet another opportunity to prove out a market.” The newly appointed committee is likely to make recommendations at the next quarterly meeting of the NASA advisory council, he said.

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