The agency will offer regular programs and shows, as well as lots of new and original content.
Calling it a new era for pioneers, star sailors, thinkers and adventurers, NASA is getting ready to launch a brand new streaming TV network worldwide later this year. The new streaming service will be called NASA+, and just like commercial streaming services, the agency will offer regular programs and shows, as well as lots of new and original content.
NASA+ will be available for free without a subscription on most platforms, including televisions and mobile devices. It will also tightly integrate with a complete redesign of the agency’s website, a project which aims to make the millions of photos, videos and other content that NASA develops more easily accessible.
Expectations are high for the first dedicated streaming service run by a federal agency, but NASA has many teams working to ensure that the launch of both the NASA+ network and the improved agency website are a success. Nextgov/FCW talked with some of the people responsible for NASA+ — Jason Townsend, program manager for NASA Communications Strategy and Integration; Rebecca Sirmons, NASA TV executive producer in the Office of Communications; and Abby Bowman, NASA Web Modernization lead in Office of the Chief Information Officer — about their big plans, and what kinds of things viewers of the world’s newest streaming service can expect when it launches later this year.
Nextgov/FCW: It must be exciting to be starting your own streaming service, basically your own network. For all the space enthusiasts out there, what can they look forward to when the NASA+ streaming service launches?
Townsend: NASA+ will combine the Emmy-award winning live coverage of NASA TV with our existing on-demand videos to embed the public into everything the agency has to offer. We’re expanding our content with new original video series that go beyond our current offerings, allowing viewers to experience more of NASA..
This is distinctively different from NASA TV in that you can watch all the programming on your own schedule, whenever it is convenient. It’s an ad-free, no-cost, family-friendly service that allows anyone around the world with an internet connection to access it. And no subscription is required.
Nextgov/FCW: Will we get to see any new programs or exclusive content through NASA+? Can you tell us about some of the new series or programs that are planned for the service?
Sirmons: Yes! There will be a ton of new video series and family-friendly shows on NASA+ about agency missions, including Artemis, which is our program to send more astronauts and robots to explore more of the Moon than ever before, as we prepare for future human exploration of Mars. This new programming won’t be exclusive to NASA+, as it will be available for anyone to air.
Nextgov/FCW: We recently covered some of the NASA initiatives where the agency is encouraging citizens to help advance science. Do you think that the new NASA streaming service could help to improve and spotlight that kind of public engagement with space exploration and scientific research?
Sirmons: One of our major goals is to inspire our viewers to get involved with space and science, no matter their background. We released a short video last year called “Chasing Sprites in Electric Skies” that follows a group of citizen scientists from Oklahoma to Greece. These photographers are united by the thrill of searching for sprites — elusive jolts of light that form complex shapes above thunderstorms. Hundreds of volunteers from 12 countries are working with a NASA scientist on a first-ever crowd-sourced database of these Transient Luminous Events.
We’re looking forward to showcasing more citizen science efforts on our new NASA+ streaming service in the future. For now, science fans around the world can explore opportunities to collaborate with NASA at beta.science.nasa.gov/citizen-science.
Nextgov/FCW: NASA already has a significant social media presence, probably the largest in government. How do you plan to integrate the new streaming service with some of those existing platforms and content to increase NASA's digital outreach efforts?
Bowman: NASA has one of the most active, engaging and accessible social media presences in the federal government, with hundreds of millions of followers. It’s a high bar, but we’ve set out to match that experience on NASA+ as well as our redesigned flagship website, which just opened for public testing at beta.nasa.gov.
With the launch of these new unified digital experiences later this year, you’ll be able to move seamlessly between videos on NASA+ and related web content, from deep-dive interviews and articles to interactive games and award-winning podcasts. We’ll continue to feature NASA+ livestreams on our new homepage and share our videos across all of NASA’s social media accounts.
Nextgov/FCW: Is NASA primarily targeting a U.S. audience with these new efforts, or do you envision NASA+ contributing to international outreach and collaboration?
Sirmons: Like NASA TV today, NASA+ will be available worldwide. For decades, NASA has been the catalyst behind some of the world’s greatest stories for the benefit of humanity. Now, through NASA+, everyone will have access to these stories 24/7.
Nextgov/FCW: NASA has already earned one Emmy Award for its coverage of a Mars mission and the test flight of a crewed spacecraft. No pressure, but will you be looking to earn a few more of those when NASA+ gets fully up and running?
Sirmons: Hopefully so!
Nextgov/FCW: Thank you for talking with us, and good luck with the launch. For those who want to tune into the amazing content that you have planned for the NASA+ streaming service, where and when can they start watching?
Townsend: When NASA+ launches later this year, you’ll be able to access NASA+ on-demand from anywhere in the world through most major platforms, including streaming media players like Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV. It will also be on phones and tablets via the NASA App for iOS and Android devices, and on the web across all desktop and mobile devices.
John Breeden II is an award-winning journalist and reviewer with over 20 years of experience covering technology. He is the CEO of the Tech Writers Bureau, a group that creates technological thought leadership content for organizations of all sizes. Twitter: @LabGuys