Tuesday, 07 August 2012 03:56
August 7, 2012
Landing on 1-ton hunk of metal, electronics and sensitive scientific tools on the surface of another planet is never a simple matter, and is always going to draw the interest of the science and engineering research community.
But when the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars early Monday morning, it quickly became the hot topic of conversation across every corner of the internet, according to Space.com.
As impressive as the rover itself is, the Curiosity was tasked with an ever more important mission - searching a massive crater for any sign that Mars might have harbored life.
Yet, late Sunday night, Curiosity was only barely on the radar for the broader public, with topics like #WhenIWasALittleKid dominating Twitter.
In the space of two hours, though, that all changed.
From 11:36 p.m. to 1:45 a.m., Curiosity went from out of the trending topics entirely to third on the list, with most of the rest being made up of tags like #MSL (for the actual name of the rover, Mars Science Laboratory). Curiosity's Twitter followers more than tripled from 217,000 Sunday evening to 704,000 by Monday at 6:00 p.m.
The same trend could be seen in other social media sites like Google+ and Facebook, where the probe's page saw likes more than double from a bit more than 71,400 to more than 158,000 over the course of one day.
The landing even saw the birth of a new meme, with plenty of viewers picking out Jet Propulsion Laboratories flight technician Bobak Ferdowsi for his colorful mohawk.
The Atlantic writes that the Curiosity and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that created it have proven to be the only really successful government attempt at viral marketing. While plenty of government agencies have tried to harness the power of social media to increase their profile, particularly as these media have thrived under the Obama administration, most of these efforts have fallen flat.
A massive push to make sure that the Curiosity landing - or at least NASA's perspective of it - readily available to the viewing public, combined with the honest and contagious excitement of the NASA crew, helped bring something as sometimes distant as engineering research to the forefront of popular media.
And the event went further than just the public, with companies like Ford getting in on the excitement.
In all, landing Curiosity turned out only to be the first success for NASA in its latest endeavor in to space.
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