PR Push: The Role of Communication and Publicity in a Future Human Mars Mission.

Jennifer Laing

Jennifer Laing, School of Business, La Trobe University, Bundoora

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Abstract: Involvement in public relations has been an element of an astronaut’s career since the days of the early space program, hitting its zenith of importance in the Apollo era, when human beings first walked on the moon and some became household names. Since then, astronauts and cosmonauts have retreated into relative anonymity, while still continuing PR work such as school visits and presentations to businesses, when not in serious training for a spaceflight. The first human mission to Mars is likely to change this low-key approach to PR, with the eyes of potentially millions of people around the world transfixed on what might arguably be the greatest human endeavour so far in history. Technological developments such as the growth of the Internet and Webcams and the introduction of ‘reality TV’ and increasing interest in obtaining a ‘birds-eye’ view of world events have transformed likely expectations as to the level and type of information that would be transmitted back to Earth. The first humans on Mars will therefore need to be both skilled and interested in communications, to be able to satisfy the public’s curiosity for knowledge and to translate what they are seeing and experiencing in a way that is understandable to all. Analogue research at places such as the Mars Desert Research Station during Expedition One and the Australian Outback during the Jarntimarra expedition and proposed Expedition Two may assist in understanding views on the role of PR, and identifying training needs and problems and challenges associated with PR with reference to typical future Mars crews.

PROFILE: Jennifer Laing is conducting post-graduate research into space tourism marketing at the School of Tourism and Hospitality at La Trobe University. She has a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from the University of Melbourne, Masters of Business Administration (Distinction) from Durham University Business School and Graduate Diploma of Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the United Kingdom. Her marketing experience over the past eight years covers new product development, marketing analysis and research and promotions and communications, as well as founding and running her own freelance writing business. Jennifer has spoken on space-related topics at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico in May 2001, and the National Space Society of Australia (NSSA) Space Science Workshop in Sydney in July 2001. As a freelance writer, her articles and interviews on space topics have appeared in The Australian newspaper and Australasian Science magazine, as well as space websites such as Universe Today and Space Daily. She has taught a course on Popular Science Writing at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) in Melbourne. Jennifer is PR Director of Mars Society Australia. She helped organise and took part in the Project Jarntimarra expedition to the Red Centre in October 2001, looking for suitable sites for a Mars analogue research base in the Australian Outback. Jennifer is co-convenor of the Australian Mars Exploration Conference 2002.