Thursday, April 12, 2007

Space Advertising for Centennial Challenges

Leonard David has an article on a talk at the 23rd National Space Symposium by Representative Ken Calvert. This talk proposes new space advertising by NASA to fund Centennial Challenges. If funded this year at the Administration's proposed level, Centennial Challenges would have gotten $4 million in the last 3 years, which is a tiny percentage of NASA's tiny portion of the Federal budget, a fact that many space interest organizations are disappointed about since many of them feel that Centennial Challenges are one of, if not the, most productive use of their tax dollars. Here is the full text of Representative Calvert's talk. The prize-related proposal is on pages 2 and 3. Space Politics also has an ongoing discussion about the proposal. Jim Muncy has added some thoughtful comments to the discussion. The original full text of the talk is 8 pages long. Here is an excerpt concerning the proposal:

"... Advertising in space could be one way in which NASA elevates its current visibility among typical Americans. The government could make space assets available for commercial advertising and marketing opportunities. Currently commercial launch vehicles have several logos that represent customers, satellite and launch manufacturers, which is a good first step.

Perhaps the next step is the creation of an advertising system similar to those used by the PGA, National Public Radio or the Smithsonian Institute - all of which have long-term, dedicated and tasteful sponsorships. Of course, I understand this is an area that draws concern about safety and public image issues. By no means do I envision bumper stickers on the Mars Rover or a blinking neon sign on the International Space Station.

When I return to Congress after the recess, I will introduce legislation to authorize space advertising for NASA with the goal to bring in extra funding for the Agency’s prize authority under the current Centennial Challenges program and to raise awareness among private entrepreneurs about the business opportunities in space. The legislation will also create a commission to recommend criteria appropriate for space advertising.

Currently the Centennial Challenges program conducts prize competitions for revolutionary, break-through accomplishments that advance the Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA priorities. The Centennial Challenges program authorized by Congress and implemented by NASA to engage private enterprise is, as are all Agency programs, subject to the congressional appropriations process. However, my proposal would create a trust fund – the Innovation Fund - for the receipts of space advertising revenue which would allow the prize authority to increase without the dependence on annual appropriations. The result would be a self-sustaining prize authority program funded well above the current request of $20 million for the next five years.

Sponsorships through space advertising could take many forms – for example, a company could sponsor a Space Cam on the International Space Station that could be accessed by classrooms around the world for educational purposes. Universities who study atmospheric changes could partner with private enterprise to sponsor a multi-spectral camera for observation. As a former business man, I could easily see how this fund could generate $100 million after it’s up and running. I envision that most advertisements could be virtual thus not adding weight to launches or mass to vehicles. In fact, the very first challenge could be to design the program itself or to have one of our space entrepreneurs deliver a camera to the International Space Station."