On Tuesday, March 5 ASP hosted the event “NASA’s Public Diplomacy – Improving Relations on Earth by Exploring Space.” Speakers included Kent G. Bress, the Director of Aeronautics and Cross Agency Support Division at NASA’s Office of International and Interagency Relations and Dr. Vaughan Turekian, Chief International Officer at American Association for the Advancement of Science. ASP’s Public Diplomacy fellow Matthew Wallin moderated the event.
Dr. Turekian began by stating that the trick to getting science and public diplomacy working together is ensuring that the United States has the best scientists to back up our programs. He continued to explain that science diplomacy works effectively because even when the world disagrees with the United States on other platforms, other states respect our scientific endeavors enough to find common ground.
Kent Bress then spoke on NASA’s role in public diplomacy and science. NASA ( The National Aeronautical and Space Administration) is a government agency originally created to contest the Soviet Union’s Space Program back in 1958, now with a modern $17 billion annual budget. Bress argued that NASA was founded as an extension of foreign policy and has carried that nature with it throughout the decades. A few of NASA’s public diplomacy measures include international education, outreach, and social media efforts. NASA’s primary twitter account has over 3.5 million twitter followers, making it the most popular government twitter feed behind The White House.
Mr. Bress argues that there are some guidelines that NASA must employ in terms of public diplomacy and its work with other countries. Some of these guidelines include a prohibition on the exchange of funds, lawful consistency with U.S. laws and regulations, international partners must generally be government agencies, and projects or partnerships must have scientific or technical merit and benefit the U.S. mission.
Currently, NASA has roughly 600 international agreements and several international programs including the International Space Station and the Mars Curiosity Rover.
Bress also iterated several of NASA’s core goals which include human space flight, aeronautics, space science, and the completion of the James Webb Space Telescope.
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