Like the Olympics, it has been quite hard to ignore the buzz around NASA’s Curiosity Rover which, after “seven minutes of terror” (the time it took to deploy Curiosity), successfully landed on Mars.
“We’re on Mars again,” said the exhilarated NASA chief, Charles Bolden. “It’s just absolutely incredible. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Thousands agreed as they took a break from the Olympics to watch the landing – and follow Curiosity Rover’s official Twitter account, which was tweeting the landing. Live. What’s more, the tweets catered perfectly to their internet audience and were actually pretty hilarious.
Soon after, Curiosity Rover was dubbed “the tweeting truck”.
The $2.5 billion rover later paraphrased (and parodied) Neil Armstrong’s famous quote on Twitter, accompanying this was the first of many images of Mars. The tweet received a staggering 20,000 retweets and 5,000 favourites.
However, Curiosity wasn’t the only internet star. Those who were following the live feed of Curiosity Rover HQ on UStream swiftly turned Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi into an internet sensation. Ferdowsi, and his Mohawk with spray-on stars, Instagrammed images of the control room from his point of view. His twitter account, @tweetsoutloud, catapulted from 200 followers to 11,000 in a few hours. Thanks to the resulting Tumblr memes, his account currently has nearer 50,000 followers (Curiosity’s official account has just shy of a million).
NASA seems to have nailed the social media around its landing this time around; Ferdowski successfully responded to the inordinate (some could say excessive) amount of tweets and managed the buzz effectively.
But, more than that, the excitement at NASA was communicated perfectly producing an entirely inclusive experience for those that managed to pull themselves away from the London 2012 games. In doing this, Curiosity’s Mars landing belonged to America’s citizens as much as it belonged to NASA and those responsible for carrying out the task. This sense of ownership facilitated the powerful words associated with any historical event: “I was there”.