Summer 2012 has seen an explosion of scientific chatter on the social Web. With the #Higgs boson discovery in July marking the first widely-tweeted-about topic in a heavily academic realm, it should come as no surprise that last evening’s NASA rover landing on Mars also garnered a significant amount of attention.
The #MSL team (Mars Science Laboratory) made use of social media in an unprecedented manner when it comes to space exploration: not only did the NASA Twitter account (@NASA) post major updates about the rover landing, but the rover itself, “Curiosity”, had its own Twitter account (@MarsCuriosity), which live-blogged the landing process from start to finish. When Curiosity landed successfully, at 5:14am UTC, @MarsCuriosity released the below tweet. At the time of writing, the post has over 67,000 retweets:
I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012
Within the hour of landing, the total mentions for all #MSL/Curiosity-related hashtags on Twitter surpassed the 450,000 mark:
… and tweets containing these hashtags were exposed to an estimated 2.45 billion Twitter users over the course of the morning:
In addition to live tweets, NASA maintained a live broadcast of the control room at MSL on their website. Results from a Topsy search for this live broadcast link reveal that it was shared over 10,000 times. These results can be seen by clicking here.
The successful landing of Curiosity, which is significantly heavier than previous rovers and carries a wider inventory of surveillance equipment, marks an important advance in space exploration. The above reaction from Twitter perhaps indicates that when kept well-informed, the public can be just as excited about these scientific advances as the scientists themselves.