Announcing the Space Policy and History Forum #21

The next the Space Policy and History Forum will feature Amy Kaminski, Program Executive for Prizes and Challenges at NASA Headquarters, presenting “Sharing the Shuttle with America: NASA and Public Engagement after Apollo.” The forum will be held in the Director’s Conference Room (DCR) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. Please RSVP (, if you plan to attend.

Sharing the Shuttle with America: NASA and Public Engagement after Apollo

Space Policy and History Forum #21

June 5, 2017

by Dr. Amy Kaminski

Program Executive, Prizes, and Challenges, 

Space Technology Mission Directorate

National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Little research exists on the roles of American citizens outside of government organizations and aerospace firms in shaping NASA space exploration choices and achievements.  Studies have centered largely on NASA’s public relations efforts to “sell” the American and global publics on the awe of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo human spaceflight projects during the 1960s.  But does casting American citizens in the aggregate as mere observers and consumers of space flight activity comprise the complete story of how various segments of society have influenced NASA’s human space program?  How and why has NASA sought to relate to citizens in the four decades since astronauts first reached the Moon’s surface?  This work casts a fresh light on NASA’s ties with the American citizenry by critically examining NASA’s approach to public engagement with human space flight as the agency transitioned to its next major program, the Space Shuttle.  I argue that securing political approval and public support for an Apollo follow-on program led to a wholesale change in NASA’s vision of how to serve and engage American citizens with its human spaceflight enterprise.  Promulgating the Shuttle as a versatile, democratized technology promising something for everyone, NASA sought to engage citizens in ways appealing to their varied interests rather than assuming a singular American citizenry of unquestioning supporters.  NASA achieved these aims through new outreach efforts to make the vehicle more broadly accessible to the general public, initiatives to solicit and serve an eclectic set of satellite and experiment launch customers, and recruitment of flyers with a variety of gender, racial, and ethnic backgrounds and ranging from corporate scientists to Congressmen to teachers.  Social, political, and technological challenges in democratizing the Shuttle and satisfying various publics’ interests were ever-present, and NASA’s commitment to opening the Shuttle to more public involvement diminished following the 1986 Shuttle Challenger launch disaster which killed NASA’s first “citizen in space,” teacher Christa McAuliffe.  Examining how NASA engaged disparate publics with the Shuttle throughout the vehicle’s lifetime – and how those publics responded – nonetheless, shows that one cannot consider the evolution of the Shuttle as separate from the agency’s approaches to public engagement in this program.  While this study illuminates the tensions NASA faced in opening human space flight to broader participation, it simultaneously suggests a strong value in involving external publics as contributors to future space program activities.


Amy Kaminski currently serves as program executive for prizes and challenges at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where she works to develop strategies to expand the space agency’s use of a variety of open innovation methods in its research and exploration activities. She served previously as senior policy advisor in the Office of the Chief Scientist, where she led an initiative to support and expand NASA’s involvement of citizens as contributors to the agency’s research activities.  Before joining NASA, Kaminski served as a program examiner at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where she was responsible for analyzing NASA programs and making recommendations to White House policymakers makers about budgets and ways to improve the performance of NASA programs.  She also has held positions in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation and at the National Space Society.  She also served as editor of the American Astronautical Society’s Space Times magazine. Kaminski earned her Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech, where she examined NASA’s relationships with publics outside of traditional government and industry space policy developers.  She holds an M.A. in science, technology, and public policy from The George Washington University and received her B.A. from Cornell University in earth and planetary sciences.

Date and Time

June 5, 2017 (Monday), 4:00-5:00 P.M.

Location, Parking, and Access

The presentation will be held at the National Air and Space Museum, 600 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 4:00-5:00 p.m. Space is limited to 50 attendees, so please RSVP to get your name on the list. This will be for access to the 3rd floor of the Museum, where we will be meeting in the Director’s Conference Room. You may check in and obtain a badge for access to the building at the guard desk just to the right as you enter the Independence Ave. doors. If you have any questions regarding access, please contact Teasel Parking is not available in NASM, and is limited elsewhere; we recommend using the Metro system for travel to the National Air and Space Museum—the Smithsonian and L’Enfant Plaza stops on the Orange and Blue lines are close by.

This entry was posted in History, Space, Space Shuttle and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Announcing the Space Policy and History Forum #21

  1. Damara Arrowood says:

    Very much looking forward to this!


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