Teddy, Director of NASA and Vincent Kapoor has the following discussion about getting satellites above Ares 3 landing site.

TEDDY: We’re a public domain organization. We have to be transparent about this.


TEDDY: The second we point the satellites at the Hab... I broadcast pictures of Mark Watney’s dead body to the world.

Why should the satellite pictures be published? Why can't NASA simply classify the pictures for some security reasons?

Also, how accurate is this representation of NASA's policy?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ...if you take into account the events take place about 20 years into the future, and the current trends with freedom of information and public access to public-funded research... $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Nov 23, 2018 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ Plenty of data are restricted. I've tried to get access to pre-launch data for NOAA instruments, but they're restricted from export under ITAR, so no luck. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Nov 23, 2018 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ slightly related Is there such a thing as the Freedom of Information Act for the ESA? There are several answers here based on FOIA results: space.stackexchange.com/search?q=foia $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 23, 2018 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Additionally, the fictional press in the movie would know that there are orbiters around Mars that could take such pictures and people would eventually ask for pictures. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Nov 24, 2018 at 16:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Please, please don't base your mental picture of Johnson Space Center on what was shown in that movie. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2018 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


Given that NASA works with the Department of Defense, on military projects, it is inevitable that they can classify information for security reasons. Furthermore, NASA's policy on the release of information states that NASA is not required by law to disclose all information.

This policy does not authorize or require disclosure of information that is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552) or otherwise restricted by statute, regulation, Executive Order, or other Executive Branch policy or NASA policy (e.g., OMB Circulars, NASA Policy Directives). Examples of information not releasable under this policy include, without limitation, information that is, or is marked as, classified information, procurement sensitive information, information subject to the Privacy Act, other sensitive but unclassified information, and information subject to privilege, such as pre-decisional information or attorney-client communications.

For more information NASA's compliance on classified national security information, you can go here.


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