There is an entire team employed by NASA who do nothing all day long but try to think up ways to give out free prizes and involve the public in whimsical games and activities. I have not yet laid eyes on them, but I know they exist. Somewhere.
I picture a big blue room, perhaps at NASA Langley, with a rock-climbing wall, trampoline and a big table full of red vines and M&Ms. Amid this funhouse and in between volleyball games, they must sit themselves down and discuss: How can we name the next Mars rover? What can we put people's names on and launch with the next Shuttle? How can we get little kids and adults alike fascinated with space?
Wheelockin' From the Cupola!
Well, they took a break from finger-painting and are apparently at it again, with the Where Over the World is Astronaut Kelly Contest.
Earlier this year, JAXA's Sōichi Noguchi was first to "tweet" stunning aerial photographs during his Expedition on the International Space Station. More recently, Doug Wheelock has similarly out-done himself on TwitPic, and you should definitely follow his feed @Astro_Wheels if you are interested in the topographic wonders he captures! The night-time picture of Italy (above) is my favorite.
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly is now taking over the helm, with much the same assignment as the last two click-happy-larrys, to "capture a kaleidoscope of geographical spots for Earth scientific observations. " So says NASA. Then Team Funhouse, wherever they are, decided to make a contest out of it.
Follow the @StationCDRKelly Twitter feed, whereby Mr. Scott (I love calling him that) will tweet an aerial picture from space. If you know the precise geography of the picture, the first person to reply to his post with the correct answer will win a printed version of the photograph, autographed by Scott Kelly after his return to Earth. You will also be listed alongside your win on the NASA.gov website.
The modern era is incredibly unique in our ability to see the Earth from 230 miles up! And to possess the technology to visually capture the many natural monuments and man-made civilizations, both day and night, we are indeed truly privileged.
I hope everyone will join Scott on Expedition 25/26 and play along with us! You can read the official contest rules at the main contest website. Have fun! =)