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Greatest Foursquare check-in ever: From Earth orbit

This morning saw yet another user check in at yet another new location on the Foursquare service. Only this wasn't just another check-in: The user was NASA astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock, and the location was the International Space Station.


For his trouble, Wheelock unlocked one of Foursquare's virtual badges, as his profile indicates with this note.

You are now 220 miles above the Earth traveling at 17,500 mph and unlocked the NASA Explorer Badge! Show this badge and get a free scoop of astronaut ice cream.

This brilliant PR stunt (see how it got me to write about it and you to read it?) was the product of a collaboration between the fast-growing New York start-up and the space agency, as explained in a company blog post that outlined other ways NASA plans to connect with Foursquare users.

(Sadly, that post did not explain how Foursquare verified his check-in location -- which inevitably drew comments along the lines of "does GPS even work in space?" My understanding is that it does, at least as long as you're in a lower orbit than the GPS satellites.)

(5:43 p.m. In a Twitter reply, NASA clarified that Wheelock checked in via Foursquare's mobile site, using the Internet connection set up on the station in January. It's also posted video of the event. Now you know.)

The serious part of the post, and this news, is the efforts some government agencies have been putting into social-media marketing -- in some cases, more than most companies.

NASA has been particularly aggressive in that regard. It jumped on Twitter early on (its Mars Phoenix probe not only had a Twitter feed but had a guest blog on Gizmodo, posting a particularly memorable goodbye on that site). It now maintains a presence at a wide variety of social-media sites, with Foursquare only the latest addition. It will have its latest "tweetup" for selected Twitter followers at the Nov. 1 launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

(Note to self: Will have to cover one of these tweetups in person, as this is an Important Social Media Story and not just a chance to see a shuttle launch up close. Right?)

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 22, 2010; 3:41 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture, Location awareness, Social media  
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Well, good for him. Social media is the future. Fine if NASA gets involved. Still too many manned missions though. The future is unmanned and robotics I think.

This reminds me. Why do space shuttle and space station communications always sound lousy? Like you are cupping your hands over your mouth and talking into a CB radio. They're only 200 miles away. Meanwhile a Skype call halfway around the world can sound like a CD.

Posted by: NPRwasWrongToFireJuanWilliamsItIsNecessaryForADemocracyToFosterFreePoliticalTalk | October 22, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

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