From launch to landing, the mission to land the Curiosity rover on Mars on Aug. 5 took more than eight months, and that didn’t include the time it took to design the rover, build it, plan the flight path, and do all the checks necessary to ensure it got to Mars safely. From the very beginning of that process almost four years ago, social media has been a component.
“We’d really been building this audience for years,” says Veronica McGregor, social media manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The explosion of interest when the rover touched down on Mars—it was a trending topic on Twitter for more than a day, and millions of people watched live feeds on the Web despite a lack of live coverage from the major TV networks—was no fluke.
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The @MarsCuriosity Twitter account started in late 2008, McGregor says, as NASA was testing the rover’s various components. That Twitter account launched not long after the first mission account, which McGregor also launched, for the Mars Phoenix mission.
JPL’s social media team started a Facebook page about two years later.