Today, NASA and the Texas-based streaming media company RFC Media are launching Third Rock, a radio station for NASA enthusiasts. Now, you might think that this would be nothing more than audio versions of the kind of content you’d see on NASA TV. Instead, the station is actually a mix of various rock tunes intercut with space-related news bites and occasional ads for NASA jobs. It’s actually not as bizarre as it sounds, trust me.
According to NASA, the station aims to bring an eclectic mix of “New Rock/Indie/Alternative” and has the truly mind-blowing tagline of “America’s Space Station.” After a few minutes of listening, I can confirm that the station does seem to conform to that description and was not — sadly — an endless loop of “Rocket Man” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
The station is now live here, as well as NASA’s homepage. The space agency also intends to have the streaming station available through their iOS and Android apps soon.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, the copy on the station’s website is laden with space-related puns. And numerous plays on rock — as in a lump of matter in space — and rock — as in the style of music.
While a streaming music station might at first seem odd, keep in mind that NASA has always worked to maintain a strong presence in all forms of media; from its aforementioned cable channel, to being early adopters of blogs and social media. The agency famously embraced Twitter, crafting first-person narratives from the various probes the agency operates — notably the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
For NASA, the creation of a streaming radio station does have it’s advantages. By offering a steady stream of popular music, the agency can keep people hooked for the soundbites. Also, there are occasional spots which feature NASA employees and basically serve as an advertisement for job opportunities at the space agency. And that’s really cool.
For their part, RFC media describes the channel thusly:
“Today’s 4G audience craves new music and enjoys finding it,” said Pat Fant, RFC Media co-founder and chief operating officer. “We’ve pulled out the best songs and the deepest tracks from a full spectrum of rock artists across many styles and decades. NASA features and news items are embedded throughout the programming alongside greetings by celebrity artists.”
While the government-approved hype around the channel is pretty eye-roll inducing, and though the endeavor may seem completely off the wall at first, this seems like a clever idea. Hopefully, the station will actually fulfill its goals of keeping fans interested and engaged, and maybe even hook in a new generation of NASA fans.
To be honest, though, I don’t think I’ll be listening to it. Readers may have noticed that I am really, really interested in all things space related, but the tepid mix of bland music and the sanitized and carefully vetted sound bites doesn’t appeal to me, personally. That said, I really do want it to succeed. Otherwise, all that will be left of this unabashedly earnest endeavor will be the awkward promotional copy (which, no kidding, has the line “speak the language of tech-savvy young adults”) like the crumbling ruins of a once-great civilization.
So go on and give it a listen.
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