As NASA’s budget seems to be more and more limited, the senior figures at the space agency have started to wonder whether they should take corporate sponsorships into consideration as an additional source of income. According to Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, some companies could be interested in purchasing the naming rights to their spacecraft or rocket.
Is this really possible?
Based on what Mr. Bridenstine mentioned in a statement, he doesn’t really know whether this is possible or not. His proposal came at a moment when the Trump administration says that they have high goals in space, however, they actually haven’t asked the Congress for money for support. Following a National Space Council in 2017 that was set by the President Trump, we know that the financing for NASA will not change at all until 2023.
On Tuesday, Mr. Bridenstine had an interview where he brought into discussion the rockets that are taking cargo to the International Space Station, stating that these could bring some branding opportunities. He said that maybe NASA astronauts could, in fact, attract children’s attention through cereal boxes, which could easily grab people’s attention of NASA’s missions and motivate children to even pursue a career in space.
What could be wrong with this approach
Nevertheless, according to some critics, if NASA would decide to make some branding deals, it could weaken the stature and public mission of the agency, and it could also create conflicts of interest. After all, federal employees are not really allowed to be involved in commercial projects. So we can easily see why it could be a problem. Moreover, the space agency’s own papers are actually forbidding such activities. If we take a look at a webpage from NASA’s general counsel office, it clearly states that the employees are not allowed to use the public office for private gain, including that of someone else.