Most Popular Space Agency on Internet? Suprise, it’s not NASA

With the recent landing of a rover on the moon by the Chinese Space Agency as well as the first mission to Mars from India I started to wonder what were the most popular Space Agencies in the world. Being from the U.S. I was obviously bias towards NASA, so I tried to think of an objective test for the popularity of space agencies I could use. Google seems to be a good way to measure the number of references and use of web sites, so I decided to see how many references there were to these sites on Google search…the results were somewhat surprising. I did not include all the worlds agencies but included the most popular and those in the news recently. Included was Japan, U.S., India, China, Iran, Europe and Canada in this little experiment.

Space Agency Popularity December 2013

Space Agency Popularity December 2013

The clear winner…by far is the European Space Agency. They had more than twice the number of hits as the second runner up which was …. are you sitting down….Iran…. See the raw numbers below. The U.S. Space Agency NASA was a distant third to both of those.

Country Website December 2013
U.S. www.nasa.gov 41600000
Russia www.roscosmos.ru 1250000
Japan www.jaxa.jp 6550000
India www.isro.org 7900000
China www.cnsa.gov.cn 939000
Iran www.isa.ir 235000000
Europe www.esa.int 561000000
Canada www.asc-csa.gc.ca 2070000

Seeing Europe with more Google results than NASA was not so surprising. Europe has a very good and large program. The fact that they had more than ten times the number if results was a surprise. Most shocking was the fact that the Iranian Space Agency showed more results than NASA, and all others besides the ESA. Not just by a little but by a wide margin. They had five times as many search results as NASA.

Space Agency Popularity Pie Chart

Space Agency Popularity Pie Chart

I computed these numbers by doing a Google search on the websites of each countries space agency. This does not mean for example the Iran site gets more actual hits than NASA or Japan, only that Google found more references to it on the internet. Perhaps this is due to Iran recently announcing they launched a monkey into suborbital flight and safely returned it. They plan to launch a man into space by 2019.

Again, being from the U.S. I am a bit bias but I never expected to see these results. NASA is a distant third after the ESA and Iran. What does this mean? I decided to investigate further and use a web ranking service. I selected Alexa.com. They rank websites by tracking the times people who have their tool bar installed go to a web site. Alexa is a well-respected web metric and widely accepted. This produced a much different picture. In this result you have to remember Alexa low numbers are better. To them Google is the number 1 site, Facebook number 2 and so on, So a lower number means a site is more popular. This showed NASA was the number 1 space agency ranking at 1366 and ESA was number 2 with a ranking of 18556.

space agency alexa rank

Country Website Google Search Results Alexa Web ranking
U.S. www.nasa.gov 41600000 1356
Russia www.roscosmos.ru 1250000 531012
Japan www.jaxa.jp 6550000 84499
India www.isro.org 7900000 42060
China www.cnsa.gov.cn 939000 794437
Iran www.isa.ir 235000000 469460
Europe www.esa.int 561000000 18558
Canada www.asc-csa.gc.ca 2070000 Not Ranked

As with any pole or survey it is all in how you define what you are measuring. If you measure by the total number of sites that reference a space agency in Google then ESA is by far in the lead. If on the other hand you measure using number if times as site is used, NASA is the winner.

I think the real lesson to take from all of this is that the use of Space, and the landscape of those who are making use of it is changing. In the past it was fairly clear NASA was the leader…and in many respects still is. But the number of countries taking on complex missions such as India’s orbiter to Mars and the China lunar rover is growing, and that is a good thing. Of course there is also the private sector to consider as well. As time goes on more and more space utilization will occur via companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.

It will be interesting to watch as these metrics change over time, what will happen if China lands a man on the moon? Other countries launch men into orbit? Competition is a good thing, it will be interesting to watch as it all unfolds.

About the author

Recipient of many prestigious NASA Awards including the Exceptional Public Service Medal and the Robert H. Goddard award. Experience includes working for NASA, as a contractor, in satellite design, construction and operations. Expert in the satellite operations concepts and ground systems including command, control, and science data processing.