NASA and Gowalla, a mobile and web service, have partnered to bring users one small step closer to the universe. The partnership populates Gowalla
with NASA-related information and four virtual items -- moon rocks, a NASA patch, a spacesuit and a space shuttle -- that can be found at agency-related venues.
"NASA's partnership with Gowalla is a creative way for us to reach out and share information about what the nation's space agency is doing," said Bob Jacobs, NASA's deputy associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Gowalla users who virtually "check-in" at NASA-related venues and places of discovery via their smart phone have a chance to find the four agency virtual items which can be swapped for other items, dropped in locations or kept in their vault. Anyone with a Gowalla account who collects three of the four items will receive a special pin in their Gowalla Passport. In addition, the first 100 people to collect three items will win the special edition NASA+Gowalla Map: Search for the Moon Rocks by JESS3, a creative agency that specializes in data visualization.
"Gowalla's mission is to inspire discovery by connecting people with the places around them," said Andy Ellwood, director of business development for Gowalla. "Space is one of the most interesting places for human exploration, and this partnership with NASA encourages our community to visit places in their world to learn more about our universe."
The partnership enables a NASA account and an account for astronaut Mike Massimino linked to the agency's primary Twitter account, @NASA, and Massimino's Twitter account, @Astro_Mike. NASA and Massimino also will drop virtual items for users to find and collect throughout the nation.
Gowalla users can find virtual moon rocks by checking in to any location where a real one is on display. The U.S. successfully brought lunar samples back to Earth during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions. NASA provides a number of lunar samples for display at museums, planetariums and scientific expositions around the world. Most lunar displays are open to the public.
Gowalla users can find the virtual NASA patch, spacesuit and space shuttles by checking in to NASA visitor centers, agency-related locations, or one of the more than 400 museums, science centers, planetariums, observatories, parks, nature centers, zoos and aquariums that are part of NASA's Museum Alliance.
Gowalla is available on iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm and the iPad.