NASA Astronauts Will Shoot Images of an Estée Lauder Product in Space

The agency is hoping to build an outer space commercial economy, possibly including cosmetics commercials from orbit.
September 17, 2020, 1:00pm
​The International Space Station. Image: NASA/Crew of STS-132
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—the International Space Station.

A face cream called “Advanced Night Repair" will be part of the “first purely commercial activity in NASA's new regime,” according to reporter Mark Harris, who broke the news in New Scientist.

Up to 10 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 agreement 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. A NASA spokesperson told VICE that it is not clear the beauty product video and images will ultimately end up in a commercial, as Estée Lauder has not made that decision public at this time.

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 ads to be shot in space, it is not unprecedented. NASA astronauts cannot be featured in commercials or advertising due to ethics rules, but companies have still found many off-Earth marketing hooks.

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 Estée Lauder agreement signals that NASA is looking to pursue much more explicit relationships with commercial partners, including their marketing campaigns.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that NASA astronauts will star in an Estee Lauder commercial. This is not accurate. The NASA agreement is solely for the raw imagery and video. Motherboard regrets the error.