What started out as a leisurely side project during an internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center quickly went viral as Penn State student Gary Jordan and his crew showed the world that “the missions of tomorrow start today.”
NASA Johnson Style, a parody of the PSY's overnight Youtube sensation “Gangnam Style” video, was created, filmed and edited by Jordan and his fellow co-ops during their internships at NASA this past fall. Today, it has more than 4 million views and more than 50,000 likes. It is also ReelNASA YouTube channel's most popular video — ever.
The lyrics of the video, the shooting locations and even some of the actors are linked to the NASA Johnson Space Center. Jordan (junior-marketing) said that the focus of the video was to help show people that NASA is still doing amazing things and deserves continued recognition.
“A lot of people are linking the end of shuttle program with the end of NASA since it is no longer running, but there still is a ton of stuff going on,” Jordan said. “We wanted to educate and inform, but ultimately entertain, hence the link to pop culture.”
The story begins with Jordan taking a semester off in Fall 2012 to intern with the Pathways Intern Employment Program at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Here, Jordan said they worked mainly in the public affairs office, where he had to converse with major news organizations and engage astronauts in public activities.
While interning, Jordan met other co-ops, including Eric Sim, a junior from North Carolina State University, and the two, along with others, came up with an idea for a side project that would eventually be a major success.
With no budget and the use of their own cameras and equipment, Jordan, Sim, and their three other crew members collaborated to produce the video, and each taking own different responsibilities. Jordan was the editor of the video and the director of photography, and Sim co-wrote and recorded the song, as well as starred as PSY in the video.
Sim said that the song only took a day to record, and with the song recorded and parts coordinated, the next obstacle the crew placed was to get access to all of the prestigious NASA facilities for the sets of the video.
“They had to get permission to access all of the buildings, and it was good, long process,” NASA Public Relations Specialist Ciandra Jackson said. “Gary had to also work with the astronaut office which handles all of their public appearances, and asked if they wanted to participate. He even ended up getting [astronaut] Clay Anderson to dance in it.”
Jordan said that filming began on Nov. 16, and that video was shot and approved within a month before being posted to ReelNASA's Youtube channel on Dec. 14.
Sim said that he has had two to three years of experience with working with videos, but that this particular project was unlike anything he had ever worked on before.
“It was so goofy, and this was the last thing I excepted to be doing when I thought I was going to be working at NASA,” Sim (junior-aerospace engineering) said. “There were moments while we were filming where I was like, ‘what the heck am I doing?’
Millions of hits and likes later, NASA Johnson Style is on the Internet for viewers’ entertainment, but it has also taken out other purposes that may be unexpected.
“There has been so much excitement around the video from teachers, and it gave them another tool to use in their classrooms to help students realize that science and math are something they can study and possibly one day be an astronaut or an engineer,” Jackson said. “The fun video spiraled into so many different things for different people, with its public awareness and also its education side.”
Despite the popularity and recognition the video has gotten Jordan, he said the best part of this whole project was the entire experience beginning to end.
“Seeing it through was the best part, thinking about the idea and seeing it come to life,” Jordan said. “We wanted to get people excited, and to think science is cool and that NASA is not dead, and we accomplished all that we wanted to.”