The International Space Station. Image: NASA/Crew of STS-132
Estée Lauder, a multinational cosmetics company, has secured an out-of-this-world shooting location for its next commercial—the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts will star in an ad for a face cream called “Advanced Night Repair,” which will be the “first purely commercial activity in NASA’s new regime,’ according to reporter Mark Harris, who broke the news in New Scientist.
Ten bottles of the beauty product will be bundled into a cargo resupply run to the station this fall, so that NASA crew members can shoot videos and images with them in the microgravity environment.
The ad reflects the space agency’s recent push to “partner with industry to achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost” to the ISS, according to a 2019 statement.
In addition to striking a deal with Estée Lauder, NASA has also partnered with the sportswear company Adidas, which has sent soccer balls and parts of its Boost shoes to the station on separate missions since last July.
NASA also hopes to bolster space tourism by selling trips to the ISS to private customers. Tom Cruise has already expressed interest in filming a feature-length movie on the station, though the details of this project are still under discussion.
As disconcerting as it might seem for astronauts to moonlight as commercial actors, it is not unprecedented. Companies have been finding off-Earth marketing hooks for decades.
Russian cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev drank globs of milk on the Mir space station in 1997 to promote the company Tnuva Milk, Pizza Hut delivered a salami pie to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov on the ISS in 2001, and the ad wars between Pepsi and Coke extended into the Space Shuttle.
That said, the planned Estée Lauder commercial signals that NASA is looking to pursue much more explicit relationships with commercial partners, including their marketing campaigns. If the steady creep of ads into every part of human experience unsettles you, be forewarned that the ads now have a strong foothold in outer space.