‘We’ll never turn Mars blue:’ NASA’s Instagram account will go easy on the filters

All your sunset photos just became irrelevant: NASA has launched its official Instagram account, meaning any attempts at showcasing the universe in all its glory might as well call it a day, because they will lose.

What can you expect to see? Per NASA, “Aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight and more, the NASA account will provide a comprehensive view of the agency by sharing new and historic images and videos.”

“We’re always looking at new ways to connect the public with NASA, which produces a lot of stunning visual content,” NASA social media manager John Yembrick tells us. “Instagram felt like a natural fit, and we’re excited to share our story through images. If someone asked me why they should follow NASA on Instagram, I’d tell them that can take a journey with us through a myriad of diverse photographs, ranging from spectacular views of our home planet, to distant galaxies revealing new and wondrous things about the universe. Really, what you will see from NASA will be limitless in terms of new scientific discoveries and engineering innovations.”

Instagram is just the latest in a long line of NASA’s social networking efforts. This past Spring at SXSW, we sat down with Yembrick, who told us much about the organization’s Twitter, Google+, and Facebook strategies. “We’re easily one of the most successful federal agencies on social media,” he said at the time.

“Since we are a scientific and technical organization, we don’t plan on filtering images.”

So why no Instagram account until now? Yembrick says that, for a government group to land an account, there’s more to it than just signing up and choosing a username. “You can’t just say ‘we want to be on Tumblr’ and we get one – it’s a process.” Fortunately, that process seems to have been sorted, and we’re all about to get some astronomy up in our feeds.

NASA has already made quite a visual impression on the Internet with its Google+ and Flickr accounts, but Instagram is truly the image-sharing platform of the masses. Of course, there are a few elements that could be confusing for NASA – for instance, filters: Do we want to see the Moon, or do we want to see the Amaro-filtered Moon? And clearly these photos aren’t being taken with an iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S4, so will that be a deterrent for the Instagram hardcore among us? Instagram is easily more art than science, so it can be tough for an agency like NASA to approach – fortunately Yembrick clued us in to how NASA will tackle the artsier side of Instagram. 

“Since we are a scientific and technical organization, we don’t plan on filtering images,” he says. “It’s possible we’ll filter some terrestrial images from time to time, for something fun and playful, but we would clearly identify that we did so in the caption. Trust us, we’ll never turn Mars blue.”

This seems to be NASA’s tried and true social strategy – finding a middle ground. Appealing to the common denominator hasn’t dumbed down NASA, it’s just approached us on our level, in a medium we clearly understand and love.

Images from the the launch of the agency’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will premiere this Friday – and more are sure to follow at an event next week. We’ll be on the ground with NASA Social at the organization’s Wallops Flight Facility for a rocket launch then, and you can expect Instagrams a’plenty from the event.

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