How Curiosity Got a Personality

After earthbound humans fell in love with the Mars explorers Spirit and Phoenix, NASA knew Curiosity could be a star. Curiosity's Twitter feed is curated by Veronica McGregor, Courtney O'Connor, and Stephanie L. Smith of the public information office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. McGregor tells how even she was in tears when Phoenix stopped transmitting.

That experience convinced her that she and her media team had hit upon a great way to get people engaged in the science of the Mars missions. By turning the robot rovers into characters, they emphasized the way these missions are just another version of the Moon landing — it's just that we're landing people on Mars via remote. Still, for all intents and purposes the robots are extensions of the NASA science teams. They are our eyes, ears, hands, and science equipment on another world.

When you read what Curiosity is doing in the first person, McGregor said, you're also more forgiving when things go wrong. You realize that this is basically a lone creature on another world, doing things that nobody has ever done before, and things are bound to go wrong. It's hard to drill a rock on another world when you have no idea how the lower gravity will affect your instruments — drilling might cause a kickback that could toss the rover on its side. Hearing on Twitter that the rover is feeling cautious and worried, just the way its scientist drivers are right now, helps people understand better how science is done. It's just a bunch of people trying the very best they can, in an utterly new situation on an alien world.

It's no wonder that Curiosity's Twitter feed has 1.2 million followers. Read how these three women create Curiosity's distinctive voice at io9. Link -via Not Exactly Rocket Science


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