Google+ Hangouts to Host Events With Obama, Space Station Crew

Google+ Hangouts will be used by the president and by the International Space Station crew in separate events to take questions from citizens.

Google+ Hangouts will soon be used again by President Barack Obama for the second time in his presidency, while the crew of the International Space Station will use it for the first time later this month to take questions from citizens about life in Earth's orbit.

Obama's Google+ Hangouts session will come at 4:50 p.m. ET Feb. 14 to answer questions from the American people two days after his State of the Union Address, which is being delivered Feb. 12.

"When President Obama heads to a joint session of Congress [Feb. 12], he'll be honoring the 200-year old tradition of delivering the State of the Union to Congress and the American people," wrote Ramya Raghavan, a spokesman for the Google+ Politics division, in a Feb. 11 post on the Google Official Blog. "Two days later, the President will turn to Google+ to continue a more recent tradition, by taking questions online after his speech."

This is the second time that Obama has participated in such an event. He held his first Google+ hangouts session Jan. 30, 2012, six days after his State of the Union Address that year.

Obama's online session, which is being called a "Fireside Hangout" in the tradition of presidential "fireside chats" of the past, will feature questions that have been sent in ahead of time by citizens and questions that are raised by several participants inside the Hangout, according to Raghavan.

"During the conversation, the selected participants will ask the President their own questions—but we'd also like to hear from you before the Hangout," Raghavan wrote. "To let the President know what's on your mind, head to the White House YouTube channel and submit a video or text question. You can submit or vote on questions you'd like to hear him address until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 13."

Eight days later, on Feb. 22, the crew of the International Space Station will hold their own Google+ Hangouts live chat to share their experiences in Earth orbit with interested viewers back home from 11 a.m. to noon ET.

The session will be the first time that NASA has used Google+ Hangouts for an International Space Station mission, according to a post on NASA's Website. Viewers can see the session live using Google+ or YouTube.

"This unique opportunity will connect you, our fans, with astronauts living and working on the orbiting laboratory 240 miles above the Earth," the NASA post states.

"During the hangout, astronauts Kevin Ford, Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn will answer questions and provide insights about life aboard the station," the post states. "Station crews conduct a variety of science experiments and perform station maintenance during their six-month stay on the outpost. Their life aboard the station in near-weightlessness requires unique approaches to everyday activities such as eating, sleeping and exercising."

Viewers can submit video questions prior to the Hangout, and several questions that have been submitted will be selected and answered by astronauts on the space station and on the ground, according to NASA. The astronauts will also answer real-time questions that are submitted by NASA followers on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

To submit a video question, you must upload your video clip of less than 30 seconds to YouTube and tag it with #askAstro, according to NASA. "Submitters should introduce themselves and mention their location. Questions must be tagged with #askAstro to be considered. The deadline to submit video questions is Feb. 12."
To ask a real-time question during the event on Google+ or Twitter, participants can use the hashtag #askAstro or you can post a comment on a thread on NASA's Facebook page that will open for questions on the morning of the event.

To join the Hangout, participants can visit NASA's Google+ page.

NASA continues to expand its use of social media platforms such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook. In August 2012, NASA partnered with Google Earth to offer images of Mars from NASA's Curiosity Rover as it was beginning its exploration of the red planet.

Also last August, NASA's Kennedy Space Center was featured in an online Google Street View tour of the sprawling and historic facility.