Mars Probe Uses Twitter To Communicate With Earthlings

Jun 2, 2008 06:53 PM

NASA is using Twitter to communicate with its closest friends on Earth. The MarsPhoenix account on Twitter is http://twitter.com/marsphoenix, and it started posting to twitter May 7 from interplanetary space. In that short time, it’s accumulated about 15,000 followers, making it the 14th most popular Twitter in the Galaxy, according to Twitterholic.

Some sample messages:

Looking forward to an exciting day on Mars; My first dig in the dirt! Team calls this a “dig and dump” test of my robotic arm and scoop.My robotic arm camera got some great shots around my feet. Is that ice right there? http://tinyurl.com/4bf2hj

Images tonite will confirm whether my arm restraints have opened, and whether my wrist and elbow have moved. It’s nice to stretch a bit!

The New York Times’s Kenneth Chang reports:

Of course, the messages are not coming from Mars. Instead, Veronica McGregor, the news services manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has been playing the part of Phoenix each night after she gets home from work, forwarding questions to the science team and then posting answers…. Most twitterers use the service to send up-to-the-second news about the minutiae of their lives to friends, but Rhea Borja, a member of Ms. McGregor’s team, sees it as a way to spread NASA news to twentysomethings. “To reach a new generation of folks,” said Ms. Borja, a thirtysomething.

The tweets are written in the first person, to make it look like MarsPhoenix itself is hunched over its iPhone pecking messages out with its robot arm. The messages are more fun to read in the first person — but they’re also more efficient, because each Twitter message — or “tweet” — is limited to 140 characters. Writing “I am” instead of “the spacecraft is” saves characters.

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1 Response to “Mars Probe Uses Twitter To Communicate With Earthlings”



  1. 1 What is Twitter? « Blah, Blah, Blog Trackback on August 16, 2008 at 10:27 pm

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