Smithsonian’s Welcome Discovery Festival Boosts NASA


Launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

If you happened to be in Washington, D.C., today—perhaps you were attending PR News’ 2012 CSR Awards Luncheon, or are attending the PR Measurement Conference on April 18—you may have spotted an unusual aircraft. NASA, in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation, flew the Space Shuttle Discovery—mounted on top of a 747—from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Washington Dulles International Airport.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum recently acquired the Space Shuttle, and plans to house it at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. To promote the acquisition and celebrate the new attraction, the museum has planned a festival of activities—dubbed Welcome Discovery—that began when the shuttle arrived in the D.C. area on April 17. According to the museum’s Web site, the festival “will feature four days of space-related activities, performances, appearances by space pioneers, films and displays at the Shuttle’s new home.” Activities at the Udvar-Hazy Center will begin when the shuttle is presented to the Smithsonian on April 19 in an outdoor ceremony that will be open to the public.

Since the U.S. space program is currently on an indefinite hiatus, NASA has to find other ways to reach new audiences and, ultimately, maintain excitement for the U.S. space program. An event such as this, which allows the public to come together, watch the flyover and participate in fun activities and ceremonies, can go a long way toward connecting NASA with younger audiences and their parents and grandparents who might remember the glory days of the space program.

The early returns indicate the event may already be successful. As of 10 a.m. ET, April 17, “Discovery,” “Dulles” and #SpotTheShuttle were among the top 10 trending topics worldwide on Twitter.

Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel




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