NASA is thinking about selling the naming rights of its rockets and spacecraft to private companies, as well as allowing astronauts to appear in advertisements.
The Trump administration has been very involved with NASA's programs, with moves such as the shutdown of the space agency's Carbon Monitoring System in May and the proposal to turn over the International Space Station to private companies. Selling naming rights to NASA rockets may now be added to the list, though it remains unclear if the idea will gain any traction.
NASA Considers Selling Naming Rights For Rockets
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has tasked the agency to take a look at boosting its brand by selling the naming rights to its rockets and spacecraft and allowing astronauts to appear on commercials and cereal boxes like celebrity athletes.
In a recent NASA advisory council meeting, which included external experts who provide guidance to the space agency, Bridenstine revealed that he will set up a committee to analyze the questions surrounding the possibility of masking NASA rockets with sponsor logos, similar to NASCAR vehicles and sports jerseys.
"Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?" said Bridenstine. "I'm telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don't know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is."
Bridenstine added that he wanted NASA astronauts to be more open to journalists and to participate in marketing initiative to boost their own brands and that of the space agency.
"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.
Here's Why Branded NASA Rockets Is A Bad Idea
The proposals are part of a wider effort to increase the involvement of the private sector in NASA's missions. However, the initiatives come with various limitations that paint them as a bad idea.
First and foremost, NASA has long upheld the principle of not promoting commercial products or services. Changing this will require new legislation from Congress or adjustments to the space agency's charter.
In addition, advertising on NASA rockets may not actually matter in the long run. This is because NASA projects tend to require budgets of hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, so selling naming rights will probably only offset a small fraction of the cost to send rockets and astronauts to space.
Lastly, the masses view space as "the final frontier," untouched by corporate interests. If brands and logos start invading space, the negative reaction from fans of NASA may be immense.