The Space Shuttle's return to flight: NASA's public affairs challenge

See how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Public Affairs Team’s commitment to openness and willingness to experiment with new approaches to space coverage helped public affairs staff manage the 3,000 reporters who covered the mission of Discovery last summer.

NASA communicators learned the power of creativity and openness after a crisis

By Edward Goldstein

Even though it is a small government agency that spends less than a penny of every tax dollar, NASA is often in the center of the media spotlight. Last summer 3,000 journalists, representing over 20 countries, descended upon NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Johnson Space Center in Texas to cover the widely anticipated return-to-flight mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven person crew led by veteran astronaut Eileen Collins.

The Discovery mission to the International Space Station, dubbed STS-114 in NASA's unique lexicon, challenged NASA's public affairs staff to develop creative means to help the media tell three interwoven stories. First, there was the story of NASA's painstaking work to recover from the tragic Columbia accident. There was also the story of the Discovery crew's dedication to resuming Space Shuttle flights. And finally, as the mission was under way, there was the story of the technical decisions made and actions taken by NASA's mission management team.

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